Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., blasted top Pentagon official Colin Kahl after two Republican senators alleged that Kahl leaked classified information on Chinese spy balloons flying over the US during the Trump administration.
On Thursday, Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin naming Kahl, the Biden-appointed undersecretary for defense policy, as the senior defense official who told reporters that at least three Chinese spy balloons traveled over the continental United States during the Trump administration. That revelation came as Republicans were hammering President Biden’s handling of the Chinese spy balloon crisis in February, which culminated in an F-22 fighter jet shooting the balloon down off the coast of South Carolina on Biden’s orders, after it had already traveled from Alaska across the US
Rubio and Wicker accused Kahl of “spearheading a communications strategy that aims to hide the administration’s early missteps.” They questioned whether the leak was cleared by the Defense Department and called it “a brazen attempt to shift blame” away from Biden’s handling of the Chinese spy balloon.
Hagerty joined their criticism in a tweet thread highlighting his own objection to Kahl’s nomination in 2021 over concerns that he had a demonstrated record of leaking classified information.
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“Here we go again: looks like the DOD’s #3 official Colin Kahl is back at leaking classified national security information just to score partisan political points. Given his track record, this should surprise no one,” Hagerty wrote late Thursday.
“Colin Kahl’s career history is plagued with reckless politically-motivated leaks, which is exactly why I warned against his nomination in 2021,” Hagerty said.
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In 2021, Hagerty sent a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee alerting the committee to several instances where Kahl appeared to have publicly disclosed classified information. The letter pointed to several instances where Kahl, after serving as the National Security Advisor to then-Vice President Biden from October 2014 to January 2017, had appeared to leak classified information on his Twitter account as a private citizen.
Hagerty’s letter accused Kahl of “exhibiting either politically-driven and reckless disregard for security protocols or, at a minimum, serious negligence.” Regardless of Hagerty’s objections, the Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed Kahl 49-45 on April 27, 2021.
“Colin Kahl cannot EVER be trusted with classified information. It was malpractice for President Biden to place him anywhere near a position of trust,” Hagerty tweeted Thursday.
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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The information that Chinese spy balloons flew over the US during the Trump administration, but were only “discovered after” former President Trump left office, was interpreted by Republicans as an attempt to blunt their attacks on Biden.
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Trump and a number of his top national security and defense officials refuted the claim, telling Fox News Digital that it “never happened.”
However, this was contested by a senior defense official, who said that it had happened but went undetected while Trump was in office.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.