Politics & Policy

House Intel Republicans Demand Answers on Swalwell’s Relationship with Chinese Spy

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) attends a House Intelligence Committee hearing in Washington, November 19, 2019. (Loren Elliott/Reuters)

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee are demanding answers on Democratic committee member Eric Swalwell’s close ties to a suspected Chinese spy, and some are even calling for an investigation and for him to be immediately removed from the committee in order to deprive him of the access to classified information that comes with membership on the high-profile panel.

Between 2011 and 2015, a suspected Chinese intelligence operative, Christine Fang, developed close relationships with Swalwell and a number of other American politicians, particularly in the Bay Area, as part of a Chinese political intelligence operation, a year-long Axios investigation published this week found.

Representative Michael Conaway of Texas, who sits on the intelligence committee with Swalwell, called for an investigation into Swalwell’s relationship with Fang and said Swalwell should be removed from the committee in the meantime.

“Members on the House Intelligence Committee are privy to our nation’s most important secrets, and the fact that a senior Democrat member of the committee was compromised by a Chinese spy should serve as a grave wake up call,” Conaway said in a statement to National Review. “We must immediately assess the breadth and scope of the breach, and it would be in the committee’s best interest for Eric Swalwell to step down until such an investigation is complete.”

Representative Chris Stewart, a Utah Republican who also sits on the committee, stressed the importance of ascertaining who knew about Swalwell’s unwitting relationship with the Chinese intelligence operative and whether they protected him.

“The Intelligence Committee has access to some of the most sensitive information in the U.S. Government. Each member has a responsibility to protect that information and themselves,” Stewart told National Review. “It is enormously important to get answers—including who knew, whether they protected him, and if other members of the committee have been targeted.”

Another GOP committee member, Representative Brad Wenstrup, suggested that Swalwell should offer his fellow committee members more details in a secure environment that would not jeopardize any classified information involved. Swalwell declined this week to elaborate on his relationship with Fang, saying some of the details may be classified.

“Rep. Swalwell says he can’t talk about the issue because it’s classified? Did he share classified information with this alleged spy?” Wenstrup said in remarks to National Review. “There’s a place where members can discuss classified information — the SCIF (sensitive compartmented information facility). We need answers.”

The Ohio Republican also said he has “a lot of questions” and wants to know what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, Swalwell himself, and the FBI knew about the matter and when they knew it. He would also like to know why the FBI did not notify other intelligence committee members when they discovered Swalwell’s relationship with Fang.

Meanwhile other House Republicans have come out swinging against Swalwell.

Representative Jim Banks of Indiana went further than some of his colleagues, saying that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should force Swalwell to step down immediately from the intelligence committee if he refuses to “do the right thing and resign.”

Early next week, Banks and Chip Roy of Texas plan to draft a letter signed by a group of House Republicans asking Pelosi to force Swalwell to resign. Pelosi said Tuesday that she has “full confidence” in Swalwell’s service in Congress and on the intelligence committee.

The same day, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy agreed, saying Swalwell has “long been disqualified” from serving on the committee because he is a “national security liability.” 

“For years he peddled Russian disinformation for political gain. Now we find out he was involved in an effort by a reported spy to gather info for China,” McCarthy wrote in a tweet.

On Friday, Wisconsin congressman Jim Sensenbrenner filed a complaint urging the House Ethics Committee to “immediately open an investigation” into Swalwell.

Representative Jim Jordan noted that Democrats including Swalwell incessantly accused President Trump of being beholden to Russia over his four years in office.

“For four years the Democrats told us that President Trump was was working with foreign governments,” Jordan said on Fox News Radio. “They now turn up in a story that says some of those same Democrats were cozying up to a Chinese spy.”

Fang, believed to have been acting at the behest of China’s Ministry of State Security, helped fundraise for Swalwell’s 2014 re-election campaign and helped place at least one intern in the California Democrat’s office, according to the investigation, which cites current and former U.S. intelligence officials, former elected officials, and a Bay Area political operative.

Fang also had romantic or sexual relationships with at least two Midwestern mayors over a three-year period. She was enrolled as a student at California State University, East Bay.

In 2015, federal investigators briefed Swalwell on their concerns about Fang, at which point he says he severed all his ties with her. However, Swalwell’s brother and father remained connected with Fang on Facebook, and his father liked a picture she posted as recently as March of this year.

Swalwell, who married shortly afterwards in 2016, declined this week to answer questions about whether his relationship with Fang was sexual or romantic in nature.

Swalwell said Tuesday that he has committed no wrongdoing and expressed confidence that the controversy will not threaten his seat on the House Intelligence Committee. He has not been accused of any misbehavior.

He also alleged that the story about his ties to Fang was leaked to the press in retribution for his vocal criticism of President Trump.

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