The top Republican in the House has called for Rep. Eric Swalwell to be removed from the Intelligence Committee after receiving an FBI briefing on the California Democrat’s friendship with an accused Chinese spy.
On Friday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Speaker Nancy Pelosi were briefed by the FBI on Swalwell’s relationship with Fang Fang, also known as Christine Fang.
After leaving the closed-door briefing, McCarthy delivered a strong statement to reporters.
‘It only raised more questions. The one thing that was fundamentally answered was, he should not be on Intel,’ McCarthy said. ‘I had questions about whether he should. That’s the one question that was answered: he should not be on Intel.’
Pelosi remained silent following the briefing. Last week, she expressed support for her caucus member, saying ‘I don’t have any concern about Mr. Swalwell.’
Swalwell has refused to say whether he was physically intimate with Fang Fang during their friendship, asserting the matter is classified
‘It only raised more questions. The one thing that was fundamentally answered was, he should not be on Intel,’ House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said of Swalwell
Swalwell has refused to say whether he was physically intimate with Fang during their friendship, asserting the matter is classified, following a report that emerged last week detailing her extensive activity penetrating U.S. politics before she fled the country.
Earlier this week, a number of top House Republicans signed a letter demanding that Pelosi remove Swalwell from the Intelligence Committee.
Swalwell’s position on Intel Committee poses ‘an unacceptable national security risk’, according to a letter signed by House Republicans including Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming.
‘For consistency’s sake, and more importantly, for the sake of our national security, you must remove Rep. Swalwell from his position’ on the committee, the GOP letter urged.
Swalwell’s close relationship with Fang was first revealed to the public in a report from Axios last week, though Pelosi and Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy were both briefed on the matter in 2015.
Pelosi rushed out of the closed-door FBI briefing on Friday without speaking to reporters
Christine Fang is seen in photos from her Facebook page. Accused Chinese government spy Fang Fang, a k a Christine Fang, entered the US through California as a college student in 2011 – and spent the next four years wooing everyone from local politicos to US congressmen
Swalwell, who represents a Bay area district and also sits on the House Judiciary Committee, has refused to confirm or deny sleeping with Fang before he was tipped off in 2015 that she was a Chinese agent.
She fled the country as the FBI investigated her and her infiltration efforts, which also saw her become friendly with other California politicians and have sex with two mayors from the Midwest, in encounters caught by FBI surveillance.
But Swalwell said he was the victim – and suggested his high-profile pursuit of President Donald Trump was the reason he was targeted with the leak.
‘I hope it is investigated into who leaked this information,’ Swalwell told CNN last week. Axios, which first revealed the story, said it had been investigating it since 2019.
‘At the same time this story was being leaked out is the time that I was working on impeachment on the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees,’ the California Democratic representative said.
The GOP letter pointed to Pelosi’s own attacks on former Attorney General Jeff Sessions for two meetings with the Russian ambassador, and Sessions’ subsequent self-recusal from the Trump-Russia investigation.
‘By your own standards, Congressman Swalwell is unfit to serve on the Intelligence Committee,’ the letter said.
However, Pelosi has already signaled her support for Swalwell and rebuffed calls for her to reassess his committee assignments.
‘I don’t have any concern about Mr Swalwell,’ she said last week. ‘There are those who believe, and I am among them, that we should be seeing what influenced the Chinese – I have been fighting them, as you know, for over 30 years.’
Fang was in the United States from 2011 to 2015 posing as a Democratic fundraiser and got close to Swalwell and several others
Swalwell is a member of the House Intelligence Committee and a fierce critic of Trump’s
Pelosi said there was a need for closer examination of Chinese activities ‘in terms of their undue influence at universities in our country and the overtures they’ve tried to make to members of Congress’.
But she did not demand extra background checks on interns, and said she knew five years ago about the involvement of Christine Fang – who also goes by Fang Fang – with Swalwell.
‘I think we should make sure that everybody knows what they are being subjected to. But I don’t know that it means that we have to background check every intern who comes into the Capitol,’ she said.
‘When that was made known to the members of Congress, it was over,’ she said. ‘That was the end of any communication with those people.’
Last week, Pelosi defended Swalwell, a Democratic congressman from her home state of California, saying McCarthy was ‘trying to deflect attention’ from the fact the Republicans had a member of their party who believed in the QAnon conspiracy theories.
She pointed out that McCarthy, like her, learnt in 2015 about Fang’s spying when they were both briefed by the intelligence agencies.
Fang is said to have taken part in fundraising for Swalwell’s 2014 reelection campaign, however she did not make any donations and there was no evidence of any illegal contributions.
Fang’s earliest known engagement with Swalwell occurred through the Chinese Student Association, Axios reported, and by 2014, she had developed ‘close ties’ to Swalwell’s office.
Fang is also reported to have managed to place at least one intern in Swalwell’s office and met with him at various events over the years.
Swalwell was single at the time of Fang’s alleged secret mission in the United States, and did not marry his wife Brittany until 2016.
Fang met Swalwell in 2012, when her cover was a student in the Bay Area and became involved in activism and politics, moving on to fundraising activities.
Intelligence agencies were so concerned about Fang’s involvement in Swalwell’s office that they organized a briefing for Swalwell, and he said after that briefing he severed ties with her immediately.
THE FANG FANG MYSTERY – WHAT WE KNOW AND WHAT WE DON’T KNOW
WHO IS ‘CHRISTINE’ FANG FANG?
Fang – if that is her real name – arrived in the U.S. as a Chinese national student at Cal State East Bay in 2011 as an undergraduate – although she appeared to be in her late 20s or early 30s. She became president of the Chinese Student Association then used her position to become part of the area’s Democratic political scene.
HOW DID SHE MEET SWALWELL?
Sometime in 2012, although exactly how is unclear but she was almost ubiquitous at political events – not just Democratic ones – in the Bay area between 2013 and 2015. Swalwell won his district in 2013, and before that was a member of the Dublin City Council. Pictures of them together are all at political events in the Bay area.
DID THEY HAVE SEX?
He refuses to say, saying their relationship is a matter of national security. If the FBI was following her and bugging her, they may have a good idea of whether the two did or not – but they could not legally have eavesdropped on him as a congressman, and if they did so intentionally, that would be a major breach of the law. Swalwell was divorced from his first wife by 2012 and married his second wife, Brittany Watts, in 2016.
HOW DID THE FBI FIND HER OUT?
Fang seems to have been monitored since she was a student but exactly when the FBI surveillance operation started is unknown. It is known that she had contact with a suspected Chinese intelligence officer stationed at its San Francisco consulate. Diplomatic communications are routinely monitored.
WHO ELSE DID SHE ENSNARE?
Fang had sex with two unnamed mayors, one of an ‘obscure’ Ohio city (anywhere with a population of more than 5,000 in Ohio is a city) and one an ‘older’ mayor from the midwest. They had sex in a car but he claimed he was teaching her English. Both encounters were overheard by the FBI. She is also Facebook friends with current and former mayors and attended get-togethers for urban leaders.
WHY WASN’T SHE ARRESTED?
It is unclear but counter-intelligence operations by the FBI are often intended to simply disrupt enemy spying and get them out of the country. Fang seems to have known she was compromised when she vanished in 2015.
DID SWALWELL DO ANYTHING WRONG?
So far the leaked FBI investigation and Swalwell’s own account is clear that he acted properly, cutting ties with her when the FBI told her she was a danger to national security. However her lingering presence in his family’s Facebook friendship circuit must raise questions about the extent to which he cut ties.
WHY DIDN’T WE KNOW ABOUT THIS BEFORE?
The FBI keeps its secrets close to its vest and disrupting a spy who was targeting at least two members of Congress would have been a major coup for its counter-intelligence agents. Letting China know just how much the agency had come to understand of Fang’s activities in her four years in the U.S. helps them hone their espionage in future to make it more difficult to detect.