The top Republican in the House of Representatives said Dec. 16 that the FBI has canceled two planned briefings on Rep. Eric Swalwell’s (D-Calif.) ties with a purported Chinese spy.
“I have asked the FBI for a briefing on Rep. Swalwell’s ties to a reported-spy from China. Twice it has been scheduled. Twice it has been canceled by the FBI,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) wrote on Twitter.
“Swalwell is a national security liability. This is too important for the FBI to continue to stonewall.”
An FBI spokesperson declined to comment.
Swalwell can be seen in at least one photograph with Christine Fang, a woman Axios reported was a Chinese spy who worked on developing relationships with mid-level officials such as two mayors in the Midwest.
Swalwell has denied wrongdoing and his office told news outlets that he cut ties with Fang at least eight years ago, though two of his family members remained Facebook friends with her until this month.
“I was told about this individual and I offered to help,” Swalwell told CNN last week. “All I did was cooperate.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democrats have downplayed the link. Pelosi told reporters last week that congressional leaders were informed in 2015 that a Chinese person was making overtures to members of Congress.
“When that was made known to the members of Congress, it was over. That was the end of any communication with those people,” she said, accusing McCarthy of “trying to make an issue of this.”
McCarthy said that Pelosi may have been notified, but he wasn’t.
“I’m asking for an FBI briefing now,” he said at a separate briefing. “But if she knew, and maintained Swalwell on Intel? Wrong. He is a national security threat.”
Swalwell is a member of the House Intelligence Committee, boosting fears of the consequences if he was compromised in some way.
According to Axios, not only did Fang help raise money for the representative, she placed an intern in his office.
Swalwell’s staffers haven’t responded to requests for comment.
A second top Democrat on Dec. 16 said he’s backing Swalwell.
“I have full confidence in Rep. Swalwell,” House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said at a press conference.
But Republicans are signaling they’ll keep pressing the issue, with a group of 17 urging her in a letter to remove Swalwell from the committee.
“The House Intelligence Committee is instrumental in overseeing our national effort to counteract our chief global rival’s espionage initiatives; for one of its members to have had an undisclosed relationship with a foreign asset in the manner described by recent reports is unacceptable and dangerous,” they wrote.