A top Democrat in the House of Representatives on Wednesday said he has “full confidence” in Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) after reports that one of Swalwell’s fundraisers in years past was a Chinese spy.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Democratic Caucus, echoed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), whose office has told reporters she backs Swalwell despite the reports.
“I believe Speaker Pelosi has addressed this issue. She’s got full confidence in Rep. Swalwell, I have full confidence in Rep. Swalwell. I served with him on the Judiciary Committee as well. He’s been a tremendous member,” Jeffries said during an unrelated press conference in Washington.
Democrats have said little about the revelations a purported Chinese spy raised funds for Swalwell and even allegedly placed an intern in his office.
Pelosi told reporters last week that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) “is trying to make an issue of this.” She said she knew of Swalwell’s ties with Christine Fang, the purported spy, in 2015.
McCarthy called Swalwell a national security threat and he and other lawmakers have called on Democratic leadership to remove the legislator from the House Intelligence Committee, whose members have access to sensitive information.
“His close interactions with Chinese intelligence services, however unintentional they may be, are an unacceptable national security risk,” House Republican leaders, including House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), said in a letter to Pelosi.
Swalwell’s office hasn’t responded to repeated requests for comment. He has said on CNN that he can’t talk about the situation because of classification concerns. His office has told other outlets that the congressman cut off ties with Fang after he was briefed by the FBI more than eight years ago.
Swalwell’s father and brother remained Facebook friends with Fang until this month.
In addition to his links with Fang, Swalwell spoke at an event in 2013 that also hosted Russell Lowe, the former Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) staffer who is alleged to have spied for the Chinese government.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said Swalwell needs to hold a press conference to explain his relationship with Fang.
“Eric Swalwell says he’s a victim in all of this. If that’s the case, what he should do is come forward and have a no-holds-barred press conference and explain exactly what his relationship with this Chinese spy was,” Cotton, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Wednesday.
An intelligence expert told The Epoch Times that what happened with Swalwell isn’t unusual. Chinese spies have been targeting officials for decades, according to Nicholas Eftimiades, a former senior U.S. intelligence official and author of the book “Chinese Intelligence Operations.”
The Swalwell situation shows how the Chinese regime is willing to invest in the long game—targeting local officials who might become state or national representatives years down the line. It’s a strategy, he said, that “can really be devastating to another country.”
Cathy He contributed to this report.