In a recent interview, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy joked about Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) previously serving the House Intelligence Committee without a security clearance—as the new speaker asserted—over past ties to a Chinese national and suspected spy.
“[D]oesn’t it further wear down credibility when you put someone who’s under state, local, federal, and international investigation as a representative of your party on committees?” the host asked.
“Are you talking about Swalwell?” McCarthy knowingly asked in reply, moving Brennan to correct him that she was referring to Santos from New York.
In a letter to House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) who nominated the two congressmen, McCarthy said he “cannot simply recognize years of service as the sole criteria for membership on this essential committee.”
ControversySome Republicans have expressed concerns over such moves, drawing a comparison to former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s punitive actions against Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) in the previous Democrat-controlled Congress.
“Two wrongs do not make a right,” Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) said last week. “Speaker McCarthy is taking unprecedented actions [in] this Congress to deny some committee assignments to the Minority without proper due process again.”
McCarthy didn’t address the specific questions about Santos in the Sunday interview with Brennan, instead he documented how Congress is “broken.”
“If you got a third of your caucus to vote to oust him [Santos], you could do so,” Brennan said in the show. “You don't think you could get your Republicans to do that?”
The speaker gave no direct answer except saying “the Intel Committee is different than any other committee.” McCarthy told reporters last Tuesday that Santos will be removed from Congress if the House Ethics Committee finds he broke the law.
DenialSwalwell, a former House Intelligence Committee member, insists in the meanwhile that he did nothing wrong in his associations with Fang and has fully cooperated with the FBI. He called the removal an act of “political vengeance.”
Officials haven’t charged Swalwell with any wrongdoing; he previously said he’s no longer in contact with Fang.
The congressman was asked by host Dana Bash whether he had left himself “in a vulnerable position in any way, so that this alleged Chinese spy could have benefited or even learned American secrets.”
“Absolutely not,” Swalwell responded. “But, Dana, don’t take my word for it. Take the FBI’s word for it. They never talk about ongoing investigations. And former Chairman Schiff knows this, as a member of the Gang of Eight. Three different times, they came out and said two things. All I did was help them and, also, I was never under any suspicion of wrongdoing.”
“This is some Bakersfield B.S. It’s Kevin McCarthy weaponizing his ability to commit this political abuse, because he perceives me, just like Mr. Schiff and Ms. Omar, as an effective political opponent,” Swalwell added.