McCarthy Teases Swalwell’s Past Tie to Suspected Chinese Spy, Sidesteps Questions on Santos

McCarthy Teases Swalwell’s Past Tie to Suspected Chinese Spy, Sidesteps Questions on Santos
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) speaks at a news conference in Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, on Jan. 12, 2023. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
1/30/2023
Updated:
1/31/2023
0:00

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.

Yet McCarthy didn’t explain why he relented on Rep. George Santos' (R-N.Y.) serving on two committees, despite piling allegations of lies and misconduct against the freshly sworn-in congressman.
During an appearance over the past weekend with CBS News host Margaret Brennan, McCarthy was asked about embattled Santos, who has been investigated by prosecutors after being accused of embellishing his professional biography during his campaign to represent the state’s 3rd Congressional District.

“[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.

The conversation came days after the speaker formally rejected Democrats’ nominations of Swalwell for the House Intelligence panel, citing security concerns based on past scandals. The House speaker has long been attacking Swalwell’s previous relationship with a woman—known as Fang Fang or Christine Fang—accused of spying for the Chinese Communist Party. McCarthy had vowed since November to boot Swalwell, along with Democratic Chairman Adam Schiff, off the House panel.
 Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) (C), joined by Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) (L) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) (R), speaks at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington on Jan. 25, 2023. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) (C), joined by Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) (L) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) (R), speaks at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington on Jan. 25, 2023. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

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.”

“Integrity matters more,” he wrote upon rejecting Jeffries’ appointments of Schiff and Swalwell, assuring to bring “genuine honesty and credibility” back to the committee under the new Congress.

Controversy

Some 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.

The Long Island freshman has been caught lying about a growing list of topics, including his education, work history, his Jewish heritage, as well as performing in drag. Although facing escalating calls for his resignation, the lawmaker refused to step down and said he would refer the matter back to voters during his re-election two years later.
“I was hired by the voters and I will be fired by the voters, not by the Democrat Party or the Republican Party or the media,” Santos said.

Denial

Swalwell, 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.

In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” that aired Sunday, Swalwell said his past connections with an alleged spy did not compromise U.S. national security.

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.

Also joining the conversation were Schiff, the former Committee chairman, and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), whom McCarthy is seeking to expel from the House panel on foreign affairs over her remarks that many deemed anti-Semitic in recent years. Unlike blocking Schiff and Swalwell from the select committee, ousting the congresswoman from the Foreign Affairs Committee, a standing committee, needs a vote of the full House, which GOPs control with a slim majority.
Rita Li is a reporter with The Epoch Times, focusing on U.S. and China-related topics. She began writing for the Chinese-language edition in 2018.