Questions raised over when Eric Swalwell knew about Chinese spy suspect Fang Fang
December 18, 2020 04:06 PM
Starting in at least 2012, Fang began cultivating a relationship with Swalwell during his time as a Dublin City, California, councilman. Photos obtained by Axios show the two together at a student outreach event in October of that year.
U.S. officials believe Fang was able to make contact with Democratic politicians due to her leadership positions in student organizations such as the Chinese Student Association and Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs while she was enrolled at California State University, East Bay.
Those early contacts with Swalwell turned into a substantial relationship, culminating in the two holding fundraisers together for his 2014 reelection campaign. According to Axios, Swalwell was informed of federal investigators’ belief that Fang was a Chinese intelligence asset, leading to the California lawmaker cutting all ties.
Fang left the country in 2015, shortly after Swalwell was briefed, and cut all ties with her U.S. contacts.
But Swalwell’s recent comments bring into question whether he was aware of Fang being potentially compromised when he accepted his role on the immensely influential House Intelligence Committee.
Earlier this month, he told CNN that he was informed of an investigation into Fang “just over six years ago,” meaning Swalwell knew about Fang’s purported China ties as early as 2014.
“And then, I offered to help, and I did help, and I was thanked by the FBI for my help, and that person is no longer in the country,” he continued.
Swalwell was appointed to the House Intelligence Committee in January 2015, and he was given the position of being the lead Democrat on the Subcommittee on the Central Intelligence Agency, which conducts oversight on the country’s intelligence service. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
House Republicans are looking for more answers on this timeline. On Tuesday, 17 GOP lawmakers sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi demanding that Swalwell be removed from his seat on the House Intelligence 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 in unacceptable and dangerous,” the letter reads.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, a Republican, tweeted Thursday night that “Rep. Eric Swalwell and Speaker Nancy Pelosi need to explain who knew what and when about the Chinese infiltration of his political network.”
GOP senators such as Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Rand Paul of Kentucky have also called for his resignation.
“He was the most over-the-top critic of President Trump on Russia collusion, and it turns out he’s sleeping with a Chinese spy,” Paul said Wednesday. “I mean, my goodness. The hypocrisy. It’s appalling, and he really should be red-faced and ashamed of himself and really probably ought to just resign from Congress.”
Some Democrats, including Rep. Debbie Dingell, have come to Swalwell’s defense. In an interview with Fox News on Friday, the Michigan lawmaker said Swalwell and Fang were not “in a deep relationship” and that she has “trust” in Pelosi.
Should Swalwell’s recollection of when he was told about Fang’s alleged ties (in 2014 and not “around 2015” as Axios reported) turn out to be accurate, Democratic House leadership knowingly elevated a potentially compromised lawmaker to one of the chamber’s most influential positions.
Although the identity and date of when Fang placed an intern in Swalwell’s office remain unknown, the relationship between the two appeared to hit its apex in 2014 — the same year Swalwell says he was informed of the intelligence community’s concerns about her.
Swalwell has denied knowingly assisting Fang with any foreign intelligence operation and has not commented on whether the two were ever involved romantically, something U.S. officials believe was the case with Fang and at least two Midwestern city mayors.
As scrutiny builds over the extent of their relationship, Swalwell has gone on the offensive and has demanded an investigation into how the story initially leaked.
“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,” he told CNN earlier this month, implying that the leak was part of a smear campaign from the Trump administration.