House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she’s not concerned about Rep. Eric Swalwell’s ability to serve in Congress despite his past connections with a suspected Chinese spy.
“I don’t have any concern about Mr. Swalwell,” Pelosi said Thursday during her weekly news conference.
She pushed back on GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy who has publicly questioned whether Pelosi knew of China’s alleged attempt to infiltrate Swalwell’s office when she appointed him to the House Intelligence Committee in January 2015.
Pelosi said GOP and Democratic leadership were briefed “at the same moment” in the spring of 2015 about a suspected Chinese spy targeting members of congress.
“In terms of Mr. Swalwell — in the spring of 2015, the leadership of the House and the [Intelligence] Committee were informed that overtures from a Chinese person were being made to members of Congress,” Pelosi said. “When that was made known to the members of Congress, it was over.”
Pelosi said both Democrats and Republicans got the briefing jointly.
“l do think that it’s unfortunate that Mr. McCarthy is trying to make an issue of this when we all found out at the same time,” Pelosi said.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram asked Pelosi whether background checks are necessary for all staff and interns given that the suspected spy placed at least one intern in Swalwell’s office, as Axios first reported.
“I don’t know that it means that we have background checks for every intern who comes into the Capitol,” Pelosi said.
McCarthy wants Swalwell, D-Calif., to resign from the Intelligence Committee, calling him a “national security threat.”
“Why did (Pelosi) allow him to stay on that committee? Let’s hope she does not in the next Congress,” McCarthy said Thursday.
A spokesperson for Pelosi said Wednesday that the speaker has confidence in Swalwell’s ability to stay on the Intelligence Committee, which has access to classified materials.
“The Speaker has full confidence in Congressman Swalwell’s service in the Congress and on the Intelligence Committee,” Pelosi’s spokesman Drew Hammill said.
Swalwell’s judgment has been in the spotlight after Axios reported that a Chinese national named Fang Fang or Christine Fang targeted up-and-coming local politicians, including those who had the potential to become national figures.
Fang reportedly took part in fundraising for Swalwell’s 2014 reelection campaign — although she did not make donations nor was there evidence of illegal contributions. Fang’s earliest known engagement with Swalwell occurred through the Chinese Student Association, Axios reported, and by 2014, she had developed “close ties” to Swalwell’s office.
Investigators became so alarmed by Fang’s behavior and activities that they alerted Swalwell in 2015 to their concerns, and gave him a “defensive briefing.” Swalwell then cut off all ties with Fang and has not been accused of any wrongdoing, according to an official who spoke to the outlet.
Officials do not believe she received or passed on classified information.
Fang’s relationships with at least two Midwestern mayors turned sexual, according to Axios, with at least two incidents being caught by FBI surveillance. When asked about the nature of Swalwell’s relationship with Fang, the Democratic congressman’s office declined to comment.
The congressman’s office told Axios that Swalwell “long ago, provided information about this person — whom he met more than eight years ago, and whom he hasn’t seen in nearly six years — to the FBI.” Beyond that, however, his office would not discuss the story, citing concerns related to classified information.