Democrat Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA) suggested without evidence on Tuesday that the bombshell story that was published this week about his ties to a suspected Chinese spy was payback by the Trump administration for him repeatedly attacking President Donald Trump over Russia.
The alleged spy, Chinese national Christine Fang, “targeted up-and-coming local politicians in the Bay Area and across the country who had the potential to make it big on the national stage” through “campaign fundraising, extensive networking, personal charisma, and romantic or sexual relationships,” Axios reported. “Even though U.S. officials do not believe Fang received or passed on classified information, the case ‘was a big deal, because there were some really, really sensitive people that were caught up’ in the intelligence network, a current senior U.S. intelligence official said.”
“Amid a widening counterintelligence probe, federal investigators became so alarmed by Fang’s behavior and activities that around 2015 they alerted Swalwell to their concerns — giving him what is known as a defensive briefing,” Axios reported. “Swalwell immediately cut off all ties to Fang, according to a current U.S. intelligence official, and he has not been accused of any wrongdoing.”
Fang, who allegedly helped bring in top donors to Swalwell, later left the U.S. in 2015 and returned to China. U.S. officials told Axios that they believe that China’s communist government ended her mission and called her back, perhaps because they saw signs that the U.S. government was closing in on her alleged activities.
Swalwell responded to the report late on Tuesday by suggesting that the Trump administration was responsible for leaking the story to Axios. However, Axios never said that the story was leaked to them, rather, they said that their story was the result of a “yearlong investigation.” Furthermore, one of the reporters on the byline of the Axios story, Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, is considered to be a top reporter on China and has broken major stories on China’s concentration camps.
“I’ve been a critic of the president. I’ve spoken out against him. I was on both committees that worked to impeach him. The timing feels like that should be looked at,” Swalwell told Politico. “What it appears though that this person — as the story reports — was unsuccessful in whatever they were trying to do. But if intelligence officials are trying to weaponize someone’s cooperation, they are essentially seeking to do what this person was not able to do, which is to try and discredit someone.”
Politico says that Swalwell “refused” to discuss his relationship with Fang, adding that the controversy would not cost him his seat on the House Intelligence Committee.
“As the story referenced, this goes back to the beginning of the last decade, and it’s something that congressional leadership knew about it,” Swalwell said.
Fox News highlighted some of Swalwell’s previous remarks on Trump and Russia:
The former 2020 presidential candidate had become best known in recent years for his outspokenness of the Russia investigation. He repeatedly insisted that Russians colluded with the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, something Special Counsel Robert Mueller ultimately put to bed.
However, during a 2018 interview with The Hill, long after he had received a “defensive briefing” on the suspected Chinese spy that infiltrated his office, Swalwell sounded the alarm about the Russians’ involvement in American politics after suspected Russian spy Maria Butina pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government after her attempts to infiltrate the NRA and GOP circles.
“The Maria Butina plea today, you know, represents that over the past two years, our country has seen just an influx of Russians into our political bloodstream and that’s something that did not exist until Donald Trump came on the scene,” Swalwell said at the time. “I mean, when you look at the 16 Trump family members, campaign officials, and administration folks who had contacts with Russians throughout the campaign.”
He continued, “If you look at the Butina plea deal, you see an eagerness and a willingness to work with a traditional American adversary and I think that’s dangerous for our national security. It represents poor judgment and, as Bob Mueller is showing, it also is a crime. And so it’s all the more reason that a new Congress, you know, can put a balance of power on these abuses that we continue to see from the Trump administration.”
This report has been updated to include additional information.
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