Pelosi Backs Swalwell on Chinese Spy Scandal, Says Investigation Not Necessary
House speaker stands by Democrat rep over relationship with Communist Party operative
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she is standing by Rep Eric Swalwell (D-CA) after his relationship with a Chinese Communist Party spy was exposed this week, arguing that an investigation is not necessary.
Pelosi insists that she's not concerned about 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 during her weekly news conference on Thursday.
She pushed back against Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy who has publicly questioned whether Pelosi knew of China's alleged attempt to infiltrate Swalwell's office.
Speaker Pelosi appointed Swalwell to the House Intelligence Committee in January 2015.
Pelosi said Democratic and Republican 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.
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 on whether it was sexual or not, arguing the information is "classified."
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.