Following a report that linked him to an alleged Chinese spy, Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell suggested the information was leaked to hurt him because of his frequent and loud criticism of President Donald Trump.
Axios reported Monday that Swalwell was among a group of prominent Bay Area Democrats targeted by a Chinese national named Fang Fang or Christina Fang, allegedly an operative for China’s Ministry of State Security, the country’s premier intelligence organization.
Fang first interacted with Swalwell — now a member of the House Intelligence Committee — when he served on the Dublin City Council in California. Swalwell defeated longtime Democratic incumbent Pete Stark in 2012, a stunning upset that made the young pol a star member of the incoming freshman class.
By 2014, Fang was reportedly bundling donor checks for Swalwell’s reelection campaign, according to Axios. Fang also helped place an intern in Swalwell’s office.
In 2015, U.S. intelligence officials, who had been monitoring Fang’s activities, became concerned about her ties to Swalwell and provided a “defensive briefing” to the California Democrat, Axios reported.
Swalwell immediately cut off all contact with Fang, and he is not suspected of any improper actions in his dealings with her.
While Fang had interactions with other current House members, including Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), as well as other politicians, Swalwell is concerned that the information was leaked to hurt him politically.
Swalwell said he first became aware that Axios was looking into Fang activities in July 2019, just as the California Democrat was ending his brief and unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Bashing Trump was the key to Swalwell’s short tenure in the race, and he continued to loudly call for the president’s removal from office throughout the year.
“I’ve been a critic of the president. I’ve spoken out against him. I was on both committees that worked to impeach him,” Swalwell said in an interview on Tuesday. “The timing feels like that should be looked at.”
Swalwell added: “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.”
Swalwell refused to discuss his relationship with Fang, although he did say the controversy was not going to cost him the Intelligence Committee seat.
“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.