House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said Thursday that Rep. Eric Swalwell should be removed from the House intelligence oversight committee after reports the California Democrat once had a relationship with a suspected Chinese intelligence agent.
Mr. McCarthy also said he was not notified about Mr. Swalwell’s relationship with a woman named Fang Fang after the FBI briefed him in 2015 that she was a suspected Ministry of State Security agent.
“Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi was notified. I was not. I’m asking for an FBI briefing now,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters. “But if she knew and maintained Swalwell on [the intelligence panel] — wrong. He is a national security threat.”
Mrs. Pelosi said she did not have any security concerns about Mr. Swalwell and said she has been opposing Chinese influence activities for 30 years.
“In terms of Mr. Swalwell, in the spring of 2015, the leadership of the House and the committee were informed that overtures from a Chinese person were being made to members of Congress,” she said.
“When that was made known to the members of Congress, it was over. You know, that was the end of any communication with those people.”
Mrs. Pelosi said she believes people should be aware of influence attempts but said she did not know if more background checks should be made. Members of Congress are not required to undergo screening required for obtaining security clearances prior to gaining access to classified information.
“I 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,” she said.
Mrs. Pelosi said Mr. McCarthy was briefed on the case at the time Democrats were.
Mr. McCarthy said the appointment of Mr. Swalwell, now in his fourth term, to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence after only two years in Congress was unusual.
“I will tell you, as a leader, the intel committee is treated differently. Why? Because those who serve on intel get information that members do not,” he said, saying Mr. Swalwell put himself and other members at risk when he went to the secure locations on Capitol Hill for briefings.
Mr. McCarthy said he hopes the congressman is not appointed in the next Congress.
The minority House leader also questioned why Democrats withdrew from participation in a bipartisan task force on China after initially agreeing to take part, suggesting Chinese influence.
“This just raises so many more questions. Eric Swalwell should take it upon himself to resign from [the intelligence panel]. Why did Eric Swalwell, knowing what he knew after he was warned by the FBI, he didn’t go to them, they went to him.”
Mr. Swalwell has sought to play down the incident, telling CNN and Politico that the relationship happened years ago. He also suggested the Trump administration leaked the information because of his outspoken criticisms of the president.
Mr. McCarthy also noted that Mr. Swalwell challenged Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe on the increase in Chinese spying, insisting Russia remains a greater threat.
“Why did he challenge that and take China’s side and not America’s?” he asked. “… It’s an easy one to answer for me. He is a national risk that should not serve on the intel Committee. Swalwell was swindled and he should be against China now instead of keep standing up for them. “
The suspected agent, Ms. Fang, came to the United States in the early 2000s as a student and is accused of infiltrating Asian student and ethnic organizations that she used to approach several Democratic politicians in the San Francisco area. Axios, which first reported the case, said Ms. Fang went on to have sexual relationships with two Midwestern mayors, including one affair that took place in a car under FBI surveillance.
Ms. Fang fled the country sometime in 2015 — the same year that Mr. Swalwell was informed about her activities. Ms. Fang engaged in fundraising activities for Ms. Swalwell and helped place an intern in his office.
“You know what’s interesting to me, this individual actually bundled money to help him get elected,” Mr. McCarthy said.