House GOP leaders on Tuesday called on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to boot Rep. Eric Swalwell, California Democrat, from the intelligence committee because he was potentially compromised in a Chinese “honey pot” trap.
More than a dozen House Republicans said Mr. Swalwell’s relationship with purported Chinese spy Christine Fang constituted an “unacceptable national security risk.”
“For the sake of our national security, you must remove Rep. Swalwell from his position on” the committee, the lawmakers wrote to Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, had previously said Mr. Swalwell should be removed from the panel.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Tuesday it was ironic that someone like Mr. Swalwell, who has insisted that President Trump was compromised by Russia, was caught up in a foreign influence campaign.
“After entangling with this spy for years, Swalwell hypocritically went on to be one of the lead instigators of the Russia collusion hoax [and] the impeachment sham,” Ms. McEnany said.
Ms. Fang, also known as Fang Fang, reportedly infiltrated the office of Mr. Swalwell and established intimate relationships with other U.S. politicians.
Mr. Swalwell denied wrongdoing in the wake of a recent Axios report that described how Ms. Fang targeted “up-and-coming” politicians in the Bay area and across the country through fundraising, networking, and romantic or sexual relationships.
Ms. Fang took part in fundraising activity for Mr. Swalwell’s 2014 reelection campaign and helped place at least one intern in his office, according to the report.
James Carafano, a foreign policy expert at the Heritage Foundation, said the entire episode smacks of hypocrisy given Democrats’ perennial attacks on Mr. Trump.
“He was angry that people exposed his role, where he ought to be the person out saying ‘oh my God, we should be really serious about this,’” Mr. Carafano said. “It just shows kind of the lack of coherence, really, in the Congress on dealing with national security threats, particularly China.”
Mr. Swalwell briefly ran for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, abandoning the long-shot bid in July 2019 to seek reelection to his relatively safe House seat.
He said he was “shocked” when the FBI told him a few years ago that he was a target.
“I was told about this individual and I offered to help,” he said on CNN. “All I did was cooperate and the FBI said that.”
Republicans on the House Oversight Committee also are demanding an FBI briefing by Monday on Chinese influence operations in light of the report about Mr. Swalwell, Ms. Fang and other politicians.
The Republicans, led by Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, wrote a letter to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray this week requesting a staff-level briefing on Chinese Communist Party (CCP) schemes and other influence operations.
“Depending on the total number of active CCP operatives and the breadth of the … operation across our country, any number of elected officials could potentially be compromised without even knowing it,” the lawmakers wrote.
Mr. McCarthy said that he too wants to hear from the FBI about Chinese spies targeting U.S. elected officials.
U.S. officials believe Ms. Fang was acting at the direction of the Ministry of State Security (MSS), China’s equivalent of the CIA.
Mrs. Pelosi said last week that she is not concerned about Mr. Swalwell and that Republican and Democratic leadership found out at the same time that the officials had been targeted.
“We knew when they knew and at that time, that was the end of it,” she said.
Mr. Swalwell’s office said he cooperated with the FBI and that he hasn’t seen Ms. Fang in nearly six years.
She apparently left the U.S. in 2015.
Ms. Fang reportedly enrolled in 2011 as a student at California State University, East Bay, where she started making contacts in local political circles.
The FBI gave Mr. Swalwell a “defensive briefing” around 2015, after which he immediately cut ties with Ms. Fang. He hasn’t been directly accused of wrongdoing.
Officials said Ms. Fang engaged in sexual or romantic relationships with at least two Midwestern city mayors.
She also apparently volunteered for Rep. Ro Khanna’s congressional bid in 2014. Mr. Khanna, California Democrat, didn’t have contact with her beyond seeing her at a few Indian American political events, according to his office.
She also assisted with a fundraiser for Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii in 2013, according to the report. Ms. Gabbard’s office said the congresswoman has no recollection of ever meeting Ms. Fang.
⦁ Gabriella Muñoz contributed to this report.