No one can blame Republicans for feeling a sense of schadenfreude when the story about California Rep. Eric Swalwell’s relationship with a suspected Chinese spy broke on Tuesday.
The irony, after all, is rich.
Following a one-year investigation, Axios reported that a “suspected Chinese intelligence operative” named Christine Fang, or Fang Fang, “developed extensive ties with local and national politicians, including a U.S. congressman, in what U.S. officials believe was a political intelligence operation run by China’s main civilian spy agency between 2011 and 2015.”
That congressman was Eric Swalwell.
The Axios report indicated that 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.”
Swalwell has been one of President Donald Trump’s most vocal critics in the House of Representatives. Swalwell, who serves on the House Intelligence Committee, has relentlessly attacked Trump for his supposed ties to the Russians throughout his presidency. After Donald Trump Jr.’s infamous June 2016 meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya came to light, Swalwell pounced on him as well.
But now that Swalwell himself has been caught in the headlights, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tells reporters there’s nothing to see here.
“I don’t have any concern about Mr. Swalwell,” Pelosi said Thursday at her weekly news conference.
Nancy Pelosi: “I don’t have any concern about Mr. Swalwell”
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) December 10, 2020
Well, she should have some concern about Swalwell.
Fang knew Swalwell well enough to be “friends” on Facebook with his father and brother. (Fox News reported Wednesday that both Swalwell Sr. and Joshua Swalwell only stopped appearing on her “friends” list that day.)
And, according to Axios, Fang “helped place at least one intern in Swalwell’s office.”
That prompted Fox News’ Chad Pergram to ask Pelosi if she believes that background checks should be required for all staff and interns.
She replied, “I don’t know that it means that we have background checks for every intern who comes into the Capitol.”
At a time when the Chinese are trying to infiltrate almost every American institution, including our government, our financial system, our universities and our technology, doesn’t the role of a suspected Chinese spy in placing an intern at an office where exposure to sensitive information is all in a day’s work raise a red flag?
If Swalwell were a Republican, Pelosi no doubt would have responded much differently.
Swalwell claims he had no idea Fang was a spy at the time of their relationship and that may be true. But don’t we look to our elected officials, especially those whom we entrust with our government’s secrets, to exercise a certain level of discernment? I would expect a member of Congress to be a bit more thoughtful about this sort of thing.
Pelosi’s spokesman, Drew Hammill, said in a statement to Fox that “The Speaker has full confidence in Congressman Swalwell’s service in the Congress and on the Intelligence Committee.”
Meanwhile, a Swalwell spokesperson said in a statement to Axios: “Long ago, [Swalwell] 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. To protect information that might be classified, he will not participate in your story.”
And that was just about all they had to say on the subject.
So, neither the House speaker nor the congressman in question are at all concerned about this.
Well, Eric Swalwell is reaping what he has sown, and this scandal may be more difficult to dismiss than he or the speaker believes.
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