California Rep. Eric Swalwell — a Russia collusion hawk, gun-grabber and one-time dark horse candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination — is currently ensnared in a nettlesome situation involving a Chinese spy named Christine Fang who bundled donations for his 2014 congressional campaign and placed an intern in his office.
There’s a lot going on in American politics at the moment, but the scandal should rate higher on the charts than it has. In fact, when White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany faced the media for a briefing on Tuesday, there wasn’t a single question about it.
It’s not just that Swalwell was involved in the scandal, although he’s one of the most powerful Democrats in the House of Representatives and a guy on his way up. In fact, he wasn’t the only politician targeted. Instead, according to the Axios report that broke the story, it’s that the investigation was “a rare window into how Beijing has tried to gain access to and influence U.S. political circles.”
“Through campaign fundraising, extensive networking, personal charisma, and romantic or sexual relationships with at least two Midwestern mayors, Fang was able to gain proximity to political power, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials and one former elected official,” the website reported.
The suspected operative, a Chinese national named Christine Fang, enrolled as a student at Cal State East Bay in 2011.
Fang’s friends and acquaintances said she was in her late 20s or early 30s, though she looked younger and blended in well with the undergraduate population. pic.twitter.com/cDhp8s8CTa
— B. Allen-Ebrahimian (@BethanyAllenEbr) December 8, 2020
Not one question about this on Tuesday, though — curious, given the state of relations between the Trump White House and China, but not so curious when you consider Swalwell’s rising star seems to be in stasis, particularly after a bungled response.
Anyhow, if mainstream media reporters weren’t going to ask about it, McEnany was going to bring it up herself.
She brought all of the receipts.
— Caleb Hull (@CalebJHull) December 15, 2020
At the end of the media briefing, McEnany segued from a story the media wasn’t giving much coverage to — the effect of President Donald Trump’s hard line on Iran — to point out “in the last 24, 48 hours, there have been quite a few stories that have not gotten a ton of coverage in the mainstream media. As former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said, bias is often found in stories the press does not cover. And last week we found out that Democrat Congressman Eric Swalwell was infiltrated by an alleged Chinese spy.”
And yes, that suspected agent of a foreign government bundled donations and placed an intern in Swalwell’s office — and until the FBI notified Swalwell in 2015, she was still friendly with the California Democrat.
“But 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,” McEnany said.
“Swalwell wrote this on his congressional webpage: ‘President Trump and his team are directly and indirectly tied to Russia.’ That was not true. He then said in September of 2020, ‘The president has a compromised relationship with Russia.’ Untrue. April of 2019, he said, ‘President Trump certainly acts on Russia’s behalf and acts like Russia’s leader.’ Not true. January, 2019, Eric Swalwell said, ‘It’s pretty clear President Donald Trump is an agent of Russia.’ Not true.
“And Swalwell shamelessly claimed Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner had an eagerness and a willingness to work with the Russians during the 2016 election,” she continued. “Again, it was false. In 2019, he falsely claimed this yet again when inquired about collusion by a reporter. And these baseless attacks were false, yet covered breathlessly by the media.
“There was no coverage, however, of Swalwell being the one implicated with not Russia, but China. In fact, the New York Times website, as of this morning, had not one result for Eric Swalwell’s ties to Chinese spies. Not one result. And when the Swalwell story broke, guess how many minutes of coverage it got on ABC, NBC, MSNBC and CBS? Zero. CNN devoted three minutes and 16 seconds to it. However, it was covered on Fox.”
McEnany went on to talk about the difference in coverage involving Hunter Biden’s various overseas entanglements before and after the election, as well. (Hunter Biden didn’t merit a question from reporters, either, if you had to ask.)
At the end of the news conference, as she walked off, a reporter — identified by Rev as (of course) CNN’s Jim Acosta — yelled after her, “Isn’t it hypocritical for you to accuse others of disinformation when you spread it every day?”
I hope he smiled when he said that.
Swalwell, for his part, was never formally accused of wrongdoing, but he seemed particularly blasé about the implications of China’s attempt to ingratiate itself to him and intimated it was his opposition to Trump that caused Axios to release the story now, after what the website’s report described as a “yearlong investigation.”
He claimed his membership on the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees made him a target.
“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 last week, according to Politico. “The timing feels like that should be looked at.”
“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.”
That seems curiously like an attack on both the Trump administration and Axios, a media outlet no one will confuse with OAN, by saying they’re carrying water for Trump by reporting on Swalwell’s connections to a Chinese spy after the election. It’s not just that this is the kind of argument that can and should be dismissed via summary judgment, it’s the kind of feint so blatantly off-base it makes you think there’s more lurking behind this story, even in the absence of evidence.
Whatever the case, the mainstream media hasn’t been much interested in covering it, no matter what the implications.
Thanks to Kayleigh McEnany, at least for a few brief minutes, they were forced to.
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