Dec 9, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Eric Swalwell says he was "shocked" when FBI alerted him to suspected Chinese spy

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said Wednesday he was "shocked" when he discovered in 2015 that Christine Fang — a Chinese national who started working with him in 2012 — was a suspected spy who targeted him and other California politicians, as revealed by Axios.

The big picture: Swalwell is not accused of wrongdoing and immediately cut off ties with Fang after receiving a defensive briefing from the FBI, according to a current U.S. intelligence official. The California lawmaker told CNN that congressional offices don't have the "technical capabilities" to run background checks on the people they work with.

  • Swalwell, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said the government needs to invest more in intelligence resources to ensure that foreign agents can't successfully conduct these kinds of operations.

What they're saying: "I was shocked. Just over six years ago, I was told about this individual and then I offered to help, and I did help and I was thanked by the FBI for my help and that person is no longer in the country," Swalwell said.

  • "[T]here was never a suspicion of wrongdoing on my part and all I did was cooperate and the FBI said that yesterday," he added.

Swalwell went on to suggest that the story was leaked to Axios by the Trump administration because of his criticism of the president and work on the impeachment inquiry as a member of the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees.

  • "If this is a country where people who criticize the president are going to have law enforcement information weaponized against them, that's not a country that any of us want to live in," Swalwell told CNN. "I hope it is investigated as to who leaked this information."
  • In an interview with Politico, Swalwell said the Axios story would not cost him his seat on the House Intelligence Committee, adding that his interactions with Fang were "something that congressional leadership knew about it."

Go deeper: Read the full Axios investigation

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