Dec 10, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Pelosi defends Swalwell, says Congress should fight "undue Chinese influence"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday she doesn't have "any concern" about Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), after an Axios investigation revealed the congressman was targeted by a suspected Chinese spy seeking to gain access to U.S. political circles up until 2015.

Driving the news: Pelosi called for closer examination of Chinese activities "in terms of their undue influence at universities in our country and the overtures they've tried to make to members of Congress," but stopped short of saying that lawmakers should run background checks on everyone they work with.

Swalwell is not accused of wrongdoing and says he immediately cut off ties with the suspected operative, Christine Fang, when alerted by the FBI in 2015.

  • He said Wednesday that the government needs to invest more in intelligence resources to ensure that foreign agents can't successfully conduct these kinds of operations, as congressional offices don't have the "technical capabilities" to run extensive background checks.
  • Pelosi said at a press conference Thursday: "I think we should make sure that everybody knows what they are being subjected to. But I don't know that it means that we have to background check every intern who comes into the Capitol."

The big picture: Pelosi confirmed that congressional leaders were briefed in the spring of 2015 about the Chinese operation targeting U.S. officials, including Swalwell.

  • "When that was made known to the members of Congress, it was over. That was the end of any communication with those people," Pelosi said.
  • Pelosi accused House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who has questioned how long Pelosi knew of Swalwell's ties to Fang, of "trying to deflect attention from the fact that he has QAnon in his delegation."
  • "We knew when they knew," Pelosi said, noting that the leaders of both parties were briefed at the same time.

Go deeper: Read the full Axios investigation into Christine Fang

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