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Top Republicans demand Eric Swalwell lose House Intel Committee position over Chinese spy relationship

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'... an unacceptable national security risk'

Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

More than a dozen House Republicans sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Tuesday demanding Rep. Eric Swalwell's removal from the House Intelligence Committee.

News broke last week that Swalwell, a California Democrat, had developed a close relationship with a Chinese spy operating in the San Francisco area named Christine Fang.

They were so close, in fact, that in 2015, "amid a widening counterintelligence probe, federal investigators became so alarmed by Fang's behavior and activities that ... they alerted Swalwell to their concerns — giving him what is known as a defensive briefing," Axios reported.

The report noted that Swalwell then severed ties with Fang. However, concerns over whether Swalwell was compromised surfaced because Fang, as Axios noted, became so close to some American politicians that she engaged in "romantic or sexual relationships with at least two Midwestern mayors."

What did the letter say?

Swalwell's relationship with Fang constitutes an "unacceptable national security risk," the 17 House Republicans wrote to Pelosi.

They said:

We write to you today out of concern with Congressman Eric Swalwell's reported, close contacts with a Chinese Communist Party spy recently reported by Axios. Because of Rep. Swalwell's position on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, his close interactions with Chinese intelligence services, however unintentional they may be, are an unacceptable national security risk. HPSCI handles some of the most sensitive information our government possesses — information critical to our national defense. As such, we urge you to immediately remove Rep. Swalwell from his position on the House Intelligence Committee.

The lawmakers pointed toward Pelosi's own words as precedent for Swalwell's removal.

During the height of the Trump-Russia conspiracy theory in 2017, Pelosi said then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions was "not fit to serve...and must resign" for not disclosing two meetings with then-Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. Sessions, of course, eventually recused himself from the Trump-Russia investigation over the two meetings.

Swalwell also did not disclose his relationship with the Chinese spy, which means he, too, should resign if Pelosi administers her standard consistently.

"Rep. Swalwell withheld information for five years from the House Intelligence Committee about an ongoing Chinese espionage operation targeted at him and his own colleagues," the Republicans wrote. "Obviously, Rep. Swalwell's interactions with a Chinese spy were more dangerous and unusual than AG Session's meetings with a Russian diplomat."

"But to make matters worse, Rep. Swalwell kept this information to himself while repeatedly using his position on HPSCI to peddle damaging and baseless conspiracies about President Donald Trump's unproven ties to Russia for years and still refuses to comment fully on the extent and nature of his relationship with the Chinese Communist Party spy exposed in Axios' bombshell report," the letter continued.

The letter was signed by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the second-highest and third-highest ranking House Republicans.

How has Swalwell responded?

Swalwell responded by blaming President Donald Trump.

"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 last Tuesday. "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," he added. "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."'

For her part, Pelosi told reporters last week, "I don't have any concern about Mr. Swalwell."

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