After a bombshell report linked him to an alleged Chinese spy, Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell (Calif.) responded by suggesting that information about the incident was leaked to the media by the Trump administration due to his frequent criticism of the president.
What are the details?
Axios reported Monday that Swalwell was the highest profile target of a Chinese spy operation carried out by suspected foreign agent, Christine Fang, who infiltrated Democratic politics in California's Bay Area between 2011 and 2015, disingenuously acting as the head of university student organizations.
Fang, who also went by Fang Fang, reportedly raised large sums of money on behalf of the unwitting lawmaker and even planted an intern in Swalwell's congressional office before getting so close to him that federal investigators decided to step in and alert him of the situation.
Speaking with Politico Tuesday night, Swalwell, who is now a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said he first became aware that Axios was looking into Fang's activities in July 2019 as he was ending his brief run in the Democratic presidential primary.
The California Democrat, who has been one of the most outspoken lawmakers pushing the Trump-Russia collusion narrative, then suggested that President Donald Trump might be behind the story.
"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 on 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."
Rumors have circulated that Swalwell's relationship with Fang was more than just political in nature.
Fox News' Tucker Carlson claimed on air Tuesday night that U.S. intelligence officials believe Fang "had a sexual relationship" with Swalwell. But when Carlson's team asked the congressman about it, his office replied saying they "couldn't comment on whether or not Swalwell had a sexual relationship with Fang because that information might be 'classified.'"
In its original report, Axios noted that Fang had developed romantic or sexual relationships with at least two unidentified Midwestern mayors. A sexual encounter with one of them was allegedly captured by FBI surveillance.
During his interview with Politico, Swalwell refused to discuss the nature of his relationship with Fang.
According to Axios, Swalwell is not suspected of any wrongdoing as it pertains to his past involvement with Fang. The suspected foreign agent left the country without warning in 2015.
Swalwell's office submitted the following statement to Axios ahead of the report's publication: "Rep. Swalwell, long ago, 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."