Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, in a letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Saturday, demanded to have two “eminently qualified legislators” reappointed to the Committee on Intelligence, despite one’s alleged ties to a Chinese spy.
Jeffries said Eric Swalwell and Adam Schiff, both Democrats from California, have over two decades providing oversight of the nation’s intelligence community.
The demand comes as McCarthy plans to block Swalwell, Schiff and Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar from seats on the House Intelligence Committee.
McCarthy recently told Punchbowl News that “Swalwell can’t get a security clearance in the private sector. I’m not going to give him a government security clearance.”
McCarthy also said, “Schiff has lied too many times to the American public,” and argued that Omar’s outspoken criticism of Israel is borderline antisemitic.
Swalwell’s ties to suspected Chinese spy Christine Fang, also known as Fang Fang, were first reported by Axios in December 2020 and prompted House Republicans to draft a resolution to remove Swalwell from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The resolution was tabled by the Democrats.
Axios had reported that Fang targeted up-and-coming politicians, including Swalwell, and that federal investigators alerted Swalwell of Fang’s behavior in 2015. Swalwell then cut off all ties with Fang and has not been accused of any wrongdoing, the report said.
Fang was allegedly part of Swalwell’s fundraising effort for his 2014 reelection campaign, though she did not make any donations, according to Intelligence officials. She also interacted with Swalwell numerous times over several years and placed an intern in his office. She reportedly fled the United States and returned to China.
Swalwell continues to say he did not do anything wrong.
Schiff, Swalwell and Omar made formal requests to the Steering Committee to be reinstated as members of the intelligence committee and House Foreign Affairs committee this month, along with Jeffries’ plea.
“It is my understanding that you intend to break with the longstanding House tradition of deference to the minority party Intelligence Committee recommendations and deny seats to Ranking Member Schiff and Representative Swalwell,” Jeffries said. “The denial of seats to duly members of the House Democratic Caucus runs counter to the serious and sober mission of the Intelligence Committee.”
He also said in the 117th Congress, two members were removed from their committees in a bipartisan vote after directly inciting violence against their colleagues during the violent insurrection and attack on the Capital.
“It does not serve as precedent or justification for the removal of Representatives Schiff and Swalwell, given that they have never exhibited violent thoughts or behavior,” Jeffries said.
Swalwell touted his experience on the intelligence committee in his plea to be reappointed.
Still, he was fully aware that the House Speaker may have other plans.
“…After conferring with Leader Jeffries, I write to request that I return as a Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,” Swalwell said in a letter on Jan. 5. “It is not for the Speaker to decide to remove Members from committees based on fabricated stories or political revenge, and there is no basis for attempting to remove me, Adam Schiff, or Ilhan Omar from our committee assignments.”
The dispute comes as President Biden is embroiled in a growing scandal over his handling of classified documents across decades, and White House officials continue to dodge questions pertaining to those documents.
On Friday, the Justice Department seized a fourth batch of misplaced classified documents since November, in the president’s home in Wilmington, Delaware.