Minority Leader of the House Hakeem Jeffries demanded House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reappoint two “eminently qualified legislators” to the Committee on Intelligence, despite one Representative’s alleged ties to a Chinese spy.
In a letter, Jeffries said Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, California Democrats, have over two decades of proven oversight of the U.S. intelligence community.
The demand comes as McCarthy plans to block Democrat Representative Ilhan Omar as well as Schiff and Swalwell from seats on the House Intelligence Committee.
McCarthy recently said, “Swalwell can’t get a security clearance in the private sector. I’m not going to give him a government security clearance.”
The Speaker also said, “Schiff has lied too many times to the American public,” and argued that Rep. Omar’s outspoken criticism of Israel borders on antisemitism.
Swalwell’s connections to suspected Chinese spy Christine Fang, also known as Fang Fang, were reported first by Axios in December 2020, prompting House GOP members to draft a resolution to remove him from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The resolution was put on hold by the Democrats.
A report by Axios claimed Fang targeted politicians, including Swalwell, and that the Representative was alerted to Fang’s behavior in 2015. The report then maintains that Swalwell cut off ties with Fang and hasn’t been accused of further wrongdoing.
Reportedly, Fang was part of Swalwell’s fundraising effort for his 2014 reelection campaign, although according to intelligence officials, she did not make any donations. Fang also interacted with Swalwell several times over the years and placed an intern in his office. Fang reportedly fled the U.S. and returned to China.
Swalwell maintains he had no part in any wrongdoing
Omar, Schiff, and Swalwell formally requested the Steering Committee to be reinstated as members of the House Foreign Affairs and Intelligence committees this month, along with the plea from Jeffries.
“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,” said Jeffries. “The denial of seats to duly members of the House Democratic Caucus runs counter to the serious and sober mission of the Intelligence Committee.”
Jeffries also said that in the 117th Congress, two members were eliminated from their committees in a bipartisan vote after the insurrection at 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,” said Jeffries.
Swalwell hyped his experience on the intelligence committee in his campaign to be reappointed. However, he knew the Speaker of the House might 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,” said Swalwell in a letter on January 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 the president is embroiled in an expanding scandal over his handling of classified documents across decades. White House officials continue to avoid questions about the documents.
Friday, the Justice Department took hold of a fourth batch of improperly stored classified documents since November at the president’s Wilmington, Delaware home.