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House Ethics Committee closes investigation into Swalwell, takes no action

Probe centered on allegations related to former campaign volunteer, suspected Chinese spy
CONGRESS_Eric Swalwell
U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell.

The House Ethics Committee this week ended its two-year investigation into U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Livermore) without taking any further action related to a complaint against the congressman after revelations a former campaign volunteer was later pegged as a spy from China.

The sixth-term congressman reacted with vindication in a statement Tuesday after confirming the conclusion of an internal probe by peers in both parties into allegations that have hounded Swalwell in some public circles, especially among conservative critics, since news first broke about Chinese national Fang Fang (also known as Christine Fang) in late 2020.

"It's time to move on," Swalwell said. "The bipartisan House Ethics Committee had this case for over two years. They had the power of subpoena. They received answers from me in response to requests for information. Today, they are closing this matter and did not make a finding of any wrongdoing."

The Fang case, for which Swalwell was reportedly always cooperative with FBI investigators and never accused of any criminal wrongdoing, was at the heart of Swalwell's removal from the House Intelligence Committee by new House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in January. The California Republican cited national security concerns if Swalwell remained on the committee; Swalwell countered that the ouster was strictly an act of political vengeance.

"If the intent in bringing this complaint and leveling false smears was to silence me that is not going to happen. I will continue to be a voice on behalf of my constituents and a passionate defender of democracy," Swalwell said on Tuesday.

The name Fang Fang was thrust into the national discourse after Axios released an investigative news report in December 2020 detailing allegations about the Chinese national secretly working for her country's main civilian spy agency and targeting multiple up-and-coming American politicians, including Swalwell, between 2011 and 2015.

Fang reportedly served as a volunteer on Swalwell's congressional campaign, including raising funds for his reelection effort in 2014. Axios reported that Swalwell immediately cut off ties with Fang in 2015 after investigators informed him about their concerns surrounding Fang's actions.

"Nearly 10 years ago I assisted the FBI in their counterintelligence investigation of a campaign volunteer," Swalwell said Tuesday. "The case and my assistance were briefed to Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, and two years later, Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, reappointed me to the House Intelligence Committee. Neither Speaker questioned my actions nor politicized my cooperation."

"Despite the FBI repeatedly saying I was nothing but helpful and never accused of wrongdoing, this complaint was filed by a House Republican," Swalwell added.

The complaint led to the House Ethics Committee launching an investigation in April 2021 into whether Swalwell "may have violated House Rules, laws, or other standards of conduct in connection with your interactions with Ms. Christine Fang," according to a letter signed Monday by committee Chairman Michael Guest (R-Miss.) and Ranking Member Susan Wild (D-Penn.).

"The Committee will take no further action in this matter," Guest and Wild wrote, signaling the conclusion of the investigation into Swalwell.

"The Committee has previously reviewed allegations of improper influence by foreign agents and in doing so, cautioned that Members should be conscious of the possibility that foreign governments may attempt to secure improper influence through gifts and other interactions. We encourage you to contact the Office of House Security for any guidance on steps you can take to prevent or address such attempts," the committee leaders said.

"It is not our intention to release this letter publicly unless you make public statements regarding this matter that are inconsistent with the spirit and purpose of this letter," Guest and Wild added.

Swalwell released a copy of the letter alongside his public statement on Tuesday.


About the Author: Jeremy Walsh

Jeremy, a Benicia native and American University alum, joined Embarcadero Media in November 2013. After serving as associate editor for the Pleasanton Weekly and, he was promoted to editor of the East Bay Division in February 2017.
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