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GOP puts pressure on Pelosi over Swalwell

House Republicans are seizing on Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellMcCarthy open to meeting officer injured on Jan. 6 after Swalwell claims he was 'hung up on' McCarthy brushes off questions about GOP lawmakers downplaying Jan. 6 violence GOP struggles to rein in nativism MORE’s (D-Calif.) connection to an alleged Chinese spy to put pressure on Democrats to drop him from the House Intelligence Committee in the next Congress. 

GOP lawmakers argue Swalwell is a national security threat given his former ties to Christine Fang, who according to a report in Axios helped fundraise for Swalwell during his 2014 reelection campaign and helped place an intern inside his office before leaving the country in 2015 amid a federal investigation into her actions.  

Republicans are already eyeing winning back the House majority in 2022 after gaining seats in November, and they see the Swalwell story as one that will stick with voters.

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“This is a major political problem for House Democrats and Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Defense: Military sexual assault reform bill has votes to pass in Senate l First active duty service member arrested over Jan. 6 riot l Israeli troops attack Gaza Strip Hillicon Valley: Colonial pipeline is back online, but concerns remain | Uber, Lyft struggle with driver supply | Apple cuts controversial hire Ocasio-Cortez on Taylor Greene: 'These are the kinds of people that I threw out of bars all the time' MORE,” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), the incoming chairman of the Republican Study Committee, told The Hill, adding it won’t go away “until Eric Swalwell goes away.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee has sought to tie Swalwell to Democrats it is targeting in the midterms, such as Rep. Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerFive takeaways on the House's return to budget earmarks Lawmakers say companies need to play key role in sustainability On The Money: Weekly jobless claims fall to lowest level since lockdowns | Retail sales surge in March | Dow, S&P hit new records MORE (D-Va.).

“We're going to continue to talk about this as long as he remains on the House Intelligence Committee, because the Speaker Pelosi still needs to give real answers to some of the serious questions like when did she know about Swalwell’s relationship with a Chinese spy,” House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseRoy to challenge Stefanik for Cheney's old position Stefanik shake-up jump-starts early jockeying for committee posts Freedom Caucus Republican says Cheney was 'canceled' MORE (R-La.) told The Hill. 

Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDNC plans to project image calling GOP 'party of Trump' on his DC hotel after Cheney vote Democrats fundraise off of vote to remove Cheney from GOP leadership Free Speech Inc.: The Democratic Party finds a new but shaky faith in corporate free speech MORE (D-Calif.) have expressed confidence in Swalwell and said they have no intention to ask him to leave the panel.

“I don't have any concern about Mr. Swalwell,” Pelosi told reporters earlier this month before criticizing Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyRoy to challenge Stefanik for Cheney's old position Stefanik shake-up jump-starts early jockeying for committee posts Why Cheney was toppled, and what it says about the GOP and Trump's claims MORE (R-Calif.).

“I do think that it is unfortunate that Mr. McCarthy is trying to make an issue of this. But you know what he's trying to do, he's trying to deflect attention from the fact that he has QAnon in his delegation over there,” she said. 

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In an interview with Politico following the Axios report, Swalwell said he severed contact with Fang, who is also known as Fang Fang, after federal investigators alerted him of the alleged suspicious activity and is not accused of any wrongdoing.  

Fang also allegedly targeted a number of other high-profile California Democrats.

Swalwell said Democratic leaders were informed about the interactions, and he questioned the leak to Axios about the investigation, arguing it may have been politically motivated.

“I’ve been a critic of the president. I’ve spoken out against him. I was on both committees that worked to impeach him. The timing feels like that should be looked at,” Swalwell told Politico.

“What it appears though that this person — as the story reports — was unsuccessful in whatever they were trying to do. 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.”

Swalwell makes for an attractive political target for Republicans.

He has a national stature given his frequent appearances on cable news and a brief presidential run.

Scalise said Pelosi must answer more questions about the issue.

“Did she know about it before she put them on the House Intelligence Committee?” he asked. “It's rare for somebody in their second term to get on that committee, especially if she knew that he had this contact with a Chinese spy and another Chinese spy could have also infiltrated his office, getting interns or whoever else that may have also been spies planted inside of his office,” Scalise said.

Swalwell was first elected to the House in 2012, and was tapped by Pelosi to join the House Intelligence Committee in 2015. 

McCarthy, who has called for the FBI to brief the full Intelligence Committee, didn’t specify what the GOP’s next steps will be, but signaled the conference is weighing options to ramp up pressure.

“We'll continue to look, but I mean it harms the committee I know the members who serve on that probably will not feel comfortable around it as well,” he told The Hill.

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Rep. Jim SensenbrennerFrank (Jim) James SensenbrennerProtecting the fundamental right of all Americans to have access to the voting booth Republicans compare Ron Johnson to Joe McCarthy: NYT GOP puts pressure on Pelosi over Swalwell MORE (R-Wis.) has called for an “immediate” probe by the House Ethics Committee on Friday, and Banks said action on the House floor could be a potential avenue for the GOP to turn up the heat on Democrats.

“You can count on it [additional action]. I mean, this is a serious national security issue. As a member of the House Intelligence Committee was privy to the most critical and highly classified intelligence that members of Congress are offered, and he's compromised by the Chinese Communist Party, our greatest adversaries,” Banks said.  

Former Minority Leader John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerWhat's a party caucus chair worth? Biden's relationship with top House Republican is frosty Maher chides Democrats: We 'suck the fun out of everything' MORE (R-Ohio) in 2008 used similar tactics to what is being discussed in an attempt to get former Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) to step down as the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee while the House Ethics Committee investigated him, offering motions to force him off the panel amid the probe into violations to the House gift rule, which were ultimately tabled. BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerWhat's a party caucus chair worth? Biden's relationship with top House Republican is frosty Maher chides Democrats: We 'suck the fun out of everything' MORE also offered a motion on the floor to censure Rangel, which was also shot down by the Democratic-controlled 110th Congress. 

Democrats are blasting Republicans as hypocritical, and they note the FBI did not accuse Swalwell of doing anything wrong.

One senior Democratic aide noted that Boehner and Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesStefanik shake-up jump-starts early jockeying for committee posts McCarthy unveils House GOP task forces, chairs Former GOP operative installed as NSA top lawyer resigns MORE (Calif.), the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, or a staff designee were present during a briefing on the situation in 2015, with some Democrats arguing Republicans would have raised concerns earlier if it were not politically motivated. 

“Rep. Swalwell handled himself appropriately in this situation. Republican leadership has known about this since the spring of 2015 as they were briefed at the same time as Democratic leadership,” the aide said. 

But Republicans assert they don’t think Democrats are taking the situation seriously enough, making the case that GOP lawmakers have seen calls to step down following lesser accusations. 

“I think there's someone on their side that just hope that the story will go away. But if Russian spies infiltrated a senior Republican office, then they would be screaming from the roof of the Capitol dome,” Scalise said.