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GOP puts pressure on Pelosi over Swalwell

House Republicans are seizing on Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellSwalwell compares Trump to bin Laden: They 'inspired and radicalized' Pelosi names 9 impeachment managers House Judiciary Democrats ask Pence to invoke 25th Amendment to remove Trump 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 PelosiBiden attends first church service as president in DC, stops at local bagel shop More hands needed on the nuclear football Sunday shows preview: All eyes on Biden administration to tackle coronavirus 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 SpanbergerHillicon Valley: Intelligence agency gathers US smartphone location data without warrants, memo says | Democrats seek answers on impact of Russian hack on DOJ, courts | Airbnb offers Biden administration help with vaccine distribution House lawmakers reintroduce bipartisan bill to weed out foreign disinformation on social media 'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack 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 ScaliseBoycott sham impeachment The Memo: Biden gambles that he can do it all Biden under pressure to deliver more COVID-19 shots MORE (R-La.) told The Hill. 

Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffBiden to keep Wray as FBI director Biden urged to reverse Pompeo-Trump move on Houthis Angus King warns of 'grave danger' of Trump revealing classified information 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 McCarthyBiden attends first church service as president in DC, stops at local bagel shop House GOP leader says he has 'concerns' over Cheney's impeachment vote McCarthy says he told Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene he disagreed with her impeachment articles against Biden 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 SensenbrennerGOP puts pressure on Pelosi over Swalwell House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit House Judiciary Republicans mockingly tweet 'Happy Birthday' to Hillary Clinton after Barrett confirmation 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 BoehnerCan the GOP break its addiction to show biz? House conservatives plot to oust Liz Cheney Ex-Speaker Boehner after Capitol violence: 'The GOP must awaken' 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 BoehnerCan the GOP break its addiction to show biz? House conservatives plot to oust Liz Cheney Ex-Speaker Boehner after Capitol violence: 'The GOP must awaken' 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 NunesUndoing Trump will take more than executive orders GOP operative installed as NSA top lawyer placed on administrative leave: reports Pelosi raises alarm after Trump loyalist installed as top NSA lawyer 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.