A suspected Chinese spy operating in the Bay Area during the Obama administration reportedly got so close to Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) that the FBI had to intervene and provide him with a defensive briefing.
The alleged spy, Chinese national Christine Fang, “targeted up-and-coming local politicians in the Bay Area and across the country who had the potential to make it big on the national stage” through “campaign fundraising, extensive networking, personal charisma, and romantic or sexual relationships,” Axios reported. “Even though U.S. officials do not believe Fang received or passed on classified information, the case ‘was a big deal, because there were some really, really sensitive people that were caught up’ in the intelligence network, a current senior U.S. intelligence official said.”
The report said that the type of information that officials believe that Fang was collecting, while not necessarily classified, constituted valuable political intelligence that foreign intelligence agencies seek on U.S. officials.
Fang’s ties to Swalwell began when he was a councilmember for Dublin City, California, which is part of China’s long-term strategy of getting in with people before they make it big on the national stage. Fang met Swalwell through a Chinese student organization and by 2014 had quickly “developed close ties to Swalwell’s office” and was a “bundler” for him — meaning that she helped him bring in big donors.
“Amid a widening counterintelligence probe, federal investigators became so alarmed by Fang’s behavior and activities that around 2015 they alerted Swalwell to their concerns — giving him what is known as a defensive briefing,” Axios reported. “Swalwell immediately cut off all ties to Fang, according to a current U.S. intelligence official, and he has not been accused of any wrongdoing.”
Fang, who was put under FBI surveillance, appears to have only targeted Democrat politicians as no Republicans were identified in Axios’ report. As the FBI’s probe continued, Fang unexpectedly packed up and left the country, returning to China. Officials say that her Chinese handlers called off her spying and brought her back to China.
The report said that Fang had “at least two sexual interactions with elected officials” that were recorded by FBI electronic surveillance.
Swalwell’s office said in a statement to Axios: “Rep. Swalwell, long ago, provided information about this person — whom he met more than eight years ago, and whom he hasn’t seen in nearly six years — to the FBI. To protect information that might be classified, he will not participate in your story.”
Top political players weighed in on Axios’ report on Monday night, including former Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, who wrote on Twitter: “@ericswalwell is a total hypocrite and should resign in disgrace.”
. @ericswalwell is a total hypocrite and should resign in disgrace. https://t.co/w85P2nJvnz
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) December 8, 2020
Political operative Arthur Schwartz noted the potential national security issues raised, writing: “This story makes it clear that the Chinese spy, who was also a fundraiser for @RepSwalwell , had ‘sexual relationships’ with elected officials. Swalwell, who is married and therefore a blackmail risk, must answer whether he was one of the officials that slept with the Chinese spy.”
This story makes it clear that the Chinese spy, who was also a fundraiser for @RepSwalwell, had “sexual relationships” with elected officials. Swalwell, who is married and therefore a blackmail risk, must answer whether he was one of the officials that slept with the Chinese spy. https://t.co/DtvfDVU6Vt
— Arthur Schwartz (@ArthurSchwartz) December 8, 2020