The FBI had to intervene and provide a Democrat Representative in California, Eric Swalwell, with a defensive briefing, after he reportedly got close to a suspected Chinese spy operating in the Bay Area.
Chinese national Christine Fang, a spy alleged to have operated during the Obama administration, “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 on Monday.
“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 US intelligence official said.”
The information that Fang was allegedly collecting was not necessarily classified information, but constituted valuable intelligence on US officials that is highly sought after by foreign intelligence agencies.
Fang’s relationship with Swalwell began when he was a city council member in Dublin, California. According to US intelligence, China has developed a long-term intelligence strategy of getting close to key Democrats before they reach the national stage.
Fang met Swalwell through a Chinese student organization. By 2014, she had swiftly “developed close ties to Swalwell’s office” and was a “bundler” for him, which entailed helping 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 US intelligence official, and he has not been accused of any wrongdoing.”
Fang, who was put under FBI surveillance, appears to have focused exclusively on Democrat politicians, as no Republicans were mentioned in the Axios report.
Fang abruptly left the country and returned to China, and officials have stated that her Chinese handlers brought her back to China and called off her spying.
The report also noted that Fang had “at least two sexual interactions with elected officials,” as recorded by FBI electronic surveillance.
In a statement to Axios, Swalwell’s office stated: “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.”
Former US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who also recently served as Acting Director of National Intelligence, took to social media to blast Swalwell, stating: “@ericswalwell is a total hypocrite and should resign in disgrace.”