There is a certain poetic justice in the news that Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) had a close relationship with an alleged Chinese spy, Christine Fang. Swalwell was one of the most prominent purveyors of the now-disproven conspiracy theory that Donald Trump had colluded with Russian intelligence to steal the 2016 election. Yet it turns out that all the while Swalwell was spreading those lies, he knew that he had been cultivated and funded by a suspected Chinese intelligence operative.

During the Mueller probe, Swalwell repeatedly claimed without a shred of evidence that Trump not only colluded with Russia but also that he was an “agent” of Russian intelligence. In an interview on MSNBC, Chris Matthews asked him whether Trump was a Russian agent “like in the 1940s where you had people who were ‘reds’?” Swalwell answered, “He’s working on behalf of the Russians, yes.” It turned out that was a lie. Swalwell used his position as a member of the House Intelligence Committee to suggest that he had seen evidence the rest of us could not that Trump was a Russian operative — when we now know no such evidence existed.

So, it is a bit ironic to learn that the congressman who claimed Trump was an agent of a hostile foreign power himself had a relationship with an alleged agent of a hostile foreign power. Fang began cultivating Swalwell when he was a member of the Dublin, Calif., city council, as part of a Chinese intelligence operation to get close to rising political stars. After he was elected to Congress in 2012, she became a bundler raising money for his reelection campaign. She chose her target well. Swalwell became a member of the House Intelligence Committee and lead Democrat on the subcommittee with oversight over the CIA. According to Axios, “Fang facilitated the potential assignment of interns into Swalwell’s offices” and “in at least one case, an intern recommended by Fang was placed into Swalwell’s D.C. office.” Swalwell has thus far refused to discuss his relationship with Fang, and his office did not return a request for comment.

Let’s give Swalwell the benefit of the doubt that he denied Trump: There is no evidence he knew that Fang was an alleged Chinese operative, or that Swalwell was an “agent” working on behalf of Communist China. He cut off contact with her as soon as the FBI warned him about Fang. But we can be sure that if he had the same kind of photos of Trump palling around with a beautiful Russian spy that we now have of Swalwell palling around with an alleged Chinese spy, he would have held that up as proof that Trump was in the pocket of Russian intelligence, or worse.

Swalwell has not been accused of any wrongdoing. The issue is his hypocrisy in attacking Trump for alleged collusion with a foreign intelligence agency when he himself had been used by an alleged operative of a foreign intelligence agency. Indeed, Swalwell had the nerve to complain that the story was leaked to Axios by Trump supporters to try to “discredit” him — a charge Axios’s Jonathan Swan, whose colleagues broke the story, called “completely absurd.”

Then, there is the hypocrisy of the FBI. The bureau gave Swalwell a “defensive briefing” in 2015, informing him that Fang was a suspected Chinese agent and allowing him to cut ties with her. They gave a similar briefing to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in 2013, when the FBI learned that the then-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee had a Chinese spy on her staff who worked for her for about 20 years — after which she fired the individual. That’s because it’s standard practice to inform the target of foreign espionage that they are being targeted. But while the bureau did give Trump what former FBI director James B. Comey called “a general counterintelligence briefing about the threat coming from different nations,” it never told him that they had opened counterintelligence investigations against four Trump campaign associates whom they suspected of inappropriate contact with Russian intelligence. Instead, the FBI kept him in the dark and wasted two years and tens of millions of dollars chasing a conspiracy theory.

Those resources might have been better spent focusing on the threat from China. In July, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray explained, “We’ve now reached the point where the FBI is opening a new China-related counterintelligence case about every 10 hours.” As we can see from China’s suspected compromising of Swalwell, the Chinese espionage threat is real. Swalwell hid his relationship with a Chinese spy from public scrutiny for five years. He owes the American people an explanation.

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