White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany continued her attacks against Eric Swalwell and journalists on Tuesday after accusing the Democratic congressman of “entangling” with a Chinese spy as she criticised credible media organisations for refusing to lend credibility to GOP claims.
In an extended rant during a White House press briefing on Tuesday, Ms McEnany – who has called the congressman a “China-controlled Democrat” – claimed that Mr Swallwell “hypocritically went on to be one of the lead instigators of the Russia collusion hoax and the impeachment sham.”
As she stepped away from the briefing room, CNN’s Jim Acosta asked: “Kayleigh, isn’t it hypocritical for you to accuse others of disinformation when you spread it every day?”
The California congressman was never suspected of any wrongdoing and has complied with the FBI following an investigation that revealed a Chinese political intelligence operation in the US had allegedly placed a Chinese national working for its intelligence office into his campaign several years ago.
A recent report from Axios alleged that a Chinese national employed by China’s Ministry of State Security bundled donor checks for the congressman’s reelection campaign in 2014. Following an investigation in 2015, US intelligence officials provided Mr Swalwell with a “defensive briefing” and he immediately cut ties.
Members of Congress from both parties were briefed in 2015 about suspected Chinese intelligence operations in the Capitol.
He has questioned the timing of stories, based around classified intel, which he believes were leaked from the White House, as he faces intense scrutiny among GOP officials, right-wing media and Donald Trump’s base following his criticism of the president and role in his impeachment.
The congressman also has suggested that the smear campaign against him effectively serves the same function as China’s initial intent – to sow discord among US officials and voters.
“I’ve been a critic of the president. I’ve spoken out against him. I was on both committees that worked to impeach him,” he told Politico last week. “The timing feels like that should be looked at.”
Mr Swalwell added: “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 weaponise someone’s cooperation, they are essentially seeking to do what this person was not able to do, which is to try and discredit someone.”
Ms McEnany dismissed investigations and well-documented connections among the president and his allies, campaign officials and business partners to Russian interests and suggested that the “real story” was instead Mr Swalwell’s link to China.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other GOP officials have sought to remove Mr Swalwell from his intelligence committee post.
“The House Republican and Democratic leader and the leadership of the committee were briefed at the same moment,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters last week. “Make sure you know that, because he keeps going around saying, ‘When did they know?’ We knew when they knew. And at that time, that was the end of it.”