House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's long-promised move to boot two prominent Democrats off of the House Intelligence Committee is "specious" and not justified by the facts, wrote Glenn Kessler in a lengthy fact-check for The Washington Post on Wednesday in which he awarded McCarthy the lowest rating of Four Pinocchios.
The removal of Reps. Eric Swalwell and Adam Schiff (both D-CA) from the House Intelligence Committee are long-telegraphed payback for Democrats holding a vote of the full House to strip committee assignments from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) for endorsing the killing of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), who attended a white nationalist conference and posted a video depicting himself killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) with a sword.
"It’s apparently payback time. McCarthy announced that he would block two prominent California Democrats — Reps. Eric Swalwell and Adam B. Schiff — from serving on the House Intelligence Committee. Schiff had been chair and is the ranking Democrat," wrote Kessler. "But unless you have been a regular consumer of right-wing media, you might be puzzled by the accusations used to justify their expulsion. Indeed, McCarthy’s reasoning is specious and vague, especially when compared to the actions of Greene and Gosar."
The removal of Swalwell stems from highly overblown right-wing claims about his involvement with a Chinese spy.
"In 2000, Axios reported that a suspected Chinese intelligence operative called Christine Fang had developed extensive ties with local and national politicians, including Swalwell ... She first met Swalwell when he was a council member in Dublin, Calif., Axios said. She also volunteered for Rep. Ro Khanna’s unsuccessful 2014 House bid, helped with a fundraiser for Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and appeared in photos with Khanna, Swalwell, Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and then-Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.)" said the report.
"The Axios article never says Swalwell did anything questionable. Fang was a bundler for his campaign, though Axios said there were no signs of illegal contributions, and at one point she facilitated the placement of an intern in his Washington office," said the report. "The article’s unnamed sources claim Fang had sexual relations with two unidentified Midwestern mayors, but there is no suggestion of impropriety on Swalwell’s part. The article says that when the FBI alerted Swalwell and other House members to its concerns about Fang’s activities, Swalwell immediately cut ties with her. She abruptly left the United States for China in 2015 during the FBI probe. There is also no evidence she obtained or passed on classified information, Axios said."
As for Schiff, Kessler wrote, McCarthy hasn't even provided evidence for the accusation he is making.
"He claims that Schiff 'lied to the American public' about whether he knew the whistleblower who triggered the impeachment investigation into whether President Donald Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation of Joe Biden in exchange for a promised White House meeting and delivery of U.S. military aid," said Kessler. "But we can find no evidence that Schiff lied about whether he knew the whistleblower’s name ... It’s possible that McCarthy is thinking of something different — our Four-Pinocchio ruling that Schiff falsely claimed, during a 2019 interview with MSNBC, that the Intelligence Committee had not spoken to the whistleblower. In fact, the whistleblower approached a House Intelligence Committee staff member for guidance before filing a complaint with an intelligence community inspector general. But that sort of dissembling to the media is not the same thing as lying in a congressional hearing."
"McCarthy clearly warned there would be payback if Democrats started choosing which members could serve on House committees," concluded Kessler. "The Democrats punished two Republican lawmakers — and now he wants to punish two Democrats. But in contrast to the public actions or statements made by Greene and Gosar, widely condemned at the time, these expulsions appear based on figments of imagination."