Several Democrats have come to the defense of Representatives Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) and Eric Swalwell (D., Calif.) after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy stripped the duo of their committee assignments.
McCarthy on Tuesday made good on his promises to remove Swalwell and Schiff from the House Intelligence Committee. He cited Swalwell’s association with a Chinese spy and Schiff’s boosting of the now-debunked Steele dossier as reasons each lawmaker is unfit to serve on their assigned committee.
McCarthy has also vowed to remove Representative Ilhan Omar (D., Minn) from the House Foreign Affairs Committee over her criticism of Israel. However, Omar’s ouster would require a vote of the full House.
Representative Pete Aguilar (D., Calif.), chairman of the House Democratic caucus, on Wednesday said it is “ridiculous” that McCarthy has blocked Schiff and Swalwell from serving on the House Intelligence Committee.
“I think it’s ridiculous that the speaker would kick two good members who know a lot about the intelligence world off of the committee, while at the same time seating George Santos and giving him two committee assignments,” Aguilar said.
Santos, a freshman congressman from New York, was caught lying about his resume and background after his election but has rebuffed calls to resign.
Aguilar also said the Democratic caucus will oppose any attempts to oust Omar from her committee assignment.
“The Democratic caucus is supportive of her serving in this capacity,” he said.
Representative Ruben Gallego (D., Ariz.) said McCarthy is executing “grievance politics” by removing Swalwell and Schiff, who he says have “not done anything incorrectly.”
“The FBI has clearly stated that Swalwell has been cleared and did not do anything at all, including Paul Ryan and other speakers before McCarthy who all have said nothing has been done incorrectly,” Gallego said. “I think McCarthy is going to look like a fool but he’s only doing this to make sure that he can hold power, not because these two are somehow some kind of threat to national security.”
He added: “If anything, we need them on these committees because they’re very bright, they know what they’re doing, they have the context that we need and instead he’s doing this to appease the Marjorie Taylor Greenes of the world.”
House Republicans have sought to remove Swalwell from the committee since a December 2020 Axios report revealed that a suspected Chinese spy named Fang Fang helped raise money for Swalwell’s campaign and had placed at least one intern in his office.
Schiff, then the chairman of the committee, defended Swalwell in March 2021 as a “trusted member of our committee” and said the congressman had “acted fully in accordance with his responsibilities” after federal investigators alerted Swalwell to their concerns and briefed Congress about Fang in 2015. Swalwell says he stopped corresponding with her at that time and authorities have not charged him with any wrongdoing.
House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries wrote a letter to McCarthy calling the three lawmakers “eminently qualified” for their respective roles.
McCarthy, however, was unmoved by the letter.
“I appreciate the loyalty you have to your Democrat colleagues, and I acknowledge your efforts to have two Members of Congress reinstated to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,” McCarthy wrote to Jeffries on Tuesday. “But I cannot put partisan loyalty ahead of national security, and I cannot simply recognize years of service as the sole criteria for membership to this essential committee. Integrity matters more.”
In a joint statement on Tuesday, Swalwell, Schiff and Omar accused McCarthy of “political vengeance.”
“It’s disappointing but not surprising that Kevin McCarthy has capitulated to the right wing of his caucus, undermining the integrity of the Congress, and harming our national security in the process,” the trio said.
“He struck a corrupt bargain in his desperate, and nearly failed, attempt to win the Speakership, a bargain that required political vengeance against the three of us,” the Democrats added.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Schiff said the “hypocrisy grabs you by the throat” that McCarthy has pushed to oust the three Democrats while Santos is seated on committees.
“A serial fabricator about every part of his existence,” Schiff said of Santos, adding McCarthy is “perfectly comfortable with it. He needs George Santos.”
Swalwell said he, Omar and Schiff have received death threats “because McCarthy continues to aim and project these smears against us… It makes us believe there is an intent behind it.”