A strange spectacle—and possible obstruction of justice— involving former Democratic National Committee Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been kept under wraps by Congress, flying under the radar until now. A messy, tangled web of suspicious connections and incriminating allegations, the scandal has led White House aides to suspect whether a top member of Congress is being blackmailed.
Confused? Let’s take a closer look at the scandal major media is keeping quiet about.
To refresh your memory, Wasserman Schultz resigned as the DNC chairwoman in July of 2016 after WikiLeaks published 19, 252 of her emails. The emails revealed how DNC leaders conspired to undermine Senator Bernie Sanders to secure Hillary Clinton’s nomination. Wasserman Schultz was told to resign by President Obama shortly after. Now, Wasserman Schultz finds herself embroiled in another scandal, which she seems to be keeping more tight-lipped about.
In February, a group of five Congress information technology (IT) employees fell under criminal investigation for allegations of stealing equipment from over 20 member offices, and committing serious and “potentially illegal violations” of House IT policies. The “leader” of this group is Imran Awan, who has worked for Wasserman Schultz since 2005.
In May, Wasserman Schultz threatened the US Capitol Police for investigating her office. After they had retained her computer as evidence in part of the Awan investigation, Wasserman Schultz apparently threatened the Capitol Police Chief with “consequences”, claiming that the computer belonged to her.
After the investigation, Wasserman Schultz kept Awan employed by her office as an “advisor”, leaving many both perplexed and suspicious. Why would she not only refuse to fire the suspect, but protect him after he had allegedly victimized her?
As usual with Wasserman Schultz, things don’t add up.
Furthermore, although Imran Awan and his IT associates were accused of data theft and banned from the network, they still have not been charged with a crime. And despite suspicions that the group accessed congressional computers without permission, members of Congress have displayed a peculiarly strong loyalty towards the suspects. Along with Wasserman Schultz keeping Awan as an employee and therefore giving him continued access to her data, other representatives remain bizarrely loyal to the IT workers as well. When a tech-services manager who had previously worked with Democratic House offices offered his company’s services for one quarter of the price Awan and his group charged, the members surprisingly declined. Why are members of Congress so fiercely protective of these IT workers?
Conservatives are understandably frustrated that the case is receiving such little national attention, however, cybersecurity experts claim that the case has numerous red flags that indicate not just another bizarre Democratic scandal, but a potential blackmailer.
Other House IT aides have claimed that they believe Awan and his associates are blackmailing House members with their own data, and that this would explain not only why the victims of these hacks are oddly loyal to the alleged suspects, but the clout that Awan holds among House Democrats. Public records also indicate that Awan was paid $165,000 a year—a salary comparable to the likes of top House aides. Making nearly three times the amount of an average IT staffer, Awan’s unusually high salary has never been explained by his Democratic employers.
Representative Gregory Meeks, D-NY, who is believed to be friends with Awan and his wife, claims that the investigation is rooted in Islamophobia, as Awan and his associates are Muslim Americans with ties to Pakistan. Meeks has stated that this “could make them easy targets for false charges”.
Others, however, believe that Awan is a suspicious figure not due to his religious or ethnic background, but because this scandal is not his first brush with the law. Awan has previously been convicted of criminal misdemeanors, for using an illegal radar detector and driving an unregistered vehicle. And in 2010, Awan took over running his brother’s failing car dealership, which was in hot water due to bad record-keeping and numerous “incidents” in which money and vehicles would seemingly go missing on the regular.
Considering this shady business past, Conservatives are not exactly shocked that Awan’s work in the House was not done by the book.
What is perhaps the most worrying is that the Awan case goes far beyond the theft of property and money. The suspected IT members had access to a wealth of highly sensitive data, including privileged congressional information. With access to House documents, emails, and confidential files, and members having no way of knowing if anything on their electronic devices had been copied, a massive amount of sensitive government information could be compromised; the entire case can be considered a major violation of the House security rules.
What more must these IT workers do to be removed from the House payroll and arrested? And, just as importantly, why hasn’t Congress taken a more active stance on policing its own members? All signs indicate Wasserman Schultz justifiably being impeached for obstruction of justice– why is Congress stalling the impeachment proceedings?
At this point, it is clear that congressional leadership must make a decision. Will they keep covering up the case and continue the obvious charade of things being copacetic in Congress, all while possibly risking national security, or will they finally come clean and openly investigate what Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her ilk have been so desperately trying to hide?
For our nation’s sake, the time for transparency is now.