Congressman: Profound, larger scandal about to be revealed over laptop

crime | Sep 07, 2017 | By Martin Barillas

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) hinted broadly in an interview on Fox Business with host Lou Dobbs that there will soon be news about Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and the prospect of dealmaking by federal prosecutors with Hina Alvi, a woman now in Pakistan who is wanted in questioning in federal bank fraud charges against husband Imran Awan. Frank said on Wednesday, “I think you’re going to see some revelations that are pretty profound. And the fact that this wife is coming back from Pakistan and is willing to face charges, as it were, I think there’s a good chance that she’s going to receive some sort of immunity to tell a larger story that is going to be pretty disturbing to the American people.”

For months media have speculated whether Wasserman Schultz and Awan (who was arrested at a Washington-area airport before flying to Pakistan, and is now indicted) may have colluded in concealing evidence possibly linked to the hack of the Democratic National Committee computer system in 2016. The hack revealed embarrassing emails that linked members of the media to personalities in Hillary Clinton’s political organization and the DNC. Wasserman Schultz resigned from the DNC during the midst of the campaign, adding to Clinton’s campaign woes. There has also been speculation that the leak of the emails may also be linked to the murder of Seth Rich, a young DNC staffer in July 2016.

Wasserman Schultz and the DNC have continued to maintain that the hack was accomplished from outside the DNC by Russians in a remote location, while others contend that the stolen emails and documents were released by an insider with direct access to DNC servers. In addition, the DNC has continued to bar the FBI from getting access to their servers after the alleged cyber-attacks.

Awan is an IT specialist who worked for the DNC and more than a dozen Democrats in the House of Representatives, including Wasserman Schultz. Awan and four of his associates, including his wife, are now facing charges of bank fraud, a procurement scam, and violating House IT network rules, that are ostensibly unrelated to the email hack. While Awan was fired by all the other Democrats who used his IT services (some of whom are on the House Intelligence Committee), he continued in Wasserman Schultz’s employ until his arrest in July. Federal authorities are also investigating whether or not classified information was compromised by the Awan conspirators. Awan attorney said this summer that his client had no "classified clearance for anything."

A further connection between Awan and Wasserman Schultz arose when on April 6, 2017, when U.S. Capitol Police discovered a laptop issued to her. That laptop and an accompanying letter were found during the predawn hours in a room that once served as a phone booth in the Rayburn House Office Building, according to a Capitol Police report according to The Daily Caller. That room is on the second floor of the Rayburn Building, not in the Longworth House Office Building where Wasserman Schultz has her office. With the laptop were copies of Awan’s driver’s license and Congressional ID badge, a Pakistani ID card, and letters to the U.S. Attorney. In an accompanying notebook, U.S. Capitol Police also found notes marked “attorney-client privilege.”
The laptop had the username “RepDWS,” even though the Wasserman Schultz had previously said that she had never seen it and that it belonged to Awan. 

During a May 18, 2017 Congressional hearing on the U.S. Capitol Police budget, Wasserman Schultz appeared to threaten Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa with “consequences” if he would not return the laptop in question. She told Verderosa, “If a Member [of Congress] loses equipment,” it should be given back. When Verderosa told her the laptop is tied to a criminal suspect and thus cannot be returned, Wasserman Schultz reiterated that the computer should be returned because it is “a member’s … if the member is not under investigation.”

On August 3, Wasserman Schultz appeared to change her story and claimed the laptop belonged to Awan and that she had never seen it. She was merely seeking to protect Awan’s rights she said: “This was not my laptop. I have never seen that laptop. I don’t know what’s on the laptop.”

According to Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, believes that leaving the incriminating laptop and personal documents may not have been accidental. "Imran Awan is a calculating person who made great efforts to cover his tracks, both electronically and physically,” Gohmert told The Daily Caller. “Placing that laptop with his personal documents, which may well incriminate him, those he worked for, or both, in the dead of night in a House office building, was a deliberate act by a cunning suspect, and it needs to be investigated.”

Wasserman Schultz has hired outside counsel to advise her concerning Awan and the laptop. Attorney William Pittard, a former acting general counsel of the House of Representatives, argues that House rules protects his client’s information and thus should prevent prosecutors from examining the laptop’s contents. 

As for Franks, he told Dobbs: “It’s always ironic to me, when you see these kinds of things happen, where you have someone -- who has nefarious or certainly not the best interests of America -- within the IT system of the United States Congress, and being paid by a Member of Congress, it’s really pretty frightening.” He went on to say, “I’m always amazed about how the Democrats can talk about Russia so much when they couldn’t find Russia on a map 20 years ago. And they didn’t see the Soviets as even much of a threat to the world when they were our primary peer enemy, and yet when all of a sudden when they see something they can discredit this president with, then all of a sudden they find their tongue and they find Russia.” Franks added that Americans should "buckle their seat belts on this one."



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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