Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) threatened U.S. Capitol Police Chief Matthew R. Verderosa with unnamed “consequences” for retaining equipment that she said belongs to her. The laptop in question has become evidence in a case of a Pakistani IT staffer who has been charged with federal bank fraud. Imran Awan and four associates, including his wife, are being investigated by federal authorities who are looking into their financial dealings and possible connections with Pakistan’s spy services and the Hezbollah terrorist organization.
Massive cybersecurity breaches are also involved because Imran and his associates had administrator privileges for 31 House Democrats; some of them serve on the House Intelligence Committee. Awan and his associates had provided technology services to Wasserman Schultz since 2005. They were banned from the House network in February because of suspicion of data breaches and theft. Imran’s wife has fled the country, while he was arrested at Dulles International Airport on Monday while seeking to board a flight to Pakistan.
Wasserman Schultz, who resigned last year as chair of the Democratic National Committee, appeared to use her position on the House Committee on Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee, which sets the budget for the Capitol Police, to appeal to the Capitol Police to return her laptop. “My understanding is the the Capitol Police is not able to confiscate Members’ equipment when the Member is not under investigation,” Wasserman Schultz said in the annual police budget hearing on May 18.
“We can’t return the equipment,” Chief Verderosa said. “I think you’re violating the rules when you conduct your business that way and you should expect that there will be consequences,” Wasserman Schultz said.
“If a Member loses equipment and it is found by your staff and identified as that member’s equipment and the member is not associated with any case, it is supposed to be returned. Yes or no?” Wasserman Schultz said. Verderosa replied that the laptop is important to “an ongoing investigation,” but Wasserman Schultz pressed for it regardless.
The investigation is examining data from Members of Congress left the Congressional network and how Awan managed to get Congress to place his wife, two brothers, and a friend into positions characterized as no-show positions. The five Pakistanis earned about $4 million since 2010.
GOP Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel is calling for a Congressional investigation into Wasserman Schultz’s involvement in the widening scandal.