Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) is under pressure to testify on why she kept an information technology staffer on her payroll months after a criminal investigation into his activities was revealed.
Wasserman Schultz, the former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, fired longtime IT aide Imran Awan only after he was arrested at Washington’s Dulles International Airport on July 24 while attempting to travel to Pakistan. Awan was charged with bank fraud and pleaded not guilty on July 25.
The arrest came on the heels of the FBI seizing smashed hard drives from Awan’s home. Awan had access to the emails and files of more than two dozen Democratic lawmakers, according to a source in Congress who spoke to The Daily Caller.
An ethics complaint filed on July 31 by the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) urges an investigation into why Wasserman Schultz breached House ethics rules by keeping Awan on her staff, even after other House members had dropped him from the payroll and his access to the congressional IT system had been revoked.
“There is something quite amiss as to why Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz continued to use taxpayer funds to employ former technology staff member, Imran Awan, even months after he was barred from accessing the House’s computer systems,” Matthew Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney and director of FACT, wrote in the complaint.
Last week, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said “there should be a thorough investigation” on the issue.
Awan began working for Wasserman Schultz in 2005. Shortly after, three of his relatives and his best friend began to appear on the payrolls of other House Democrats, including members of the intelligence, foreign affairs, and homeland security committees. Awan and his associates have received payments totaling $4 million from Democratic lawmakers since 2009.
The group had administrator-level access to the lawmakers’ computers, with the ability to see emails and confidential files.
The Awans have a history of suspicious activity. Luke Rosiak, an investigative reporter with the Daily Caller, revealed they owed $100,000 to a Hezbollah-connected fugitive, allegedly kept their stepmother in captivity to access offshore cash, and had a long history of questionable schemes, including holding a number of rental properties with untraceable income.
“I think she [Schultz] should testify,” Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, told conservative radio host Dana Loesch on July 31, Fox News reported.
“If I had a staff member, an IT staff member, who had access to all of our data and all of our infrastructure and he had come under investigation … you better believe I would be cooperating.”
Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) also said Schultz should testify, although no formal hearing had yet been called for.
“We have to investigate how our systems may have been compromised, and that may involve putting people in the [witness] chair,” he said during an interview with “Fox & Friends” on July 31.
A spokesman for Wasserman Schultz said her office had worked with the House chief administrative officer to arrange for Awan to keep providing “valuable services without access to the House network.”
“Those services included consulting on a variety of office needs, such as on our website and printers, troubleshooting, and other issues,” he said.