Former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz fending off calls for more debates while at the New Hampshire Democratic Party convention in Manchester, Sept. 19, 2015. (Image: C-SPAN)
(Read the full story and get all the details on the Democrat’s hacking scandal the establishment media is ignoring in WND’s look at “The biggest scandal you’ve never heard of.”)
WASHINGTON – Revelations from an email hack cost her the chairmanship of the Democratic Party, and now that another hacking scandal may be threatening her job in Congress, Rep. Debbie Wasserman, D-Fla., Schultz apparently and abruptly has decided to finally stop stonewalling investigators.
“It’s about time,” said law professor Tim Canova, who told WND he “was glad to read a recent report Wasserman Schultz may finally be cooperating with the Capitol Hill police on the House hacking investigation.”
Canova, who teaches law at Nova Southeastern University in Florida’s Broward County and is challenging Wasserman Schultz in next year’s Democratic primary, was reacting to word that she has abruptly decided let investigators examine what may be a key piece of evidence in a huge Democratic hacking scandal largely ignored by the establishment media.
As WND reported, U.S. Capitol Police seized one of her laptops months ago, hidden in a crevice in a House office building, as part of a criminal investigation into the suspected hacking of the office computers of potentially scores of House Democrats.
Wasserman Schultz embraces dormer Democratic Party nominee for president Hillary Clinton (Photo: Twitter)
Not only had Wasserman Schultz refused for months to give investigators permission to inspect the contents of the laptop, she publicly threatened the chief of the Capitol Police, telling him during a May hearing there would be “consequences” if he did not return the item to her.
According to Fox News, investigators were apparently prevented from looking at the contents of the laptop without her permission by the Constitution’s “Speech and Debate” clause, which “bars law enforcement from interfering in lawmakers’ official congressional business,” and which “was designed to keep law enforcement from targeting lawmakers for their political views or legislative work.”
The prime suspect in the hacking investigation is IT specialist Imran Awan, who has worked for Wasserman Schultz since 2005, the year she became the congressional representative from Florida’s 23rd district.
He had access to any and all of the sensitive, and/or confidential, information in her congressional computer system, including any material that could be politically embarrassing, as was the case with the hacked Democratic National Committee, or DNC, emails which caused a disgraced Wasserman Shultz to resign as party chair on the eve of their national convention in 2016.
Awan’s associates apparently had the same access to her computer system, as well as the office computers of dozens of other Democrats.
Awan headed a group of at least five IT contractors working for dozens of House Democrats, including his wife, two of his brothers and one of their wives, all of whom are Muslims from Pakistan.
The brothers and their associates are now under criminal investigation by the U.S. Capitol Police, which is getting expert technical assistance, presumably from the FBI.
The criminal investigation actually began in late 2016, with the Awans under suspicion of secretly accessing the lawmakers computer networks, storing information on secret servers, and stealing equipment from Congress.
After stonewalling for months, out of the blue came word that Wasserman Schultz’s attorney had begun negotiations with Capitol Police this week regarding the investigation. The congresswoman’s representatives wouldn’t say why she suddenly decided to cooperate with investigators after refusing to do so for months.
It might have become one scandal too many for the lawmaker who has fallen all the way from the top of her party only to land in her second sensational email hacking scandal in just one year.
That may be especially the case, considering she is facing a primary challenge next year from an avid supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., whose candidacy for the presidential nomination was undermined by Wasserman Schultz and other Democratic Party leaders, as evidenced by emails published last year by WikiLeaks. It was that scandal that caused her to resign as DNC chief.
Last year, Canova was Wasserman Schultz’s first primary challenger since she was first elected to Congress in 2004. After Sanders endorsed him on national television, the congressional candidate raked in more than $3 million in donations.
However, the biggest names in the Democratic Party rallied en masse behind the beleaguered congresswoman, as President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi all trekked to Florida to campaign for Wasserman Shultz, who went on to win handily by 14 points.
But with Democrats no longer controlling the White House and Congress, Wasserman Schultz may not be able to count on such massive support this time around.
Canova’s announcement last month that he intends to challenge her again next year may have factored into Wasserman Shultz’s apparent decision to drop her stonewall of the investigation into her latest hacking scandal.
“Like many of her constituents, I was troubled that she had apparently chosen to impede and obstruct the investigation by threatening the Capitol Hill police,” Canova told WND. “I hope her cooperation is genuine and that the investigation will proceed without interference.”
But just as mysterious as her sudden about-face has been why Wasserman Schultz refused to cooperate in the first place with an investigation into the hacking of her own office computer system, in which she was apparently the victim.
House IT staffers have suggested blackmail may be involved.
“I don’t know what they have, but they have something on someone. It’s been months at this point,” Pat Sowers, who has managed IT for several House offices for 12 years, told the Daily Caller in May. “Something is rotten in Denmark.”
“There’s no question about it: If I was accused of a tenth of what these guys are accused of, they’d take me out in handcuffs that same day, and I’d never work again,” said the manager of a company that provides high-tech services for House Democrats.
Although the Awans raked in millions over the years for their House IT work, they had severe financial problems including substantial debts and a million-dollar bankruptcy.
U.S. House of Representatives
Security experts consider the combination money trouble and access to sensitive government information to be a bright red flag marking a security risk with the potential for blackmail.
The Awans were employed by three members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and five members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, which store sensitive national security documents, including material related to terrorism, on their own committee servers.
Congressional committees dealing with national security are confident their computer systems were not compromised, but the length of the investigation suggests the FBI may be looking into whether sensitive material may have been illegally accessed on the individual computer systems of the Democratic lawmakers who employed the Awan group.
And, even if portrayed to WND as unlikely, it is not impossible lawmakers stored classified information on their own electronic devices, including office computers.
But information doesn’t have to be classified to be private, privileged, extremely sensitive and of the utmost importance. Or, embarrassment.
According to House IT workers, the term “classified” is used to describe secret and important material by spy agencies and intelligence committees, but not by regular members of Congress.
Sensitive material stored on their computers need not be related to national security to be so politically embarrassing as to be useful to a potential blackmailer.
When congressional staffers downplayed the significance of the Awan investigation because they apparently did not have access to classified information, multiple House IT workers told the Daily Caller that rankled them, because “those semantics misleadingly made it seem like they didn’t have access to extremely sensitive information.”
That was especially true because the Awans had installed everything on their clients’ systems, set up all the accounts and granted all the required permissions and restrictions, which effectively gave them full control over the lawmakers computer systems.
Former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the spin room of the 2012 CNN/Tea Party Debate in Tampa, Florida. (WND photo / Joe Kovacs)
And their remote access meant lawmakers would never even know when the Awans were on their system.
A central IT worker said members of Congress were simply trying to ignore the seriousness of the problem, and “security of computer systems on the Hill is not really taken seriously.”
Five congressional IT aides told the Daily Caller they were baffled by the loyalty shown by those lawmakers who still had not fired Awan group suspects.
That led them to wonder if the lawmakers were being blackmailed.
Especially as there still have been no arrests.
As of May, only 20 lawmakers out of the some 80 who employed the Awans at some point had publicly confirmed firing them, even though they have been barred since February from accessing the House computer system.
A House IT employee said the new technicians who took over those offices no longer employing the Awans found some had all the office computer data sent to a secret off-site server.
They also discovered a non-government iTunes account to which staffers’ iPhones were linked.
And while the Awans were allegedly committing all those security risks, it doesn’t appear lawmakers were getting stellar service in return.
An IT specialist who took over an Awan office told the Daily Caller they did not keep a hardware inventory and had a lawmaker paying for phone lines that hadn’t been used for years.
Sowers said the number of lawmakers who showed such loyalty for such bad customer service “would definitely be suspicious.”
He added, “I love the Hill, but to see this clear lack of concern over what appears to be a major breach bothers me. Everyone has said for years they were breaking the rules, but it’s just been a matter of time.”
And yet, despite all the problems, the Awans reportedly worked for more congressional offices than any other IT group.
A Democratic IT contractor implied there was a cover-up, telling the Daily Caller that lawmakers are saying, “Don’t say anything, this will all blow over if we all don’t say anything.”
The technician said the Awans “had [members of Congress] in their pocket,” and “there are a lot of members who could go down over this.”
On top of all that, there was the bizarre demand made by Wasserman Schultz that investigators return her laptop,
It may be difficult to imagine how the demand to return of a key piece of evidence in an ongoing criminal investigation, and the threat of “consequences” if that were not done, would not amount to obstruction of justice.
But that’s what the congresswoman did in public, in an incident that received remarkably little press coverage, and none in the mainstream media.
It happened as she was questioning Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa during the annual police budget hearing of the House Committee On Appropriations’ Legislative Branch subcommittee on May 18.
The Florida congresswoman’s questions were triggered by investigators’ seizure of her laptop.
A federal employee told the Daily Caller, as investigators were zeroing in on the Awan brothers, someone had hidden a laptop used by Imran in a crevice of the Rayburn House Office Building. (Rayburn is connected by a tunnel to the adjoining Longworth House Office Building, where Wasserman Schultz’s office is located.)
The source said police later found the laptop and seized it as evidence in the criminal investigation.
But, during the May 18 hearing, Wasserman Schultz openly pressured police to return the evidence to her.
“My understanding is the Capitol Police is not able to confiscate Members’ equipment when the Member is not under investigation,” she told the police chief.
“We can’t return the equipment,” replied Chief Verderosa.
Wasserman Shultz then responded with a not-so-veiled threat, warning the chief, “I think you’re violating the rules when you conduct your business that way, and you should expect that there will be consequences.”
In the context of the hearing, the most obvious “consequence” would be cutting the Capitol Police budget.
Wasserman Schultz is one of the eight members of the subcommittee in charge of that budget.
All told, she spent three minutes of the hearing trying to get the chief to return her laptop, without apparent success.
One last note: At last word, Wasserman Schultz had still not fired Awan.