The Foundation for Accountability & Civic Trust (FACT), a conservative watchdog group, is requesting that an ethics committee look into Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's (D-Fla.) possible involvement in a violation regarding the arrest of her former House IT aide, Imran Awan.
Awan was apprehended and arrested at Washington, D.C.'s Dulles International Airport on July 24 on charges of bank fraud.
Awan's charges stemmed from the investigation of an information technology procurement scandal in the U.S. House.
Awan had been the lead suspect in an ongoing criminal probe into security breaches within the House of Representatives that was launched on Feb. 2. He allegedly doubled charged the U.S. House for IT equipment and may have exposed sensitive House members’ information online. According to previous reports, Wasserman Schultz kept Awan on her payroll, even though he had been banned from House servers by Capitol Hill security.
It was also reported that Awan was on Wasserman Schultz's payroll at the time of his arrest.
Awan pleaded “not guilty” to one charge of bank fraud during an arraignment last week at the U.S. District Court for D.C. and was “given permission to go home if he wore a GPS monitor ankle bracelet, obeyed a strict curfew, gave up his passport and stayed within a 50-mile radius of his residence.”
In the complaint, filed Monday, FACT questioned whether or not Wasserman Schultz violated House rules by allowing Awan to be paid after he was distanced from the House IT system.
“It appears that Representative Wasserman Schultz permitted an employee to remain on the House payroll in violation of House Ethics Rules,” FACT's Executive Director Matthew Whitaker wrote in the organization's formal complaint, which was addressed to the Office of Congressional Ethics. ''
“After Awan was barred from accessing the House computer system, Wasserman Schultz continued to pay Awan with taxpayer funds for IT consulting — a position that he could not reasonably be able to perform.”
During Awan's arrest, it was alleged that he was attempting to flee the country after being pinpointed as a link to the 2016 email hack from Wasserman Schultz's DNC.
A spokesman for Wassermann Schultz, David Damron, addressed the FACT letter and claimed that Awan, though barred from being near House IT servers, was paid for a "variety" of tasks, and claimed that the organization's complaint was "baseless."
“Our office worked with the House Chief Administrative Officer to outline a position that allowed us to obtain, and our employee to provide, valuable services without access to the House network,” Damron said. “Those services included consulting on a variety of office needs, such as on our website and printers, trouble-shooting, and other issues. In other words, the complaint that this right-wing group says it’s filing is entirely baseless. It’s no surprise that they would nonetheless file it, against one of Donald Trump’s fiercest critics, at a time when the Administration is trying to distract from its internal turmoil and destructive health care efforts.”
You can read the letter below:
Dear Chairman Hastings and Board Members,
The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency in government. We achieve this mission by hanging a lantern over public officials who put their own interest over the interests of the public good. We write today to request the Office of Congressional Ethics immediately investigate Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s apparent breach of House Ethics Rules.
According to recent reports, several Members employed a House IT Aide, Imran Awan, until Awan was barred from accessing the House’s computer system in February 2017 and under criminal investigation. Nearly all of the Members who employed Awan terminated his employment in March 2017. However, Representative Wasserman Schultz continued to employ and compensate Awan with taxpayer funds. For several months, Wasserman Schultz refused to remove Awan from house payroll even though he was barred from the House computer system which would presumably prevent him from performing any reasonable IT work. It wasn’t until July 25, 2017, after Awan was arrested on bank fraud charges when he was attempting to leave the country, that Wasserman Schultz fired Awan.
House staff are compensated with taxpayer funds, and Members are directly responsible for ensuring their staff are only paid for official public work, work that has actually be performed, and at a rate commensurate with the work performed. A Member must “provide monthly salary certifications” for staff and staff can only be compensated “for duties performed within the preceding month.” Moreover, House staff are also required to abide by the spirit and letter of the ethics rules, including conducting himself in a manner that reflects creditably on the House.6 It was contrary to the House Ethics Rules for Wasserman Schultz to continue to pay Awan with taxpayer funds even after he was barred from the House computer system and could not perform his duties, and under criminal investigation.
It appears that Representative Wasserman Schultz permitted an employee to remain on the House payroll in violation of House Ethics Rules. After Awan was barred from accessing the House computer system, Wasserman Schultz continued to pay Awan with taxpayer funds for IT consulting—a position that he could not reasonably be able to perform. The Office of Congressional Ethics is responsible for ensuring each Representative fulfills the public trust inherent to the office and complies with the House’s ethical standards. Therefore, we urge the Committee to immediately investigate and take appropriate action in response to this apparent violation of the House of Representatives ethical guidelines.
To the best of my knowledge and ability, all evidence submitted was not obtained in violation of any law, rule, or regulation. Further, I am aware that the False Statements Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1001, applies to information submitted to the Office of Congressional Ethics.
Matthew G. Whitaker
Executive Director, Foundation for Accountability & Civic Trust
It was reported last week that Wasserman Schultz had been "jumpy" since the arrest of her former aide.
Sources "heard multiple reports from witnesses who say that Wasserman Schultz has appeared despondent and jumpy since Awan’s arrest.”