Donald Trump gets a break today. Instead of the political paparazzi circling the White House, they'll be chasing down Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Well, some of them, anyway.
The apparently trusting Florida congresswoman and former Democratic National Committee chairwoman has some 'splainin' to do -- namely, why she kept IT aide Imran Awan on her congressional staff payroll until Tuesday -- the day after Awan was arrested on bank fraud charges while trying to leave the country.
Awan was detained Monday at Dulles Airport. He was promptly arraigned and surrendered his passport.
The difference between Wasserman Schultz and other House Democrats who employed Awan for his Internet services is ... they fired him in March, she kept him on until Tuesday, July 25 -- that's yesterday -- even though Awan had been barred from accessing the House's computer system since February.
What does an IT guy do in a congresswoman's office when he's not allowed to touch a relevant computer?
As soon as the Capitol Police announced they were investigating Awan as central to a criminal scheme "that involved double-charging the House for IT equipment ..." his network of employers (minus DWS) dropped him like the hot rock he was.
More troubling, the investigation involves a possible connection between Awan and House information exposed online.
Hina Alvi, Awan's wife, and three other House aides, including Abid Awan and Jamal Awan, relatives of Imran Awan, and Rao Abbas, are all linked to the criminal investigation.
Awan and his family have worked for House Democrats for years, apparently. Awan declared bankruptcy in 2012, but has made millions of dollars on the House payroll over at least a decade of work for various members, according to a Politico report.
A spokesperson for Wasserman Schultz confirmed Awan was fired on Tuesday.
“Mr. Awan previously served as an employee in our office, but his services have been terminated," Wasserman Schultz' spokesman David Damron said in a statement.
Few details have been released since the investigation was first reported in February 2017, but the New York Observer claims many have speculated Wasserman Schultz is involved "due to a tense exchange between her and the chief of the U.S. Capitol Police over a laptop from her office being held as evidence." Last week, DWS finally cooperated with authorities to grant them access to a laptop, the Observer writes, though it’s uncertain if the laptop in question is the same one Wasserman Schultz argued with the U.S. Capitol police chief over.
"Awan clearly went to great lengths to cover his tracks, but it’s unclear what his motives were," reporter Michael Sainato wrote.
A spokesman for Wasserman Schultz's office told Politico in March that Awan worked for the staff in an "advisory" role, “providing advice on technology issues.”
What on earth was going on in Wasserman Schultz's head? What would make her keep Awan around after February?
Didn't she lose her position with the party -- resign in disgrace -- because the Russians hacked the DNC office computers, exposing her Hillary Clinton bias? Wouldn't she want to keep an IT technician under investigation for criminal activities like exposing House information, far, far away from her congressional office?
And please, let's hope we don't hear the Weston congresswoman lament that Awan is innocent until proved guilty. That might work for an IT guy employed in a hardware store. But in the United States Capitol, every single federal employee, Wasserman Schultz included, is a protector of the national interest.
This investigation into her former IT aide, now with the FBI involved, has further tarnished her reputation. Despite Wasserman Schultz's efforts to revive her image, here she is again -- painting herself as a corrupt, out-of-touch politician who represents the worst of the Democratic Party.
As the Observer points out: "Her continued presence in Democratic leadership impedes the party’s reform and ensures that voters’ lack of trust for Democrats -- which stemmed from her leadership at the DNC -- remains."
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith