By the end of September federal prosecutors expect to have in their custody Hina Alvi, the wife of a controversial aide to Democratic Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Alvi has agreed to a plea deal in connection to an investigation growing since the start of the year.
It is an investigation that circles the periphery of Wasserman Schultz.
Coming off a tough 2016, where she ushered the Democratic National Committee into an iceberg -- and with it Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations -- Wasserman Schultz is possibly having an even tougher 2017. Deposed from her position in party leadership, the representative from Florida’s 23rd District has been mired in controversy all year.
In February a scandal in the House of Representatives erupted involving five IT workers and missing laptops, as well as the discovery of inappropriate access to House computer servers. Four of those workers were summarily dismissed, but the fifth -- Imran Awan -- was instead shielded by Schultz, who hired him directly to her staff as a consultant. This was only one of numerous curious decisions and questionable results that have played out over the past six months.
The District 23 congresswoman has come under growing suspicion as Awan has become the focus of numerous investigations, all while being directly tied to Wasserman Schultz. DWS, as she is known, got into a curious spat with the Capitol Police chief, telling him he had no right to confiscate the laptop discovered in a phone room. She threatened the chief with "consequences" after he informed her the equipment was confiscated as part of the investigation. See the video on this page.
Awan then found himself all but chased by investigators. Questionable lines of credit were taken from his House banking account -- leading to nearly $300,000 being wired to Pakistan. Then Awan’s wife, Alvi, herself a former House IT staffer, fled the country to Pakistan with around $12,000 in cash in her possession.
More computer hardware was turned in to investigators when tenants at a home owned by Awan alerted authorities to a find. Soon after the February scandal broke Awan quickly fled the home, and the Marine military members now residing there discovered numerous laptops and equipment left behind when Awan left in haste. There are also investigations into Awan off-loading House intel to offsite storage servers, such as DropBox, in clear violation of House protocols.
Awan himself was on the verge of joining his wife in Pakistan when he was detained at Dulles airport and arrested on bank fraud charges. Wasserman Schultz, who had been a staunch defender of her aide, fired Awan immediately following his arrest in a face-saving move. However, she curiously lashed out at investigators, suggesting that his arrest was the result of a racially-motivated witch hunt.
In an interview with the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Schultz resorted to a time-honored deflection: “When their investigation was reviewed with me, I was presented with no evidence of anything that they were being investigated for," she told the paper. "And so that, in me, gave me great concern that his due process rights were being violated. That there were racial and ethnic profiling concerns that I had.”
This has raised questions of her own behavior in reaction to the arrest. If she was presented with no tangible evidence, why did she fire Awan at all, after she had stuck with him since February when he was under suspicion? And if the investigation was racially based, according to her, would her termination of Awan not also be equally tainted by racial bias?
With Awan held in jail and investigators compiling evidence, the congresswoman may be on the verge of increasing scrutiny. Hina Alvi's return from Pakistan and her surrender to authorities is sure to bring new disclosures to light. Certainly it indicates Awan is beyond the protection of Wasserman Schultz. It remains to be seen how much information this will reveal in the coming months -- and how it might be linked to the Florida congresswoman.
Brad Slager is a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer who wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News. He writes on politics and the entertainment industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.