Debbie Wasserman Schultz is breaking her silence weeks after she made headlines for keeping a top aide on her payroll for nearly six months after he was banned from accessing the congressional computer network and fired by two other members of Congress.
Despite the controversy which has engulfed Wasserman Schultz’s office, the South Florida congresswoman still doesn’t feel she did anything wrong.
Speaking with the Sun Sentinel, Wasserman Schultz stood by her decision to keep Imran Awan on her staff for months before finally firing him last week.
Wasserman Schultz finally cut the cord with Awan after he was arrested on bank fraud charges at an airport trying to fly to Pakistan and the charges became public.
“I believe that I did the right thing, and I would do it again,” Wasserman Schultz said. “There are times when you can’t be afraid to stand alone and you have to stand up for what’s right.”
Wasserman Schultz explained Awan and his family members lost privileges to the House’s IT network because they were under investigation for “procurement violations” and “data transfer violations.”
Awan applied for a $165,000 home equity loan for a rental property, which violates credit union’s policies since he was not the owner. Investigators said the funds from the home equity loan were then used as part of $283,000 which was wire transferred to two people in Faisalabad, Pakistan.
Wasserman Schultz went on to imply her top staffer may have been unfairly targeted for the investigation due to his faith since he is Muslim.
"I had grave concerns about his due process rights being violated," Wasserman Schultz said. "When their investigation was reviewed with me, I was presented with no evidence of anything that they were being investigated for. 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."
Wasserman Schultz’s handling of the situation has been harshly criticized by Republicans, who say it’s possible Awan was involved in the email hacking at the Democratic National Committee when Wasserman Schultz served as chair.
Backlash from the hacking, which was ultimately blamed on Russia, resulted in Wasserman Schultz’s resignation from the post.
Democratic challenger Tim Canova has also lambasted Wasserman Schultz for the scandal and said voters were tired of dealing with “Debbie Whatshedonenow Schultz.”
"People are just tired of this,” Canova said in an interview with Fox News’ Steve Doocy this week. “It's one constant drama and scandal after another with her and she's a very divisive figure in the party. The party needs to unify and the voters want to talk about the issues.”
Fellow Florida congressman U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis pushed the Debbie drama one step further on Thursday, demanding the U.S. Department of Justice launch a probe into Awan’s finances.
“The Department of Justice must work to immediately mitigate the damage done by Awan and take whatever measures are necessary, including freezing illicit funds, in order to fully investigate this incident,” DeSantis wrote in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
DeSantis went on to ask whether the DOJ was investigating whether or not money from the stolen property from the House was included in the wire transfer to Pakistan and questioned whether the Department would seek a court order freezing the proceeds of any real estate transactions or money made from selling stolen goods.
“I hope that we can work together to undo the serious damage done by these individuals while in the employment of the House of Representatives,” DeSantis wrote.
DeSantis’ greater fear may be, however, that Awan is somehow connected to terrorist organizations based out of the Middle Eastern country.
“While we can never tolerate breaches of the public trust, the wire transfer to Pakistan is particularly alarming as Pakistan is home to numerous terrorist organizations,” he wrote.
Wasserman Schultz dismissed DeSantis’ claims as nothing more than nonsensical sensationalism.
“The right-wing media circus fringe has immediately focused not on this run-of-the-mill investigation just reporting the facts, but jumped to outrageous, egregious conclusions that they were trying to, that they have ties to terrorists and that they were stealing data,” she said.