WASHINGTON — House Republicans from the Freedom Caucus held a small meeting on Capitol Hill to Tuesday delve into the ongoing investigation of former House IT staffers who performed work for Democratic members.
Republican Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, Republican Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, Republican Iowa Rep. Steve King, Florida Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis, and Republican Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry all gathered at a Rayburn Office Building room to talk to three witnesses about the case.
The first witness, Luke Rosiak, a reporter for The Daily Caller News Foundation who has covered the House IT staffer case extensively, told members in his opening statement, “There has been substantial misinformation put into the public realm about this matter, both maximizing it and minimizing it.”
He later stated, “This misinformation, in both directions, has flourished as a result of an extraordinary level of silence from official channels surrounding the falsified billing and cybersecurity breaches on Capitol Hill. There are reasons to suspect that this secrecy is not because vigorous action is being taken behind the scenes.”
Another witness was Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton, who stated, “I just cannot believe all the resources that we’ve spent over the last year or two about the mishandling of classified and sensitive data about top level officials. We allowed this group to run amuck in the House — take all this data and move it around.”
Imran Awan and his colleagues — Hina Alvi, Abid Awan, Jamal Awan, Rao Abbas, and Natalia Sova — worked for these members for over 10 years. During this period, they allegedly performed a voucher fraud operation, ghost employee scam, stealing equipment, and breaching security protocols in the capitol by making large data transfers to an offsite server.
Capitol Hill Police first launched an investigation into Awan and his associates at the beginning of the year and every member who employed them dropped each from their payroll — except for Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
She kept paying Imran Awan in an advisory role until July, when he was arrested attempting to board a plane to Pakistan at Dulles International Airport. He allegedly wired money to his family before he tried to make the trip.
Although documented evidence of Awan’s activities exist, he and his wife, Alvi, have only been charged with bank fraud. To date, the couple have been arraigned and are co-defendants in the bank fraud case.
The Washington Post has reported that investigators found that Awan and his relatives made unauthorized access to a congressional server 5,400 times, but Wasserman Schultz has defended Awan calling the entire matter a “right-wing media circus fringe.”
Following discussion, Rep. Gohmert spoke to TheDC and was shocked to learn that Awan would do House IT work months at a time while in Pakistan.
“I did not realize that we had someone who would live in Pakistan and get paid the maximum that any House employee could get paid and he was doing his information technology work his computer work for the House of Representatives from Pakistan. This is just mind boggling,” he said.
Gohmert continued, “I understand maybe if you’re on a trip and you know some emergency happens and you’ve got to find the IT guy to figure out what needs to be done in an emergency, you know — since that’s where he’s from I’m sure he’s going to want to go home time to time. But for a month, two months, three months to be handling that clear across the other side of the world for months at a time — that I had no idea anybody would even think about trying to do something like that.”
However, Gohmert noted that now with Awan’s wife testifying against him in court, more information about the case is likely to come out.
During the discussion, Rep. Perry noted that federal law enforcement appeared to have less concern over Awan’s potential crimes as opposed to smaller violations committed by his own constituents.
“My concern is the wife goes, she’s got fourteen grand in cash. She’s allowed to leave the country. You know, a lot of my constituents, I mean, if they have an administrative violation, they’ll have OSHA sweep in — all these agencies it’s just weird that she would be allowed to go. And I’m just concerned that, you know, we have a Justice Department, FBI — we have certain laws,” Perry said. “But the ferocity of which those laws are enforced–it’s just not the uniform lately. I mean you look at the Mueller investigation. Picking Manafort’s lock in the middle of the night drawing guns on him as wife for some white-collar infraction three or four years ago. I mean that’s like scorching the earth.”