Leading members seek investigation into Democratic IT staffers access of congressional data
Congressional leaders are interested in conducting their own independent investigation into a growing scandal surrounding IT staffers working for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.), who are accused of stealing sensitive computer equipment from House lawmakers’ offices.
One of these IT staffers, Imran Awan, was arrested this week when trying to travel to Pakistan and charged with bank fraud after a months-long investigation that found he wired nearly $300,000 to that country. Several other staffers tied to Awan are the focus of an investigation into claims they stole sensitive equipment and illegally penetrated the House IT network.
Leading members of the House Judiciary Committee and Government Oversight Committee told the Washington Free Beacon that the appropriate congressional bodies should launch an investigation into the illicit IT activity, which could include asking for testimony from Wasserman Schultz on the situation.
Wasserman Schultz’s testimony is of particular interest as she has come under fire for keeping Awan on the House payroll even after information about his actions became public and not cooperating with the investigation.
Lawmakers expressed their concern that some of the information potentially stolen by these staffers could compromise congressional officials.
“In addition to the criminal case that is now underway, Congress needs to get answers regarding the scope of Imran Awan’s misconduct and the access he had to sensitive material in the United States House of Representatives, including why he remained on the House payroll for so long,” Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.), a member of the Government Oversight Committee and chair of its National Security Subcommittee told the Washington Free Beacon.
“The facts as we know them are very troubling and we need a full accounting of his time at both the DNC and the U.S. House,” DeSantis said. “Congressional hearings are in order.”
Asked if Wasserman Schultz could be asked to testify in such an investigation, DeSantis said it is possible.
“If [the Department of Justice] doesn’t think it will interfere with the criminal case then it’s a live possibility,” he said.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R., Texas), a member of the House’s Judiciary Committee, expressed a similar desire when asked about the matter by the Free Beacon.
“Yes, we could ask for her [Wasserman Schultz] to testify and look for either the government reform or judiciary” committees to help an investigation, Gohmert said. “Both have jurisdiction over things in this whole catastrophe.”
Gohmert described the situation and “incredible” and troubling given these staffers’ access to privileged information on the internal House computing network.
“You don’t have to be all that great at hacking to hack into almost anyone’s email and calendar,” Gohmert said. He noted this information is not classified or privileged because it pertains to official Congressional business.
“Our enemies that would like to bring down the U.S. would love to have the calendars of every single member of Congress to see who’s vulnerable to what and how they can be manipulated. There’s a reason that you have to have a background check in order to work on our system,” Gohmert said.
It remains unclear what types of background check Awan and the other staffers were given, if any at all, according to Gohmert.
“We don’t know if someone assured our members who hired them they had had the background check,” Gohmert said.
The investigation into this matter has received little media attention, prompting calls of bias from Republican leaders.
“It’s very sad that the mainstream media is not talking about this at all,” Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel said earlier this week. “It shows the bias.”