A long-percolating scandal may have gotten amplified by the FBI — and this has nothing to do with Russians or Republicans. Capitol police had taken custody of laptops and other equipment belonging to Imran Awan, a former aide to both Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) as part of an ongoing criminal investigation. Last night, the Daily Caller reported that the FBI has become part of the investigation by taking custody of smashed hard drives found in Awan’s home:
FBI agents seized smashed computer hard drives from the home of Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s information technology (IT) administrator, according to an individual who was interviewed by Bureau investigators in the case and a high level congressional source.
Pakistani-born Imran Awan, long-time right-hand IT aide to the former Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairwoman, has since desperately tried to get the hard drives back, the individual told The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group.
The scope of the case has apparently broadened past the Capitol police’s jurisdiction. According to Luke Rosiak’s report, the evidence points to a financial scheme that extends into Pakistan, which would require the FBI to unwind. The reason for the discovery turns out to be the haste in which Awan and his wife Hina Alvi (also a Congressional aide to New York Democrat Gregory Meeks) vacated their house in Virginia when the police first started probing their activities. They listed their house for rent on a network that serves the military, and their new tenants found some very interesting materials left behind:
One of the new tenants — a Marine Corps veteran married to a female Navy Officer — said he found “wireless routers, hard drives that look like they tried to destroy, laptops, [and] a lot of brand new expensive toner.” …
“It was in the garage. They recycled cabinets and lined them along the walls. They left in a huge hurry,” the Marine said. “It looks like government-issued equipment. We turned that stuff over.”
They got it to the FBI quickly, but Awan wanted his old materials back so badly he threatened to sue the tenants for their return. They’ve billed him $350 in part for the costs of the materials, which seems … rather stupid. Awan is establishing a link to the hard drives and other materials that prosecutors might have had to otherwise prove exists if they find anything incriminating on the hard drives. All they need to do is produce the e-mail from their attorney claiming that the tenants owe them money for the materials. Awan’s attorney might have better advised them to keep their mouths shut about the materials and claim they had no connection to them.
Of course, this is going to be tricky to prosecute, if it gets that far, depending on how wide the scandal goes. There is a constitutional conflict between the FBI and Congress, as the former is part of the co-equal but separate executive branch. Normally Congress has jurisdiction over what happens in Congress, which we saw in the legal fight between Denny Hastert and the Department of Justice in the William Jefferson scandal and the raid on his office. So far this investigation hasn’t publicly targeted a member of Congress, and but if it does, get ready for another jurisdictional fight.
That’s why Capitol police still have not yet perused Wasserman Schultz’ laptop, about which the former DNC chair issued a threat two months ago. She claimed that it was privileged information under the Speech and Debate Clause, and she has a good legal argument — but not a good public-relations case. Last week, Wasserman Schultz began negotiating terms for the police to review the data on the laptop, perhaps realizing that the Awan scandal wasn’t going to dissipate.
As for Awan and his family, no one’s quite sure where they are. Awan told his tenants that he’s “homeless,” which is quite a feat for someone whose family made $4 million from their Congressional consultancy over the last eight years. One has to assume that the FBI will have more resources to track them down than the Capitol police would, both at home and abroad.