Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz recently used her position as a member of the House subcommittee that sets the U.S. Capitol Police budget to threaten the police chief regarding an investigation into her own staff.
During the May 18 House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee hearing, a visibly annoyed Wasserman Schultz said “there will be consequences” when Police Chief Matthew R. Verderosa said he could not return her laptop that had been used by a Pakistani staffer currently under criminal investigation.
“My understanding is the the Capitol Police is not able to confiscate Members’ equipment when the Member is not under investigation,” Wasserman Schultz said in the annual police budget hearing of the House Committee On Appropriations’ Legislative Branch Subcommittee.
“We can’t return the equipment,” Police Chief Matthew R. Verderosa told the Florida Democrat.
“I think you’re violating the rules when you conduct your business that way and you should expect that there will be consequences,” Wasserman Schultz said.
Her employee Imran Awan and three of his relatives were relieved of their duties and banned from computer networks at the House of Representatives in February on suspicion that they had accessed congressional computers without permission. Politico reported in March:
[They are] accused of stealing equipment from members’ offices without their knowledge and committing serious, potentially illegal, violations on the House IT network.
The Capitol Police and outside agencies have been investigating the case for months and there have been no arrests. One of the suspects, Imran Awan’s wife Hina Alvi, recently fled the country to Pakistan, “where her family has significant assets and VIP-level protection,” according to the Daily Caller.
Imran Awan, the apparent ringleader of the group, has run technology for Wasserman Schultz since 2005. Rather than distancing herself from him, Wasserman Schultz seems to have helped Awan circumvent the network ban. She retitled him as an “adviser” rather than technology administrator.
In a plot twist straight from Hollywood, the Daily Caller further reports that, according to a federal employee with knowledge of the situation, “a laptop used by Imran was hidden in an unused crevice of the Rayburn House Office Building” as House authorities were closing in on the clan’s activities:
Wasserman Schultz’s office is in Longworth House Office Building, a separate structure.
The laptop was later found by Capitol Police and seized because it was relevant to the criminal investigation, the source said.
The investigation is examining members’ data leaving the network and how Awan managed to get Members to place three relatives and a friend into largely no-show positions on their payrolls, billing $4 million since 2010.
During the last few minutes of the hearing, the Florida lawmaker repeatedly tried to pressure Verderosa into agreeing to return the piece of equipment that is currently in police hands:
DWS: So if a member says there is equipment that has been lost, and you find it it would be returned to the member?
Chief: In a general sense, yes. You have to be able to positively identify the property and be able to establish ownership.
DWS: If ownership is established…
Chief: If it’s part of an ongoing case, then there are additional things that need to be done.
DWS: But if a member owns the equipment, and there is no ongoing case related to that member, then the equipment is supposed to be returned.
Chief: In a general sense, yes.
DWS: No, I mean in a specific sense. If the member loses the equipment, says they lose the equipment, and it is found by the Capitol Police, it is supposed to be returned.
Chief: If ownership has been established, it will be returned. If it’s subject to an ongoing investigation, there are additional things —
DWS: OK, but not an ongoing investigation related to that member. If the equipment belongs to the member, it has been lost, they say it’s been lost and it’s been identified as that member’s, then the Capitol Police are supposed to return it.
Chief: I can’t give a yes or no answer on that, because I know —
DWS: It’s a simple yes or no answer. If a member loses equipment and it is found by your staff and identified as that member’s equipment and the member is not associated with any case, it is supposed to be returned. Yes or no.
Chief: It depends on the circumstances.
DWS: I don’t understand how that is possible. Members’ equipment is members’ equipment. My understanding is the the Capitol Police is not able to confiscate members’ equipment when the member is not under investigation. It is their equipment and it is supposed to be returned.
Chief: I think there are extenuating circumstances in this case, and working through my counsel and the necessary personnel, if that in fact is the case, and with the permission of through the investigation, then we’ll return the equipment. But until that happens we can’t return the equipment.
DWS: I think you’re violating the rules when you conduct your business that way and you should expect that there will be consequences.
The Daily Caller asked Wasserman Schultz on Monday “if it could inquire about her strong desire for the laptop.”
She replied: “No, you may not”:
After TheDCNF asked why she wouldn’t want the Capitol Police to have any evidence they may need to find and punish any hackers of government information, she abruptly turned around in the middle of a stairwell and retreated back to the office from which she had come.
Her spokesman, David Dameron, then emerged to say “We just don’t have any comment.”