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Corruption in the Capitol

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There’s something going on in America.

A foreign actor with worrying levels of access to IT services in the nation’s capital, with connections to several high-ranking politicians.

The top politician involved attacks the media and the police for trying to learn the truth about the affair, leading to political foes hoping to topple them.

But, odd as it may be when referring to a scandal in America, particularly one where the media is attacked, there is no connection whatsoever to President Trump – rather, it is a top-ranking Democrat who finds her feet being held closer to the fire.

[Debbie Wasserman Schulz] was forced to step down after WikiLeaks provided a heap of emails from inside the DNC, showing that the committee was trying to help Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries…

Debbie Wasserman Schultz was, until July 2016, the head of the Democratic National Committee, making her one of the top-ranking Democrats in the country. She was forced to step down after WikiLeaks provided a heap of emails from inside the DNC, showing that the committee was trying to help Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries (in a pointed email, Wasserman Schultz wrote that Sanders ‘isn’t going to be president’).

The leak was just a smidgen of IT trouble in a presidential campaign plagued with it – you’d be forgiven for thinking that Wasserman Schultz would have been a bit more careful after that, right?

Wrong.

The latest scandal centres on a man named Imran Awan, a Pakistani-born IT worker employed by the Democrat Party in 2004. As an IT aide to 25 members of the House Democratic caucus, Awan was one of five IT staffers accused by Capitol Police of attempting to steal House equipment and of violating security policies in February 2017. The others were mostly related to him, with one being Awan’s wife, Hina Alvi, and two being Awan’s brothers.

[Awan] was arrested by the FBI on several bank fraud charges at an airport in Washington after wiring $283,000 to Pakistan…

The police told the lawmakers that it was up to them whether to fire the staffers or not – the majority did, but Wasserman Schultz did not. Things got worse for Awan when, in July, he was arrested by the FBI on several bank fraud charges at an airport in Washington after wiring $283,000 to Pakistan.

Rather sensibly, Alvi was already in Pakistan – she had left the country earlier this year (she too was stopped at the airport but, in a move that is now being scrutinised, the FBI let her go). After Awan’s arrest, Wasserman Schultz’s office announced that he had been fired.

So how does the Congresswoman come into this?

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said that Wasserman Schultz had ‘obstructed at every level on something that affects potentially our national security,’…

Her conduct during this affair has been somewhat unusual – coupled with her unwillingness to fire Awan, she also had an interesting conversation with the head of the Capitol Police. The police picked up Wasserman Schultz’s smashed laptop (which was in Awan’s possession, along with several other destroyed hard drives sought by the FBI), and Wasserman Schultz was insistent on getting it back without allowing any access to it. When the Police Chief told her that it was connected to an ongoing investigation, she threatened him with ‘consequences.’

Yet the media has been noticeably reticent to cover the story. Aside from frequent articles on the Daily Caller, the story hasn’t really come up, making it easy for the Republicans to cast it as an example of media bias – Trump has attacked CNN, NBC and ABC for burying the story.

There is even the suggestion that Awan may have been the source of the DNC leaks…

The Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said that Wasserman Schultz had ‘obstructed at every level on something that affects potentially our national security,’ and called for congressional hearings into the affair.

There is even the suggestion that Awan may have been the source of the DNC leaks – if that is the case, it would blow the Russian hacking story out of the water.

Wasserman Schultz, for her part, has stood by her actions. In an interview with the Sentinel Sun, she said that she was right not to fire Awan because she was not convinced there was sufficient evidence against him. She also expressed fears that Awan’s arrest was motivated solely by Islamophobia (a narrative that top Democrats have been keen to push when confronted with the story).

There will be a lot more mileage in this story – Awan is currently on trial (having pleaded not guilty to the charges against him), and the Republicans will be eager to see it make the headlines, especially if they can take out one of their highest-profile enemies.

Don’t expect the story to vanish, but equally, don’t expect it to appear in the news unless things take a turn so serious that they can no longer ignore it.

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