By Michael Sainato / Observer.

One of her former aides tried to flee the country to Pakistan

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s former IT aide, Imran Awan, was detained last week while trying flee the country to Pakistan, the latest development in a strange investigation into Awan and four other former congressional IT staffers. Days before his attempted escape, the FBI allegedly confiscated smashed hard drives from his apartment. Awan’s lawyer has tried to argue that the entire scandal is a politically motivated smear because Awan is Muslim. Wasserman Schultz, who employed Awan until his recent arrest for bank fraud, has incited controversy over the extreme measures she has taken to obstruct the investigation.

In May 2017, Wasserman Schultz publicly argued with the U.S. Capitol police chief to have a confiscated laptop returned to her. The laptop was evidence in the investigation, as Awan hid it in a crevice of a congressional office building. She threatened “consequences” if the U.S. Capitol police chief didn’t return the laptop. Two weeks later, Wasserman Schultz finally granted police access to a laptop in their possession related to the investigation, though it’s unclear if it is the same laptop that she demanded be returned for her.

“Why are the Democrats so hush-hush about all of this?” wrote Jerry Ianelli for the Miami New Times on August 1. This, more than anything, is the classic Wasserman Schultz flaw: hubris in the face of negative press. In the face of adversity, she tends to double-down and dig in her heels, which has rarely helped her (or any lawmaker) when confronted with legitimately negative news. The Awan case is no different: She has shied away from TV appearances and has neglected to explain why the family was hired a decade ago. So has every Democrat tied to the family. Granted, it’s difficult to say much to the media during an open criminal investigation, but the public deserves more answers than it has gotten.”

Because Awan suspiciously tried to flee the country, many have called for Wasserman Schultz to testify before a congressional committee on the investigation to explain why she continued to employ Awan up until his recent arrest. The RNC chair, a watchdog group, and several congressmen have echoed these calls.

“It appears that Representative Wasserman Schultz permitted an employee to remain on the House payroll in violation of House Ethics Rules,” FACT’s Matthew Whitaker wrote in a letter to the Office of Congressional Ethics this week. “After Awan was barred from accessing the House computer system, Wasserman Schultz continued to pay Awan with taxpayer funds for IT consulting—a position that he could not reasonably be able to perform.” A Wasserman Schultz staffer called the letter’s claims “baseless.”

After Wasserman Schultz resigned in disgrace from her post as DNC chair in July 2016 for her poor leadership and overt favoritism for Hillary Clinton during the primaries, she was hired by the Clinton campaign as the honorary chair of the campaign’s 50 State Program. After the election, Wasserman Schultz tried to reassert herself as a Democratic Party spokesperson, conducting softball interviews on mainstream media outlets and pushing the narrative the Russia’s interference in the election resulted in Hillary Clinton’s loss. Her continued missteps, aversion to transparency, and divisive image are political poison for Democrats.

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Michael Sainato is a contributor to The Guardian and a journalist based in Gainesville, Florida. Follow him on Twitter @msainat1.