Blackmail, Obstruction, Secrecy: Could Debbie Wasserman Schultz Face Impeachment?
At what point will the damaging revelations of the ongoing investigation into Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's congressional office require the constitutional remedy of impeachment?
As the corruption scandal swirling around Wasserman Schultz's IT staffers unfolds, each new development is more bizarre -- and incriminating -- than the last.
Before considering the possibility of impeachment as a legal remedy to this situation, here's a brief timeline with some updates on the investigation:
Corruption and Data Breaches in Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Other Members' Congressional Offices
In February, Politico reported that five US House employees were under criminal investigation for allegations they "stole equipment from more than 20 member offices" and "committed serious, potentially illegal, violations of House IT policies."
The ringleader of the group is Imran Awan, who worked for Debbie Wasserman-Schultz since 2005, with whom several sources say Awan and his wife have a "friendly personal relationship."
Following the criminal investigation, Wasserman Schultz kept Awan employed by her office as an "advisor," a move that has left many perplexed. One Democratic staffer said: "I can’t imagine why she’d be that good of friends with a technology provider. Usually if someone does bad stuff, an office is going to distance themselves."
Wasserman Schultz Threatened US Capitol Police on The Record for Investigating Her Office
Last month, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz threatened the chief of the US Capitol Police with “consequences” for retaining a computer as evidence in part of the ongoing investigation into the Awan's activities.
The threat was made on the record and before cameras during a Legislative Branch Subcommittee hearing on the Capitol Police Department's budget.
Pressuring the Capitol Police was at best highly inappropriate, and at worst a very clear cut case of obstruction of justice.
During the exchange, Wasserman Schultz claimed the computer belonged to her:
“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?” She demanded.
The police chief responded that it is important to “an ongoing investigation.”
Wasserman Schultz’s Office Uses Voice Modifier When Calling Law Offices
Then in early June, a bizarre incident at the law offices handling the ongoing class-action lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee and former chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who worked to undermine candidate Bernie Sanders to the favor of Hillary Clinton.
A court document said that they received a call for information about the case from the office of Wasserman Schultz, and claimed that it sounded like the caller used a voice changer.
According to attorney Elizabeth Lee Beck: "My secretary stated that it sounded like the caller was using a voice changer, because the voice sounded robotic and genderless. The caller concluded with 'Okey dokey,' after my secretary gave the caller public information about the case.”
After the call ended, a simple Google search of the phone number '305-936-5724' shows that it is the phone number for US Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's office.
Are Rogue IT Staffers Blackmailing Members of Congress with Their Own Data?
Of huge significance: More than 20 House members have paid Awan and his three brothers, and two wives $4 million since 2010 for mostly no-show positions on their payrolls.
So, why have there been no arrests with all the mounting evidence against Awan and his family for multiple criminal activities in and outside of Congress?
And how is it possible that Awan is still on the House payroll working for Debbie Wasserman Schultz?
When asked by a reporter last month whether Awan should still be working as a paid advisor on Debbie Wasserman Schultz's staff while under investigation for these crimes, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi seemed to dodge the question, saying: "I haven't followed that so closely. We've been busy with a lot of other things."
The Awan brothers, and two of their wives, were employed by dozens of Democratic members of the House of Representatives and had IT access to sensitive data on congressional computer networks, including members’ email accounts.
At this point, with no arrests, with Awan still on Wasserman Schultz's payroll, and with a criminal investigation that has been kept very quiet by Congress and the press, other House IT aides fear that the Awans are blackmailing House members with their own data:
"Five Capitol Hill technology aides told The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group that members of Congress have displayed an inexplicable and intense loyalty towards the suspects who police say victimized them. The baffled aides wonder if the suspects are blackmailing representatives based on the contents of their emails and files, to which they had full access." - The Daily Caller
Pat Sowers, who has managed IT for several House offices for 12 years, made this ominous statement: "I don’t know what they have, but they have something on someone. It’s been months at this point. Something is rotten in Denmark."
Another IT worker, a manager at a tech-services company that works with Democratic House offices, said, "There’s no question about it: If I was accused of a tenth of what these guys are accused of, they’d take me out in handcuffs that same day, and I’d never work again."
The Daily Caller has an interactive graphic here with the names of all the members and the large sums of money the Awans have siphoned from each member's office over the past eight years.
Impeachment: Can This Really Wait for an Electoral Remedy in 2018?
The power of impeaching members is given to Congress by the Constitution in Article I, Section 2:
"The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment." - Article I, Section 2, US Constitution
In Article II, Section 4, the Constitution says:
"The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." - Article II, Section 4, US Constitution
Congress has traditionally almost never impeached one of its own. It's only happened once, to a US senator, in 1797.
Most of the impeached throughout history have been judges, and most of them were acquitted during the proceedings. Of the two US presidents who have been impeached, the most recent was impeached for lying under oath and obstruction of justice.
At what point does a case like the one outlined above become so egregious, do the details speak so resoundingly of massive corruption, that it's not a question of political differences for voters to decide in the ballot box, but a matter of protecting the US? And for Congress a grave and urgent threat to its integrity, independence, and legitimacy?
What more do the Awans have to do to be taken off the House payroll and arrested as a flight risk for the remainder of the criminal investigation?
And why hasn't Congress taken a more active role in policing its own members and deliberated initiating impeachment proceedings against Wasserman Schultz for obstruction of justice following her seemingly desperate and impulsive move to interfere in the Capitol Police Department's investigation during a budget hearing?
How much worse does it have to look before congressional leadership takes the possibility more seriously that members have been compromised, and investigate what it is that some are so desperately trying to hide? To find out what has cost millions of dollars to keep secret?