There was a virtual media blackout on a major scandal in Washington -- right up until the arrest of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's chief IT staffer, Imran Awan as he tried to flee the country late last month.
Many mainstream political news publications had not even reported on the investigation one time since Buzzfeed News and Politico broke the story way back in February.
The story, which more journalists should have alerted voters to, was that five House staffers -- all members of the same family -- were under a criminal investigation by Capitol Police for procurement violations and potentially compromising sensitive congressional data.
Now that mainstream outlets would lose significant credibility to continue ignoring this after Imran Awan's arrest, many -- such as The New York Times, Buzzfeed, and Snopes -- are covering the story only begrudgingly.
Their coverage downplays the seriousness of what's been going on in Washington by highlighting the most ridiculous speculations and misinformation about the story to make the entire thing seem like fake news.
So in the interests of journalistic integrity, here are 20 facts that we know about the House IT staff corruption scandal that has unfolded from the congressional office of Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
1. Imran, Abid, and Jamal Awan, three brothers, and two of their wives, Hina Alvi and Natalia Sova, collected over $4 million on the House payroll from July 2009 until last month. House payroll records for employees are publicly available. This is not fake news and it can't be faked. (Source)
2. Congressional staff are far more likely to make a salary of $30,000 than the lavish six-figure salaries the Awans made, on par with the salaries of high-powered members' chiefs of staff. (Source)
3. Their unusually high salaries were cobbled together from multiple Democratic House members' offices, with at least one of the five on 31 different House members' payrolls for IT positions from 2009 to 2017. They had access to read each of these members' emails. Many of them sit on sensitive committees. (Source)
4. Multiple other House IT staffers have told journalists that the number of offices the Awans worked for was unusually high, and that they were being paid for mostly no-show positions. They never showed up to House network meetings, and they did very little actual work if any. (Source)
5. While being paid as if they were actually working on the Hill, one of the Awans (Imran) worked as a realtor and landlord to multiple rental properties.
One of the Awans was running a car dealership.
Rao Abbas (a "sixth Awan," Imran's best friend who he got hired as a House IT administrator) sat at home all day according to his roommate.
The other Awan was a 20-year-old college student. And multiple members of the family would spend months at a time in Pakistan. (Source)
6. On February 2, 2017 Politico reported that:
"Five House employees are under criminal investigation amid allegations that they stole equipment from more than 20 member offices and accessed House IT systems without lawmakers' knowledge... The employees allegedly stole equipment from members' offices without their knowledge and committed serious, potentially illegal, violations of House IT policies." (Source)
7. At this time, several of the House Democrats who employed members of the Awan family fired them, but Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose office has had a close relationship with Imran Awan, continued paying him right up until he was arrested last month.
In her first interview about it since the arrest, she said: "I believe that I did the right thing, and I would do it again." (Source)
8. Wasserman Schultz continued paying Awan as an "IT consultant" despite the fact that it's a position he could not reasonably have performed since he had been banned by investigators from accessing the House network since February. (Source)
9. When asked by a reporter in May 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." (Source)
10. While many other House staffers were shocked that Imran Awan had not been arrested sooner -- and even suspected that the strange loyalty that some members were showing these staffers should have tipped the public off to a blackmail scheme involving members' emails (Source) -- Politico reports that Wasserman Schultz has "a friendly personal relationship with Awan and his wife, according to multiple sources." (Source)
11. One baffled Democratic IT staffer told journalists: "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." (Source)
12. In May, Debbie Wasserman Schultz threatened the chief of the U.S. 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. (Source)
13. The establishment media ignored the story, even as increasingly more bizarre and troubling details continued to emerge over the following months.
By early July, a couple weeks before Imran Awan was finally arrested by the FBI while trying to flee the country, several mainstream news outlets had not reported on the story even once, including: CNN, The Huffington Post, NBC News, USA Today, MSNBC, NPR, and US News. (Source)
14. Court and police documents show that the Awans' stepmother called Fairfax County, Virginia Police in January to report that the Awans were holding her in captivity.
Records say they were keeping her away from her husband's deathbed, and threatened in a brutal act of extortion to have her relatives back in Pakistan abducted if she didn't sign over to them the significant assets their father, her husband, was leaving her. (Source)
15. Additional court documents show that the Awans' stepmother alleges the brothers threatened to have her relatives in Pakistan kidnapped if she ever called the police on them again. (Source)
16. In March, Imran's wife, Hina Alvi, fled the country while under criminal investigation.
She was allowed to leave on a plane with the couple's three daughters, whom she pulled out of school without alerting the school's staff, and luggage containing $12,400 in cash.
She knew she had the cash (it's a felony to transport more than $10,000 in cash outside the country without reporting it to customs) because agents of U.S. Customs and Border Protection stopped her and found it in her luggage, but she was allowed to board the plane anyway. (Source)
17. Imran Awan attempted to flee the country in late July by plane just like his wife had, and was finally arrested and charged with bank fraud. Before attempting to flee, he wired $283,000 to Pakistan from the Congressional Federal Credit Union, and the money was permitted to go through. (Source)
18. Imran Awan's lawyer says he informed the House of his decision to leave the country to visit Pakistan, so it's likely that Wasserman Schultz knew he was attempting to leave the country while under criminal investigation.
And because she says it was his arrest that prompted her to finally remove him from her office's payroll, it appears that she was planning to continue paying him for an indefinite period of time after he had left the country and fled to Pakistan. (Source)
19. Although the Awans are under investigation by Capitol and Virginia Police for even more nefarious crimes (on the Hill and with their stepmother), the FBI's bank fraud charges likely stem from the fact that the Awans had mortgages on a significant number of Virginia rental properties and their tenants say they were required to pay in untraceable methods such cash, blank money orders, and checks written out to different people. (Source)
20. Just before Imran attempted to leave the country, The Daily Caller had reported that the FBI had seized smashed computer hard drives from his house according two sources with knowledge of the investigation. (Source)