Update 10/12/17: US Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) says there are “hundreds of potential federal charges” in the Awan scandal.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Mirando revealed in federal court proceedings that former congressional IT staffer Imran Awan “wiped clean” a cellphone he was found with when he was arrested at Dulles International Airport in July. According to Mirando, the phone was wiped “just a few hours before” his arrest.
Awan’s attorney, Chris Gowen, then told the judge, “Awan had recently bought the phone, so of course it didn’t have any data on it.”
In response, Mirando revealed that the FBI discovered the phone was wiped on purpose. A time stamp on the Apple iPhone indicated that it had been wiped at 6:30 p.m. that evening, just a little over three hours before his arrest.
The phone has a feature that allows consumers to “wipe” its contents and revert it to its default, factory settings. FBI investigators could tell when the phone was wiped because it created a “dot obliterated” file with a time stamp at that time.
In another twist during the hearing, Gowen brought up the computer that US Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz tried to get removed from the Capitol Police’s evidence file and returned to her by publicly threatening the police chief during an annual budget hearing for the department.
Wasserman Schultz told the police chief there would be unnamed “consequences” if she didn’t get the computer back.
Astoundingly, Gowen made the case that the computer was “protected by attorney-client privilege” because it was left in a public phone booth with a note that said “attorney client privilege.”
Rep. Wasserman Schultz has come under fire for her close relationship with Awan.
“For several months, Wasserman Schultz refused to remove Awan from house payroll even though he was barred from the House computer system which would presumably prevent him from performing any reasonable IT work,” Matthew G. Whitaker, executive director of the right-leaning Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), wrote in a letter last summer to Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) Chairman Doc Hastings.
Whitaker called it “contrary to the House Ethics Rules for Wasserman Schultz to continue to pay Awan with taxpayer funds even after he was barred from the House computer system and could not perform his duties, and was also under criminal investigation.”
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