Debbie Wasserman Schultz Archives - Page 4 of 33 - Florida Politics

Darren Soto: Congress must quickly approve robust relief package for Puerto Rico

After touring Puerto Rico earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto declared the island is in emergency need of robust emergency federal funding, not just to assure full federal relief efforts from Hurricanes Maria and Irma, but to keep the commonwealth’s government operating in a place where almost no one can work.

“The stories that you’re reading and seeing from Puerto Rico are all true,” the Orlando Democrat, who is of Puerto Rican descent, stated in a release issued late Tuesday. “Our fellow American citizens are facing unthinkable tragedies. I saw people all over the city waiting in long lines for groceries and gas, most areas lacked electricity, cell phone service, and functioning traffic lights. Debris still covered many roads. Most buildings sustained minor or major damage. Hopefully President [Donald] Trump’s visit today will tell him what I already saw firsthand: the damage is real and people need our help.”

In related news, U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced they are leading a bipartisan push to urge the Trump administration to send Congress an official request for additional disaster relief funding. The letter was co-signed by 21 of Florida’s 27 members of Congress, including Soto, as well as more than a dozen other members of Congress from other states.

Soto issued a lengthy report on his findings that ranged from the widespread obvious problems [an island without electricity, cell phone service and massive destruction]; to pending problems, such as the government’s anticipation that it will run out of operating money in two to three weeks; to minor issues that could result in public health matters, such as ad-hoc trash dumps appearing everywhere because there is no refuge service.

In tours that included briefings from Federal Emergency Management Agency officials, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, local officials, and aid workers, Soto reported that he confirmed that relief supplies are moving slowly and said that many people in the interior told him they have never seen federal relief workers, let alone supplies.

He said FEMA officials told him the agency will need $1.7 billion to cover its operations for the next six months, and that the government of Puerto Rico has only enough money to operate for another two to three weeks.

Among findings and observations Soto mentioned in his report:

Damage estimates across the island run from $40 billion to $70 billion, more than 100,000 homes were completely destroyed, and “vast parts of the transportation, communication and electric infrastructure will need to be rebuilt,” Soto reported.

– “The official death toll stands at 16. Several sources believe the death toll related to Hurricane Maria will ultimately be much larger due to lack of medical supplies and treatment, lack of potable water and food, as well as the continued harsh living conditions.”

– “Known transportation obstacles include lack of cell phone service, clogged roadways, no street lights and lack of available local truck drivers (many were still dealing with the disaster themselves).”

– “A substantial force of military transportation professionals is desperately needed. In the meantime, hundreds of containers of essential food, water and medical supplies will continue to be slowly transported to the hardest hit communities.”

– “It was apparent from the air that thousands of homes had been destroyed, and few had received blue tarps. Flooding had begun to subside but many neighborhoods were still very wet. Due to high winds, most trees were destroyed or leafless.”

– “Many brick and mortar businesses still appeared to be closed. Since many residents operate small businesses out of their homes, many of these were also affected.”

– “Hurricane Maria decimated the banana crop and damaged the coffee plants. Various agricultural structures such as chicken coops and barns had also been destroyed.”

– “We flew over the Guajataca Dam, and observed that it had been breached on the right side, had flooded adjacent roadways and was overflowing the river. Numerous homes are in danger of flood damage should the river continue to rise.”

– “While in the air, I saw no other helicopters flying, no military vehicles driving around, and no federal personnel. Rural towns will continue to suffer if resources and personnel are not dispatched to these areas.”

– “The pilot pointed out a disturbing trend of large trash piles beginning to form in empty lots on the side of roads and next to rivers. This growing trash problem coupled with rotting debris could pose a major potential health hazard if not corrected soon.”

In addition to Wasserman-Schultz, a Weston Democrat; Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican; and Soto; the letter calling for emergency funding was signed by U.S. Reps. Al Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat; Vern Buchanan, a Longboat Key Republican; Francis Rooney, a Naples Republican; Carlos Curbelo, a Kendall Republican; Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat; Stephanie Murphy, a Winter Park Democrat; Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat; Val Demings, an Orlando Democrat; Tom Rooney, an Okeechobee Republican; Charlie Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat; Frederica Wilson, a Miami Gardens Democrat; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican; Alcee Hastings, a Miramar Republican; John Rutherford, a Jacksonville Republican; Brian Mast, a Palm City Republican; Lois Frankel, a West Palm Beach Democrat; Dennis Ross, a Lakeland Republican; and Gus Bilirakis, a Palm Harbor Republican.

Florida Democrats in Congress call for Florida special session to replace statue

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz now has gotten the other ten Florida Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives to join her call for a one-day Florida Legislature special session to replace Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith‘s statue in the U.S. Capitol.

“We must denounce symbols of what supremacy and stand up for love and compassion – not just with words, but with our deeds,” state letters from the 11 Florida Democratic members of Congress to Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. “As the third largest state, and easily one of the most diverse in our nation, Florida has an opportunity to send a defining message.”

Wasserman Schultz first called for such a special session on her own, on Aug. 15.

The issue involves one of Florida’s two state representation statues in the U.S. Capitol. In 2016 the Florida Legislature voted to replace the Smith statute, but in 2017 was unable to agree on a replacement, so the statue remains.

The new congressional letter calls for Scott, Negron and Corcoran to act immediately, “in the shadow of Charlottesville,” to “stand at a crucial moment when leaders and institutions must confront hate and violence without ambiguity.”

A spokesman for Scott’s office expressed confidence that the legislature would take care of the matter as soon as possible. In January. When the regular 2018 Legislative Session convenes.

“In 2016, Governor Scott signed a bill that replaced this statue at the U.S. Capitol. A committee was quickly convened, public input was gathered and three names were submitted to the Legislature for consideration for a replacement. It is now up to the Legislature to decide how to resolve this issue and Governor Scott hopes they do so when they convene in January,” McKinley Lewis said in a statement.

The offices of Negron and Corcoran did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the letter.

When Wasserman Schultz first made her call two weeks ago, Corcoran responded by accusing her of being out of touch and grandstanding, noting that the Florida Legislature already had voted to replace Smith’s statue and was working on picking a replacement.

The latest letter was signed by the 11 Democrats Florida has elected to the U.S. House, Wasserman Schultz of Weston, Kathy Castor of Tampa, Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg, Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, Alcee Hastings of Miramar, Darren Soto of Orlando, Frederica Wilson Miami Gardens, Val Demings of Orlando, Al Lawson of Tallahassee, Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, and Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park.

“The legislature’s inaction leaves in place of honor, a symbol that represents a painful and horrific period in American history for so many Floridians and Americans,” the letter states.

“No family visiting our nation’s Capital should have to explain to their child that the statue representing our state honors someone who fought for a philosophy built on hatred, inequality and oppression.

“We urge you to take immediate action by calling a one-day special session during the Florida House and Senate’s upcoming interim committee meetings that already are scheduled in Tallahassee and finish this important and historic work.”

Nine Florida Democrats urge Donald Trump to rescind transgender ban

Nine of Florida’s 11 Democratic members of Congress signed a letter Tuesday urging President Donald Trump to reconsider his recently announced ban on transgendered people in the military.

“There is no place for discrimination in our Armed Forces or indeed anywhere else in American society,” the letter signed by most Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives reads.

“Enforcing your ban could mean discharging active duty soldiers, sailors, Marines and members of the Air Force who serve honorably. It also would mean barring other patriotic Americans from serving in the future. Both actions are detrimental to our national security, ill-advised, and contrary to the values upon which our nation was built,” it continues.

The letter states there are thousands of active-duty transgender service members and refutes Trump’s contention that they have been a disruption or burden on the military, saying they serve with equal distinction, and are “equally deserving of our gratitude and respect.”

The letter also argues that the ban is likely unconstitutional.

The 143 signatories Tuesday afternoon included Democratic U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor of Tampa, Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg, Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, Alcee Hastings of Miramar, Al Lawson of Tallahassee, Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, and Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens.

Democratic U.S. Reps. Val Demings and Darren Soto, both of Orlando, had not signed the most recent copy sent to FloridaPolitics.com, but Soto’s office said he fully endorsed the letter and wanted to sign it but did not get the chance before the letter was closed.

Last month, after Trump signaled, in a Twitter post, his intention to ban transgendered people, Soto released a statement that included, “There are over 15,000 transgender military service men and women currently risking their lives every day protecting our country. Now, we must also protect them. I proudly stand with the transgender troops serving in the U.S military, you make us proud to be American! “

Demings office did not respond to an inquiry about why she had not signed the letter.

In a Facebook post Murphy, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, wrote, “All people who are willing and qualified to defend our nation and to protect those who fight alongside them should be free to serve.”

Blake Dowling: Insurance for your digital mouth

You can get a cyber insurance policy to protect your organization if hit with ransomware or cyber security threat.

This can help recoup lost dollars, data, productivity and any other repercussions from a cyber intrusion/breach. There may be more fallout once the damage is assessed, firings (see Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her never-ending journey down the cyber rabbit hole) new policies put into place and other measures to prevent a future incident.

But what happens when someone sues you over a tweet? Does this happen? Yes.

As our world evolves, being held liable for what’s said on the web is becoming more common. It is certainly worth noting the fact that internet ranters and trolls may be silent in the real world, but on the digital platform, that’s where it gets ugly.

Someone may have a complete online meltdown online and cross a line — maybe Sally or Sammy Respectful during the day, but at night behind their Twitter handle of @HELLFIREMEDIA they might be putting you at risk (if they work on your staff, team etc.).

Being mouthy online can come with baggage. If you are also affluent, that makes you a bona fide target.

Let’s think about rocker Courtney Love who owns the publishing rights to the Nirvana catalog (inherited from her deceased husband Kurt Cobain). Rich and mouthy, affirmative.

Raise your hand if your rich and mouthy.

Love has been a party in three defamation suits, coming from irresponsible Twitter use, one settled for only $780,000.

Ack.

So, today’s advice (free of charge), be very careful what you send out to the cyber-verse, specifically if it paints someone else in a negative light.

While it appears most online libel suits are rarely successful — as proving malicious intent is difficult — even weak cases that don’t see the light of day involve legal fees.

Large insurance providers offer personal injury umbrellas, which usually include libel coverage. It is certainly something to consider, as once something that once only concerned journalists now is something that anyone with a social media account should be aware.

The President had a case land on his desk. You can read more about here.

I am not picking sides here — Debbie, Donald or Courtney. They all could use a lesson in manners from my grandmother (rest in peace, Nana). Name calling did not sit well with her (with a few exceptions, of course; she yelled at my grandfather a lot. All in good fun, I think). #DifferentTimes.

Check out some added insurance if you or your staff push the envelope on social media; as a public service reminder, remember to be kind to one another online and in person.

The world could use it.

THE END

___

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

 

Congressional aide probe includes workers in six Florida Democrats’ offices

Arrested Democratic congressional staffer Imran Awan or his relatives — all reportedly under federal criminal investigation — also worked for five other Democratic Florida members of Congress besides U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is on the hot seat.

U.S. Reps. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, Darren Soto of Orlando, Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens, and Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, now a gubernatorial candidate, also employed Awan or one of his family members, wife Hina Alvi, and brothers Jamal Awan and Abid Awan, as part-time, shared, information technology employees in their offices.

However, unlike Wasserman Schultz, of Weston, who kept Imran Awan on her payroll through months of publicly-reported federal investigations into potential theft and misuse of congressional equipment and data, the other five members of Florida’s delegation all cut their ties with the Awan family member employees early.

The FBI and U.S. Capitol Police arrested Imran Awan at Washington’s Dulles International Airport on July 24, as he reportedly was trying to leave the country. He was charged with bank fraud, and other charges may be pending. Last week he and Alvi were indicted on bank fraud and other charges.

Neither of Imran Awan’s brothers have been arrested or accused of anything, though media reports dating to early February indicated that the FBI was investigating all four members of the Awan family.

They all worked for numerous Democratic members of the U.S. House, some for more than a decade, as IT specialists. House members chose independently to hire or fire them, and they were paid from office staff payroll budgets.

In early February, U.S. House of Representatives leaders informed members of Congress that the Awans were under investigation. News of that broke in Washington a couple of days later. Murphy, Soto, Frankel, and Wilson all terminated the Awans in their offices on Feb. 2 or Feb. 3, according to House of Representatives office budget disbursement documents. Graham already had terminated Jamal Awan on Jan. 2.

Still, some published reports, notably in The Daily Caller, which has broken much of the Awan story, have suggested the Awans had legal and financial troubles long before February, dating to 2009, which some have argued should have sent up red flags to Democratic members employing them.

Wasserman Schultz, who fired Imran Awan on July 25, has said she had serious questions about how and why the investigation was being pursued, and did not want to dismiss him unless she saw evidence of wrongdoing.

Other Democratic members took a different approach. Response from Soto’s spokesman was typical:

“Abid Awan served as an IT system administrator in Congressman Darren Soto’s office for one month. He was immediately fired upon learning he was under investigation, lost access to the House system and could no longer perform his job duties,” Oriana Pina said in a statement to FloridaPolitics.com. “Abid was hired based on the recommendation of several other House offices for whom he worked.”

Records show Soto paid the least amount to Abid Awan, $103 this year.

“Mr. Abid Awan was hired by a number of other offices and at the suggestion of other offices,” Murphy’s spokesman Javier Hernandez said. “He was terminated as soon as we were informed of the allegations.”

Murphy had paid Abid Awan $1,033 this year.

“We were one of 20-plus member offices that were using the services of Abid Awan to provide technical support for our computing technology,” Frankel’s spokeswoman Rachel Huxley-Cohen said in a statement. “Our contract with him has been terminated.”

Frankel paid Abid Awan $1,833 in 2017.

“Imran Awan, our former IT administrator, was a shared employee who began working for the congresswoman at the start of her first term. He was terminated as soon as we learned about the allegations of wrongdoing,” Wilson’s spokeswoman Joyce Jones said in a statement. “His official termination date was February 2, 2017. We cannot discuss the details of an ongoing investigation.”

Wilson paid Imran Awan $1,778 this year.

Graham’s spokesman, Matt Harringer, said Jamal Awan’s services were used only to close out Graham’s congressional computer accounts in the first two days of January as she prepared to leave Congress at the end of her tenure. The Awan investigation was not revealed until about a month later.

Graham paid Jamal Awan $111 this year.

Wasserman Schultz has remained defensive of Imran Awan. House records only are available through March 31. Through then, Wasserman Schultz had paid Imran Awan $1,605 this year. She also had employed Nina Alvi, but only through March 7, according to the first quarter House disbursement records. Alvi was paid $3,394.

Wasserman Schultz first employed Imran Awan in her office in 2005. Last week she issued a lengthy statement defending her decision to keep him on until the arrest:

“As a mother, a Jew, and a member of Congress, if there is one thing I know for sure, it’s this: my commitment to doing what’s right and just — even if it isn’t what’s easy and simple — is unyielding.

“Whether that meant standing in opposition to the Terri Schiavo bill, combating prejudice by encouraging my colleagues to bring Muslim-American constituents to the State of the Union, or questioning whether an employee has been afforded due process before terminating him, I have never been afraid to stand alone when justice demands it.

“Undoubtedly, the easier path would have been to terminate Mr. Awan, despite the fact that I had not received any evidence of his alleged wrongdoing; but that is not the woman my constituents elected, and that is not the mother my children know me to be.

“Over time, the investigation raised troubling concerns for me about fair treatment, due process, and potential ethnic and religious profiling. As the representative of Florida’s 23rd Congressional District, one of the most vibrant and diverse districts in the nation, I may not always be the darling of the conservative media, but I will always protect the democratic and pluralistic values that we South Floridians hold so dear, and I will always live up to the oath I took when my constituents first sent me to Washington: to support and defend the Constitution.

“At the end of the day, there are times in our lives when we must do what may be hard but right, even when there is a cost. This was one of those times for me, and I would make the same decision again.”

Republicans target Debbie Wasserman Schultz in aide scandal ad

Congressional Republicans have released an internet video ad blasting Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz for her employment of and defense of an aide at the heart of a scandal in Washington D.C.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is circulating a 43-second spot dubbed “Corrupt” that says she waited until Democratic congressional information technology aide Imran Awan was arrested in late July to fire him, even though other members of Congress cut him and other suspects loose months earlier. The spot also alleges she did so reluctantly while contending he was the target of Islamophobia.

Awan reportedly was arrested while trying to leave the country and was charged with bank fraud. He and several other members of his family, two brothers and his wife, all Democratic congressional aides, have all reportedly been under federal investigation since at least early in 2017, a probe that became public in February. There have not been other arrests or other charges.

“Scandals, lies and corruption, that’s Debbie Wasserman Schultz,” the NRCC ad concludes.

Wasserman Schultz fired Awan from her staff on July 25, the day after he was arrested by the FBI and U.S. Capitol Police at Washington’s Dulles International Airport.

In a statement released by her office prior to the NRCC ad, Wasserman Schultz said, in part, “As a mother, a Jew, and a member of Congress, if there is one thing I know for sure, it’s this: my commitment to doing what’s right and just – even if it isn’t what’s easy and simple – is unyielding.

“Undoubtedly, the easier path would have been to terminate Mr. Awan, despite the fact that I had not received any evidence of his alleged wrongdoing; but that is not the woman my constituents elected, and that is not the mother my children know me to be.

She said that the investigation, as she watched reports, raised troubling concerns about fair treatment, due process and “potential ethnic and religious profiling.”

“At the end of the day, there are times in our lives when we must do what may be hard but right, even when there is a cost,” she concluded. “This was one of those times for me and I would make the same decision again.”

 

Chris Latvala says the moderate in the GOP race for Florida governor is not his dad

Chris Latvala predicts that the race for governor will be a campaign unlike any ever seen before in the Sunshine State, especially within the Republican Party.

The Clearwater Republican, first elected to the state House in 2014, has a unique view of the race, considering that his father, Jack Latvala, is now seeking to occupy the Governor’s mansion

Jack Latvala officially filed to run on Friday, but he will be making three appearances around the state Wednesday to give his campaign a proper introduction to the public and the media.  A press conference is set for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium at 1 p.m.

“I think that it’s something that he has thought about for a long time,” Chris Latvala said on Tuesday, specifically saying it was sometime last summer that his father talked to him about his desire to run for governor. “I certainly was surprised, but as time has gone by, I think that there’s definitely a path for him, especially with Adam Putnam announcing and then a week or two later changing his campaign manager.”

Immediately after Putnam ended a 10-day bus tour of the state to launch his campaign in March, his campaign manager, Kristin Davison, was relieved of her duties, as was political director Jared Small.

If anyone follows Chris Latvala on Twitter, you know that he has taken several shots at the presumptive front-runner for the GOP nomination. And he’s even more relentless in picking apart the Bartow Republican in an interview.

“Adam Putnam has not exactly set the world on fire,” Latvala says, declaring the race for the GOP nomination to be “wide open.”

With his entrance into the race, Jack Latvala and Putnam are now the two biggest Republicans in the race for governor, although House Speaker Richard Corcoran is also expected to enter the race and rumors continue to circulate that Ponte Vedra Beach Representative Ron DeSantis will also enter the contest.

Considered a moderate in today’s Florida Republican Party, conventional wisdom has it that his opponents will wrap the “M” word around Jack Latvala throughout the primary campaign, but Chris says the moderate in the race is not who you think it is.

“I think that, to the contrary, he’s a conservative who has a conservative record,” Latvala says of his father. “Keeping your promises to the people doesn’t make you a moderate, being mindful of the environment doesn’t make you a moderate.”

Fueling his argument is a litany of congressional votes that he says makes Putnam vulnerable in a GOP primary, such as voting to increase the national debt, supporting the “Cash for Clunkers” program, and pushing for “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants.

“Conservatives believe in less government and, therefore, I would argue government shouldn’t be involved in your bedroom or your day to day life,” Chris says.

No one will ever call Jack Latvala “slick.” Chris Latvala says that’s part of the longtime state legislator’s appeal to voters.

“He’s not a typical politician,” he says. “He’s not going to be the skinniest and the best looking candidate, and he’s not going to sugarcoat the issues with voters. I think people respect that.”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz calls for special session to replace Confederate statue

(UPDATED) South Florida Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz wants the Florida Legislature to convene for a special session to deal with a Confederate monument that represents the state in the U.S. Capitol.

A bronze statue of Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith continues to sit in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall, despite legislation passed during the 2016 Legislative Session that approved removing it.

“While the events in Charlottesville represent our nation’s original sin, we know these hateful acts do not define who we are as a country. We must denounce white supremacy and domestic terrorism and stand up for love and compassion – not just with our words, but with our deeds,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.

Momentum to remove Smith from the congressional collection began in 2015 shortly after the South Carolina Legislature voted to remove the Confederate battle flag from its statehouse grounds. That seminal event took place after Dylann Roof went on a shooting spree in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine black men and women. Roof had posed with a Confederate flag in photos.

Two competing bills regarding a statue that would have taken the place of Smith died in this year’s Legislative Session. One called for a likeness of educator and civil-rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune, while another proposed a statue of environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, author of “The Everglades: River of GrassNeither passed.

“Next year, we expect movement in the House and we’ll pass it in the Senate,” said state Sen. Perry Thurston, who sponsored the Bethune measure. “I am encouraged we will get it done next year.”

Each state has two statues on display in the Capitol. Florida’s other statue, a marble rendering of scientist-inventor Dr. John Gorrie of Apalachicola, a pivotal figure in the invention of air conditioning, is unaffected.

Wasserman Schultz says that leaving Smith’s statue in a place of honor “symbolizes a painful, disgraceful legacy.”

“It’s time to stop playing games,” she said on Tuesday. “No family visiting our nation’s Capitol should have to explain to their child that the statue representing our state honors someone who fought for a philosophy built on hatred and oppression.”

Wasserman Schultz says Governor Rick Scott and the Legislature must take immediate action by calling a one-day special session during their upcoming interim committee meetings to pass a bill with one of the three recommendations from the committee established by law: Douglas, Bethune or George Washington Jenkins, a philanthropist and the founder of Publix Super Markets.

“These three Floridians represent the best of the history of our state,” she said. “The removal of the Confederate statue must be made an urgent priority.”

“Like most politicians in Washington, the congresswoman is out of touch,” said House Speaker Richard Corcoran. “We’ve already made this decision and are now having a conversation about which great Floridian we should honor. The congresswoman should stop grandstanding and focus on balancing the Federal budget.”

Senate President Joe Negron did not respond to a request for comment.

Ethics group wants Debbie Wasserman Schultz investigated over IT staffer

A right-leaning watchdog group has filed an ethics complaint against Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz because she continued to employ an IT staffer after he became the subject of a criminal investigation.

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust on Monday asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to launch an investigation into “Wasserman Schultz’s apparent breach of House Ethics Rules.” According to the conservative ethics organization, Wasserman Schultz violated ethics rules by continuing to employ Imran Awan even after he was blocked from using the House IT system.

“There is something quite amiss as to why Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz continued to use taxpayer funds to employ former technology staff member, Imran Awan, even months after he was barred from accessing the House’s computer systems and a number of her colleagues severed ties with Awan,” said Matthew Whitaker, the organization’s executive director, in a statement.

Wasserman Schultz fired Awan last week after he was arrested on one count of bank fraud while attempting to leave the United States for Pakistan, POLITICO reported. Awan and several family members, who also previously served as House staffers, have been at the center of a months-long House investigation.

The complaint says that since Awan was barred from accessing House computer system, he would have been prevented from “performing any reasonable IT work.”

“It appears that Representative Wasserman Schultz permitted an employee to remain on the House payroll in violation of House Ethics rules,” wrote Whitaker in the complaint. “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 perform.”

David Damron, a spokesman for Wasserman Schultz, told POLITICO, the complaint was baseless and meant to undermine Wasserman Schultz.

 

Debbie Wasserman Schultz fires IT staffer following fraud arrest

Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has fired an information technology staffer following his arrest on a bank fraud charge at a Virginia airport where he was attempting to fly to Pakistan.

Wasserman Schultz spokesman David Damron says Imran Awan was fired by the Florida lawmaker on Tuesday.

Awan’s attorney, Chris Gowen, confirmed that his client was arrested at Dulles Airport on Monday. He says Awan was cleared to travel and had informed the House of his plans to visit his family before the scheduled trip.

The 37-year-old Awan of Lorton, Virginia, was arraigned Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on one count of bank fraud. He pleaded not guilty and was released pursuant to a high-intensity supervision program, including the restriction that he not travel beyond a 50-mile radius of his home, according to the court.

An affidavit filed with the criminal complaint states there is probable cause to believe that Awan and his wife, Hina Alvi, engaged in a scheme to defraud Congressional Federal Credit Union based on misrepresentations made to obtain a loan. FBI Special Agent Brandon Merriman said in the affidavit that the misrepresentations revolved around written assurances that the home serving as collateral for the loan was a “principal residence.”

Merriman said that the credit union normally does not provide home equity lines of credit when the home used to secure the loan is a rental. That’s because they are riskier forms of collateral. The investigation, which included physical surveillance and interviews, determined that the couple did not reside at the property used to secure the loan.

The agent also attested that bank records show $283,000 was wired to two individuals in Pakistan. He stated that agents followed Alvi in March to Dulles International Airport and that she was allowed to board a flight. She has not returned. She has a return flight for September 2017, but the agent said that he believes Alvi has no intention of returning to the United States.

The FBI agent also stated Awan purchased a flight to Doha, Qatar, and then to Lahore, Pakistan. He purchased a return flight for a date in January 2018.

Gowen says the federal bank fraud count stems from a “modest real estate matter” and is motivated by anti-Muslim bigotry. He said he’s confident Awan “will soon be able to clear his name and get on with his life.”

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 21, according to Gowen.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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