Many of us have found it necessary to open up our offices to IT guys who were not completely housebroken, but none quite like the “f****ng monster” Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) promoted and protected for more than a decade on Capitol Hill. Until finally being forced to jettison him in August of 2017, Wasserman-Schultz had opened the doors (and computers) of more than 60 congressional offices, as well as the executive offices of the Democratic National Committee, to Imran Awan and various members of his dodgy family. How sinister was the Awan crew? His father once boasted that Imran “own[s the] White House in DC.” According to a Pakistani newspaper account, Awan senior told a crooked business partner back home that his son had the power “to change the US President.”
In Obstruction of Justice, (Regnery, 2019,) Luke Rosiak, who almost single-handedly exposed the Schultz/Awan affair in a series of investigative articles for The Daily Caller, lays out the whole sorry story. Early on in the book Rosiak describes how institutional roadblocks and general indifference to his initial revelations nearly resulted in his abandoning the story, but then, as he continued to learn from House staff who actually understood the Awans’ financial skullduggery and the astonishing extent to which they had penetrated Hill computer systems, it became clear that he “was on to something big,” and so persisted. We all should be grateful that he did.
In a straightforward narrative, Rosiak recounts abuses ranging from mundane purchasing, no-show jobs, and pilfering scams, to various financial and commercial frauds and apparent money-laundering run through a tangle of Awan-owned shell companies, (yes – some poor souls actually bought used cars from this guy) to physical intimidation, assaults, shakedowns, and blackmail in the U.S. and Pakistan, destruction of evidence, and finally accessing Congressional data, some of it sensitive and some merely embarrassing, and transferring it to thumb drives and off-site servers. This amounted, notwithstanding the paternal hyperbole above, to what looks like outright espionage. Rosiak shows that Awan and his associates’ activities were protected through the influence of Wasserman-Schultz and a gaggle of equally sorry congressional Democrats and their flunkeys. He presents a convincing account of how congressmen, mostly of modest means and even more modest qualifications, not about to risk losing the best job they were ever likely to get, became easy marks for a predatory villain prepared to turn stolen information against them if they dared interfere with his schemes.
In 2017, Awan was picked up at Dulles Airport as he tried to leave for Pakistan, and was charged by the U.S. Justice Department with making false statements on a loan application in connection with some of his questionable businesses. After his arrest, Wasserman-Schultz finally got around to firing him. Rosiak describes the puzzling kid-glove treatment the Awan gang received from the FBI and the Republican U.S. Attorney in the investigation and trial of their case. Eventually, after Awan pleaded guilty to minor bank fraud, an Obama-appointed judge sentenced him in July, 2018 to three months of supervised release plus time served – nothing at all for the security breaches and likely passing of information to authorities in Pakistan that Rosiak identifies, and nothing on a long list of garden-variety thuggery.
Echoing the Contra-Deplorabalismo triumphalism common since the 2016 election, The Washington Post’s account of the case emphasizes that Awan’s plea agreement “ included an unusual passage that described the scope of the investigation and cleared Awan of a litany of conspiracy theories promulgated on Internet blogs, picked up by right-leaning news sites and fanned by Trump on Twitter.” The Post quotes the prosecution as stipulating at sentencing that “the Government has found no evidence that [Awan] illegally removed House data from the House network or from House Members’ offices, stole the House Democratic Caucus Server, stole or destroyed House information technology equipment, or improperly accessed or transferred government information, including classified or sensitive information.” Rosiak thoroughly debunks this fairy tale.
According to Wasserman-Schultz and Awan’s Bill and Hillary Clinton-connected counsel, rabid Islamophobia, not criminality, prompted the more serious charges against the IT Guy from Hell. Citing her concern about “racial and ethnic profiling,” the congresswoman defended standing by Awan for years, despite overwhelming evidence of his villainy. With the kind of self-righteous piety bordering on contempt of the audience that has become standard media fare in the Age of Resistance, she declared, “There are times when you can’t be afraid to stand alone, and you have to stand up for what’s right.” No doubt if Debbie Wasserman-Schultz had known who Spartacus was, she would have invoked him.
In the same vein, Awan’s lawyer declared: “The attacks on Mr. Awan and his family began as part of a frenzy of anti-Muslim bigotry in the literal heart of our democracy, the House of Representatives.” Rosiak argues convincingly that Speaker Paul Ryan and most Republicans in the House leadership ducked for cover from the time the affair began working its way through the Byzantine goo of relentlessly “bipartisan” and “collegial” House processes, guaranteeing it would have gone nowhere by the time of Awan’s sentencing. Besides, Donald Trump had tweeted about the case, much too rudely for refined Establishmentarian tastes. Only the stalwarts Jim Jordan, Ron DeSantis, and Louis Gohmert, as well as a precious few Hill staffers, seem to have taken the Awan affair at all seriously, according to Rosiak.
Obstruction of Justice exposes congressional irresponsibility, mendacity, corruption, cupidity, hypocrisy, and cowardice amounting to a colossal failure in their fundamental duty to protect the public interest. If a second edition is being contemplated, an index and a timeline will make the book’s catalog of misgovernment even more useful.
There are plenty of other threads to the story that Rosiak was not able to treat fully, including possible links between Awan and the Muslim Brotherhood, a tantalizing chronology involving loss of a laptop associated with Wasserman-Schultz that apparently triggered panic, hissy-fits directed at Capitol cops, and her hurried payoff of “a strange loan arrangement,” and the possible role of Wasserman-Schultz’s brother, a U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, in the Awan investigation, as well as one involving the infamous Broward County vote-counter Brenda Snipes’ destruction of ballots for Wasserman-Schultz’s opponent in a 2016 primary race.
Looming over it all, of course, is the big question: What was Wasserman-Schultz so desperate to protect that she allowed Awan and his cronies to run wild for so long – was it always just her own and her Democratic colleagues’ shenanigans, or did it become Clinton, Inc. information that had found its way into her computers while she was heading the Democratic National Committee?
If some literary scholars can get away with claiming that Satan is the hero of Milton’s Paradise Lost, then this reader should be excused for naming Imran Awan as Obstruction of Justice’s hero. He was bold, resourceful, relentless, and cunning. He completely dominated the unnatural environment in which he operated. It is no accident that a villain steeped in the ways of a lawless state like Pakistan, where they don’t need to worry about erecting lavish libraries for former Prime Ministers because all of them end up either in jail or six feet under, prospered in Washington, DC. Obstruction of Justice is one more chapter in the sad story.
With its corrosive cynicism and seeming immunity from any accountability, its incompetence, hypocrisy, elitism, and corrupting incentives, the Federal City has become, with apologies to Rudyard Kipling, more akin to “somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst, where there aren’t no Ten Commandments…” than anything the Founders, for all their wariness of human nature, ever envisioned.