Luke Rosiak, DCNF
A laptop that Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has frantically fought to keep prosecutors from examining may have been planted for police to find by her since-indicted staffer, Imran Awan, along with a letter to the U.S. Attorney.
U.S. Capitol Police found the laptop after midnight April 6, 2017, in a tiny room that formerly served as a phone booth in the Rayburn House Office Building, according to a Capitol Police report reviewed by The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group. Alongside the laptop were a Pakistani ID card, copies of Awan’s driver’s license and congressional ID badge, and letters to the U.S. attorney. Police also found notes in a composition notebook marked “attorney-client privilege.”
The laptop had the username “RepDWS,” even though the Florida Democrat and former Democratic National Committee chairman previously said it was Awan’s computer and that she had never even seen it.
Even though the laptop was allegedly used only by an IT aide who worked for numerous members, Wasserman Schultz has hired an outside counsel, William Pittard, to argue that the laptop not be examined. Pittard argued that the speech and debate clause — which only protects a member’s information directly related to legislative duties — should prevent prosecutors from examining the laptop’s contents, TheDCNF has learned. Pittard did not respond to requests for comment.
Pittard, a partner with KaiserDillon, is the former acting general counsel of the House. Hiring an outside counsel to argue the speech and debate clause on behalf of Wasserman Schultz is highly unusual, because the general counsel of the House offers opinions on speech and debate issues for free.
The most recent notable example of a member hiring an outside attorney to argue a more aggressive interpretation is former Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson, who was convicted Aug. 4, 2009 of “using his office to try to enrich himself and relatives through a web of bribes and payoffs involving business ventures in Africa.” Investigators found $100,000 in cash in his freezer.
The collection of documents found in Rayburn tied the laptop to Awan and ensured that police would keep the computer. The reporting officer wrote that when he saw Awan’s name, he recalled guarding an interrogation of him a few months earlier. The “attorney client privilege” notation also prevented police from immediately reviewing some of the papers.
Nonetheless, the officer opened the MacBook and found that its login screen did not have Awan’s username, but rather “RepDWS.”
A police report reviewed by TheDCNF said:
On 4/6/2017 at 0021 hours, with the building closed to the public, AOC informed USCP Rayburn offices of an unattended bag in the phone booth on the 2nd floor. The officer received the open-contents visible bag and prepared a found property report. While reviewing the inventory of the bag contents, the officer found
#1 a Pakistani ID card with the name Mohommed Ashraf Awan
#2 a copy – not original – of a drivers license with name Imran Awan
#3 a copy (front and back) of his congressional ID
#4 an Apple laptop with the homescreen initials ‘RepDWS’
#5 composition notebooks with notes handwritten saying ‘attorney client privilege’ and possibly discussing case details below
#6 loose letters addressed to US Attorney of DC discussing the apparent owner of the bag being investigated.
Approximately 3-4 months ago officer was requested by SAA as police presence of 4 individuals being interviewed, including the bag owner. It is unknown to the officer whether he is still employed.
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