At last, I am in a position to help the New York Times. It’s a good feeling. As anyone who has stumbled upon their website knows, our former paper of record, underscoring its insatiable appetite to provide the public with all the news that fits its agenda, prominently features a solicitation for hot tips: Got a confidential news tip? it asks. Click and amaze the world.
I have a tip, an important one, though I cannot in truth call it “confidential.” Over the last few days, in fact, it has been blazoned across the samizdat press, outlets that your typical Times reader may never have heard of, or, if he has, that he reflexively discounts.
What’s it all about, Alfie? Computer hacking. A senior political figure threatening law enforcement officials. Destruction of evidence. Collusion with foreign powers. Financial corruption. Incompetence. Maladministration. Hot stuff.
Russia? Trump, Sr., Jr., or both? Nope.
It’s U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), former head of the Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton groupie, and, right now, the Barbie Doll in the center of (at last!) a real scandal involving a Pakistani computer guru called Imran Awan, his wife Hina Alvi, various other family members, and the computer servers of various Democratic congressmen, including Schultz.
Last week, Awan was nabbed by the FBI at Dulles Airport trying to flee to Pakistan. His wife had already flown the coop for Lahore in March, taking $12,400 with her. (The poor thing forgot to read the fine print you see in all those travel advisories that it is a felony to transport more than $10,000 in currency without reporting it.)
Sunday is a big day of the week for The New York Times. Were you or (per impossible) I the editor of the Gray Lady, this story would have occupied a prominent place on the front page of Sunday’s edition. And sure enough, there it was, above the fold . . . Oh, wait, I was mistaken. It was not DWS after all. Silly mistake. It was actually an African herder surrounded by a bunch of goats. Also above the fold was a rare Times story lambasting Donald Trump. About Wasserman Schultz and the Iwan scandal there was precisely . . . nothing.
Not that the Times has totally ignored the story. On Thursday, the paper ran a deflationary column under the headline, “Trump Fuels Intrigue Surrounding a Former I.T. Worker’s Arrest.”
Isn’t English wonderful? “Trump fuels intrigue” is almost neutral-sounding (almost). But what does it mean to your average Times reader? “Trump fuels,” i.e., forget about it. Nothing to see here. Move along.
Savor the opener:
For months, conservative news outlets have built a case against Imran Awan, his wife, two brothers and a friend, piece by piece.
To hear some commentators tell it, with the help of his family and a cushy job on Capitol Hill, Mr. Awan, a Pakistani-American, had managed to steal computer hardware, congressional data and even—just maybe—a trove of internal Democratic National Committee emails that eventually surfaced last summer on WikiLeaks. It helped that the story seems to involve, if only tangentially, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Florida congresswoman who is the former chairwoman of the committee and an ally of Hillary Clinton’s.
I add the boldface to highlight the tilt. Further along in the story, the Times goes full bromide: “few if any of the fundamental facts of the case have come into focus. The criminal complaint against Mr. Awan filed on Monday alleges that he and his wife conspired to secure a fraudulent loan, not to commit espionage or political high jinks.”
“Political high jinks,” eh? Cute. I think that qualifies as an example of (wait for it) floccinaucinihilipilification, “the action or habit of estimating something as worthless.” Neither espionage nor high jinks. Really, nothing but the usual noxious pabulum served up by conservative news outlets trading in fuzzy “fundamental facts.”
Yesterday at National Review, Andrew C. McCarthy laid out the case with his usual thoroughness and precision. McCarthy is the former federal prosecutor who put the Blind Sheik, the chap responsible for the first World Trade Center bombing, behind bars, a fact a I mention lest you think he was just another knuckle-dragging right-wing neanderthal whom you can ignore with impunity.
Yes, when Awan was prevented from bolting, the charge levied against him was bank fraud. But as McCarthy points out, this case is not about bank fraud, any more than the case of Al Capone was about tax evasion. Bank fraud is merely the pretext, the tip of the iceberg, the McGuffin as Alfred Hitchcock might say.
Not that the McGuffin is without drama. We’re talking about a fraudulent loan of 165,000 smackeroos that Awan & Co. diddled out of the Congressional Federal Credit Union, and that, McCarthy points out, was part of a $283,000 transfer that the enterprising IT expert managed to get wired from Capitol Hill. Choice detail:
He pulled it off — hilariously, if infuriatingly — by pretending to be his wife in a phone call with the credit union. Told that his proffered reason for the transfer (“funeral arrangements”) wouldn’t fly, “Mrs.” Awan promptly repurposed: Now “she” was “buying property.” Asking no more questions, the credit union wired the money . . . to Pakistan.
Over the years, Awan and his sisters and his cousins and his aunts (apologies to Willie Gilbert) have also raked in some $5 million from the taxpayers for their expert IT services to various Democratic Congressmen. Most fired him back in February and March after those conservative news outlets started noting that the House security services reported that Awan & Co. were under criminal investigation. Debbie Wasserman Schultz finally fired Awan last Tuesday, the day after the FBI fingered him at Dulles Airport.
What took her so long? Well might you ask. McCarthy cuts to the chase: “This is not about bank fraud. The Awan family swindles are plentiful, but they are just window-dressing. This appears to be a real conspiracy, aimed at undermining American national security.”
Wait a minute while I get my plot thickener. In 2016, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee wrote to the House appropriations subcommittee asking that their staffers obtain “Top Secret Sensitive Compartmented Information” clearances, spook-speak for the whole shebang. Guess who was working for many of the letter writers? Yep, Awan and his crew. Guess who the ranking member of the appropriations subcommittee was? Donald Duck? Close. Actually, it was Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Coincidence or “political high jinks”? Take your time.
It’s too early to be making a Christmas lists, I know, but here’s something I would really like: the stolen laptop that was found in the Rayburn House Office Building that apparently belongs to Wasserman Schultz but that Awan was using. The congresswoman really wants that back, and has even threatened the Capitol Police with “consequences” if it is not returned to her eftsoons and right speedily.
How do we explain all of this? How do we explain the smashed hard drives that were recovered from the Awans’ former home last week? I think Mark Steyn is right to invoke Occam’s Razor: entia non multiplicanda sunt praeter necessitatem. We can leave high jinks to one side. “Why,” Steyn asks, “did Debbie Wasserman Schultz not do as her fellow congressmen did and dump the Awan clan as no longer politically convenient” back in February? Answer: “Because she was head of the DNC and thus Awan knew too much for her to cut him loose.”
How much did he know? Steyn reports that Awan had the password to her iPad and other access codes. Some commentators have been going on for months about possible collusion between the Trump administration and the Russians. So far as I can see, that lengthy investigation has turned up nothing, but nothing of significance there. But how about the case of Awan? McCarthy ends his piece with some disquieting observations. They “had the opportunity to acquire communications and other information that could prove embarrassing, or worse, especially for the pols who hired them.” So:
Did the swindling staffers compromise members of Congress?
Does blackmail explain why were they able to go unscathed for so long?
And as for that sensitive information, did the Awans send American secrets, along with those hundreds of thousands of American dollars, to Pakistan?
That’s my hot tip for the New York Times. I wonder whether they will think it rises to the level of “political high jinks”? Anyone want to bet?