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Luke Rosiak (@lukerosiak) is an investigative reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation where he broke arguably one of the biggest scandals in the history of the federal government — one the media refused to cover and the prosecutors refused to prosecute.
This is the story of Awangate, which proved no match for Russiagate — but should have on its merits.
It is the subject of Rosiak’s Obstruction of Justice: How the Deep State Risked National Security to Protect the Democrats, a book that has taken on new significance as the treasonous Russian collusion narrative collapses.
I had Luke Rosiak on the podcast to reflect on the story of the Awans, and its far broader significance for our nation.
What We Discussed
- How the Awans amassed so much power on Capitol Hill
- The breathtaking litany of criminality of the Awan conspiracy
- Why and how House Democrats and the Department of Justice covered up Awangate – and House Republicans enabled it
- Why Rosiak is confident members of Congress were blackmailed and are still susceptible to blackmail by the Awans, how deep the blackmail threat runs and why Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’s behavior proves it
- How politicians and bureaucrats put self-interest above national security
- The inextricably intertwined relationship between Russiagate and Awangate, and what both “investigations” say about the Deep State
- The Democrat-Media-Deep State collusion over Awangate
- Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her underlings’ role in rigging the Awan case for the Democrats’ benefit
- The government’s failure to do anything to prevent future Awans from infiltrating Congress
Thanks for Listening!
Check out other episodes at benweingarten.com/bigideas.
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The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Ben’s Opening Monologue
I’m Ben Weingarten, and this is Big Ideas with Ben Weingarten, a podcast where we talk with exceptional thinkers and doers about the most important ideas and issues of our time, and all time.
Mere minutes after recording the podcast you’re about to hear, a timely email hit my inbox with a comment from Speaker Pelosi. Fresh from a meeting with party leaders increasingly unable to silence the growing drumbeat of impeachment for President Trump, demanded by the insatiable Resistance out for blood, she said this.
This was amazingly ironic and hypocritical because after more than two years of Russiagate and now perhaps the unraveling of the conspiracy to concoct and perpetuate the Russiagate conspiracy theory and then cover it all up, Team Pelosi and her Democratic Party had concurrently engaged in a cover-up of epic proportions involving a massive cybersecurity breach conducted by one or several individuals connected to an adversarial foreign power where justice appears to have truly been obstructed.
The story that I am talking about concerns a narrative that was never able to compete with that of treasonous Russian collusion because it would’ve been too damaging for Democrats to allow, and because of the ineptitude at best, and fecklessness if not worse of their political opponents. There were few if any people with the nation’s interest at heart, and those who were outgunned and outmanned by the people who had a vested interest in covering it up.
It is a story that would have been unbelievable if my guest hadn’t written it.
In fact, Luke Rosiak was one of the only investigative journalists to pursue it — which is a story in and of itself.
The story of Imran Awan, his family members and associates goes far beyond an illegal equipment procurement scheme, or no-show government jobs, or fraud, blackmail, extortion, or even a cybersecurity breach by actors again with extensive ties to an adversarial foreign power.
It goes to our republican government, and our system of justice – or lack thereof.
When looked at through the lens of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, Russiagate, and now Spygate, the parallels are striking. But in some ways the story of the Awans is even more demoralizing in part because there was no great unraveling of the cover-up or the crimes. Sure an investigative journalist has laid out all the publicly available details, but Congress and law enforcement care not to bring people to justice. On the contrary, as you’ll hear they tried to crush those seeking out justice.
The more you learn about what transpired in the Awan case, the worse the stench of the swamp, and the wider and deeper it seems to grow.
I had Luke Rosiak on the podcast to reflect on the story of the Awans, and its far broader significance for our nation – the subject of a real-life thriller about which as an American citizen you should not be thrilled – Obstruction of Justice: How the Deep State Risked National Security to Protect the Democrats. And, we might add based on Rosiak’s gripping account, “How the Republicans Cravenly Enabled It.”
Ben Weingarten: Luke, how powerful were Imran Awan and his family and associates on Capitol Hill, and how did they amass such power?
Luke Rosiak: Well, they worked for 20 percent of House Democrats including the head of the DNC [Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz [D-FL]], the Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus, the House Democratic Caucus, a lot of important groups, and they had access to all their data. And basically, the members of Congress agreed to put “no-show” workers on the payroll on their behalf, which is a huge violation of the rules. And they were downright afraid of these guys. So this is an issue of apparent blackmail in the House of Representatives from IT guys, who… Have close ties to Pakistan, who were spending significant portions of the year over in Pakistan who had ties to Hezbollah and Pakistani intel. This is one of the biggest national security breaches in our history and members of Congress who are still in office, are deeply, deeply afraid of these people. And when you think back to that video that some people may have seen where Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is threatening the Capitol Police, and you can kinda see the fear on her face, that’s the fear, that I sensed from all kinds of Democrats over the two years of my investigation into this case.
Ben Weingarten: In your book you do significant work in terms of the background of Imran Awan, his family and his associates. The first question that someone looking at this case would probably ask is, “How did they ever get these IT jobs that put them in such close contact with the most sensitive materials — namely the communications and documents that House members had access to — how did they ever obtain those posts in the first place, given the sketchy nature, to say the least, of the backgrounds of [Imran] Awan and many of his associates?
Luke Rosiak: Well, I think Imran Awan, the oldest brother, weaseled his way into the job just by a kind of charming personality. And from there what started was a criminal theft scheme where Democrats added into their payroll because financial fraud was going on, and they were embezzling money from taxpayers and they were stealing it.
And so, for example, Yvette Clarke, Congresswoman from Brooklyn, her chief of staff, basically her deputy chief of staff blew the whistle and said, “My chief of staff is working with Imran Awan the IT guy to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from the office.” And sure enough, 10 percent of Yvette Clarke’s office budget had gone missing. That’s enough for 15 computers for every staffer. That doesn’t happen by accident. The chiefs of staff were signing off on fraudulent invoices that were prepared by Imran Awan, and the scheme was to embezzle funds from the United States.
So this started as a corruption scheme in the House of Representatives, and the twist is after these guys had that corruption scheme as leverage over the Democrats, then they kind of escalated, and this turned into a hack where they were stealing the data and funneling it out of the House of Representatives.
Ben Weingarten: And you write that Imran Awan’s crimes and again those of the others that in effect were partaking in a conspiracy of sorts, cumulatively cover the charges against Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen and that’s before we even get to the issues implicating national security or ethics disclosure violations and the like. Could you walk through as concisely as you can the litany of criminality here?
Luke Rosiak: Sure, so what they were doing as far as the theft scheme that we just discussed is — you know how when you buy something with petty cash, and a lot of offices, it’s not really tracked — that’s what they were doing is they were making big purchases and they were falsifying the invoices so that it showed up as petty cash. And so, there are just a huge number of paper records in the House of Representatives that are clearly falsified where they’ll buy like a 2,000 dollar computer and they’ll say that it costs only 400 dollars because if it’s 400 dollars it’s counted as petty cash. So that’s fraud, that’s falsifying a government invoice for the purposes of financial enrichment, and you can go to prison for it. Paul Ryan had those invoices. Nancy Pelosi has those invoices. They’re there. That fraud was proven on day one of this case.
And then you look into, what else are these guys doing? Well, they’re logging into members of Congress’ computers, who they don’t work for, and they’re taking data that they have no business accessing; they’re impersonating members of Congress; they stole the identity of an intelligence aid to Andre Carson, who’s a member of the [House Permanent Select] intelligence committee. These things are criminal fraud as well, and they’re easily proven. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of ’94 says If you make unauthorized access to a computer of the US government, that’s a felony. The server logs show it. That’s the great thing about computers is they leave a trail of everything, and the trail is proof. And the House had this proof. So they were hacking, they were stealing, they were committing fraud.
They took 100,000 dollars from Hezbollah and laundered it through an LLC they set up called “CIA.” This was a car dealership ostensibly in Northern Virginia, which is the same way that Hezbollah often launders money into the US, and this is testified under oath in local court in an unrelated court manner that it came out that they were laundering money from Hezbollah, and so that’s also proven. And what they did is they hid it from the House by perjuring themselves on financial records. So these guys each made as much money as a congressman themselves, they made 170,000 dollars each. That’s as much as its chief of staff and a congressman. No one else makes that much money on Capitol Hill. These guys, this Pakistani family called the Awans, were the highest paid and the most powerful family on Capitol Hill, and it’s just simply not normal. And so they have these money laundering entities that they had, and they perjured themselves on their House disclosures that you have to file when you’re a high-ranking highly paid staff, so that’s additional perjury.
So these are things that are… And then to your point, it goes on, you look into these guys’ personal lives, they’re blackmailers, and they’re fraudsters. That’s what they do. They commit tax fraud. They commit bankruptcy fraud. They threatened to murder people — their own wife, Imran Awan’s own wife came forward and said, “He threatened to kill me.” His stepmom came forward and said, “He threatened to kill me.” This is as they came forward and said what they knew about his activities on Capitol Hill — they would be murdered, or their family would be murdered in Pakistan. Some of these things were testified to as well in sworn depositions in court proceedings.
So all of this is right out in the open. Any first year prosecutor could make these charges, and as you mentioned, yes, it’s the kind of thing Paul Manafort did, sure, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg for what the Awans did.
This is a story about blackmail in the House of Representatives, extortion in the House of Representatives and frightening, frightening connections to very very bad people, through people that had access to all the data of some of the highest-ranking Democrats on some of the most sensitive committees. So that’s the big issue here. There’s a lot going on… There’s a lot of threads to pull on the investigation, but underlying all of it, at its most basic level is a bunch of court documents and government documents that instantly proved serious crimes. And so when the prosecutors decided to give full immunity to Imran Awan and everyone else involved and say, “We found nothing,” that is a lie right there because even if you set some of the most complex and most important and serious issues aside, pretty serious crimes that are easily documented were right there in plain view.
So that gets to the point of, these guys were protected by Democrats in Congress, but also by people in the Department of Justice, and they weren’t protecting them because they wanted to protect the Awans themselves. They were indirectly protecting themselves, because if the Awans went down for hacking Congress and stealing, they would turn around and they would implicate members of Congress for their roles in the theft scheme and for their incompetence that allowed these hackers to steal all that data.
And then, of course, the elephant in the room with all of this is the fact that this is Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’s IT guys who got caught hacking Congress the same week that the DNC [Democratic National Committee] was hacked, and as soon as you arrest this person, if you were to arrest this person, the Russia narrative goes off the rails because there’s gonna be media attention.
And so what it comes down to is that, the hack was discovered by an appointee of Nancy Pelosi, the House Inspector General, following whistleblowing attempts by other Democrats like the deputy chief of staff for Yvette Clarke. It was discovered in June of 2016. So that is the seminal moment where the rest of narrative started to take hold. This was a very important time for the narrative that two years later we have come to realize was this whole Russia hoax that was very deliberately fabricated — this narrative… They would have lost control of the narrative if they had arrested the hacker that was caught in the House of Representatives.
So, what you realize is, they caught him in June and they let him stay on the network until Trump’s inauguration. So for six months, Democrats made the decision that they would rather let a major national security breach on our country take place, then do something that might jeopardize Hillary’s Clinton’s chances of winning the presidency. And that’s a really frightening thing. And I think I’ve become more cynical over the years of reporting the story because I used to think that we all cared about — I took Democrats at their word that they cared about hacking when they talked about the DNC. What happened with the Imran Awan cover-up shows that Democrats are preposterously bad at technology, and when they covered an actual hack, they put politics ever national security, and it’s a really frightening thing.
Ben Weingarten: Yeah, I think it’s very clear where the incentives are for Democrats in the House to quash any sort of investigation into malfeasance of their own staffers, especially staffers who have had access to they’re most sensitive, again, communications and documents. But as for why the Department of Justice, as well as the Capitol Police, the FBI — why it seems they all were engaged in a cover-up, what was the motive for covering it up, and why was Imran Awan brought into court and charged on effectively a bank fraud case rather than dealing with all of these other issues? Because what you seem to imply in the book, and actually you make it pretty explicit, is that it seems like that case was used for the investigators to try to spy on those investigating them, in effect, to figure out what the evidence was that was being collected on Imran Awan so that they could then quash it. Do I have that right?
Luke Rosiak: That’s fascinating Ben. I think you’re right, although I’ve never thought of it exactly in those terms, but yes, that is probably exactly what happened.
The interesting thing about this book, and I wrote this book Obstruction of Justice to read like a novel even though it’s very much a true story because most people have never heard of this case, and you should care about it because it’s kind of the true story of collusion and foreign meddling and hacking and cover-ups. But it’s also just kind of a story of personal failings ’cause that’s what ultimately… We’re all human. And so you read this story, and it’s just kind of so colorful with some of the interesting characters, and what you realize through the course of this plot unfolding is that one at a time, people of both parties in Washington DC sell out our national interest for their personal reputation.
And so what I mean by that is, there’s a guy who was a Republican who was in charge of the House for Paul Ryan, Phil Kiko, the chief administrative officer. And he basically agrees to bend over backwards for the Democrats ’cause he knows they’re gonna win the next year, and sure enough he still has his job. And so there were threats to him, to his job, they were bullying him and he kind of wanted to preserve his 180,000 dollar job over doing the right thing. And sure enough, that’s why Nancy Pelosi has a Republican as the chief administrative officer mow. That’s exactly why he has that job. And the situation of unfolds again and again where the Democrats trick the Republicans into thinking, “Hey, although this will be better for our country and for your party to take action, we’re going to make it harmful for you personally.” And so a lot of people make the decision that “Holy cow. What I’ve seen is incredible… Something has to be done. But hey, at the end of the day, it’s not really my job. Someone else should step up. After all, what I’ve seen is so big that surely the CIA is on the case,” or something like that. And so, people repeatedly came into contact with this larger-than-life story and kind of just hope that someone else would deal with it, and there was a lot of passing the buck, and a lot of manipulation by the Democrats.
And so Imran Awan was a serial manipulator, and that’s how he got his way into Congress, but then he had this operator for Nancy Pelosi who’s kind of a central figure in the book, and he manipulates all the Republicans around him through this pretty complicated maneuvering — ’cause that’s what he is, he’s a political operator, he’s good at it — kinda tricking the Republicans into thinking that they didn’t need to do anything or shouldn’t do anything. And one of the ways that they did that is by saying “This is a criminal matter, and we can’t talk about it or know about it because it’s an ongoing investigation.” And so it’s kind of like the bluffing that Adam Schiff did, right? “Trust me, there’s an excuse for everything. It’s just super secret. I can’t tell you what it is.” And so they did that for two years ’cause they wanted to just run out the clock until really the 2018 election.
But the book is called “Obstruction of Justice: How the Deep State Risked National Security to Protect the Democrats.” So it has that word “Deep State” in there.
Deep State means two things to me in the context of this book. The first is probably what most people think of is that the sort of power doesn’t lie in our government where we think it does. It’s not with Jeff Sessions. It’s not with the cabinet heads. They’re almost figureheads. The power is with sort of the SES-level [Senior Executive Service] employees. So you can change the figure heads, and it’s kind of like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. The same people are still there, underneath them, who are making all the decisions.
But then the second thing is, over in Congress, the Democrats — when Paul Ryan was in charge of the House, the Democrats actually exerted far more influence than you would think they would because they were working the back channels and they had… Institutions… Like the chief administrative officer and the Administration committee, where the Democrats knew more about how government works, had been in their jobs longer, they were savvier and they were more aggressive. And so you see this portrait where they’re just running circles around Paul Ryan. And Paul Ryan comes across as kind of a doofus in this story.
And so at the end of the day, yeah, this is a government that’s not at all being run by the people you would think it is, and the Democrats basically set up a position where the DOJ realized that they would have a whole lot of angry Democrats on their hands if they did their job by prosecuting these serious national security crimes, and meanwhile the Republicans were just kind of gagged and apathetic.
Ben Weingarten: Substantively what damage was done, or could have been done to our national security based upon the cyber threat posed by [Imran] Awan and his colleagues?
Luke Rosiak: So first of all, they took basically all the data of 20 percent of Congress. They worked disproportionately for members of the Intelligence Committee… Foreign Affairs Committee and Homeland Security Committee. They also — the primary site of their hack was the House Democratic Caucus, which is kind of the DNC sister group, and they were funneling all of this data off the network, and then they were sending computer devices and data to Pakistan. And the business partner of Imran Awan, when you Google him and you realize what he’s up to in Pakistan over the years, he comes up with this business partner. And so I contacted this business partner to see what’s up from people that knew Imran Awan for years. Imran’s a Pakistani national. And he said, “Imran Awan gives USBs of data to Pakistani intel.” He gave me the names of the people that he said he was giving it to.
I didn’t witness that transaction. I don’t know how you prove it. But it was a credible allegation. And the FBI refused to contact this guy, even though he’s on the record, desperately saying, “You gotta look into this.” And so that is pretty likely that Imran Awan was giving data to Pakistani intel.
And then you recall what I mentioned earlier about the 100,000 dollars from Hezbollah that was… Money-laundered into Imran Awan while he was working for members of the Intelligence Committee. So right there, that’s kind of — we’ve got data potentially going to Pakistani ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence], and also to Hezbollah in Iran.
But then, the primary thing, and this is kind of funny because you have all these national security threats, but then you look into Imran Awan’s personal life and you just talk to people that know him, a portrait of sort of petty blackmail emerges. That’s what this guy does. He’s a blackmailer and extortionist, even just in the most silly, petty ways. He was renting a house to someone and he threatened to sue for a couple of thousand bucks because the flowers in her garden were dead in the winter. And of course, flowers die in the winter. That’s a crazy thing to say, but he said, “When I turned over this house to you in the spring, you had flowers in the garden. Why did you destroy my property?” And so he is just kind of a lunatic that uses the force of law… And threats for financial gain.
So I always thought that extortion and blackmail was the primary issue here, notwithstanding the connections to foreign governments which are deeply troubling. These members of Congress I truly believe, based on my 10 years of being an investigative reporter, working for The Washington Post, and elsewhere, this is one of the biggest scandals. And Newt Gingrich who wrote the foreword for this book said this is probably the biggest scandal in congressional history.
I believe members of Congress were blackmailed by this family including Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and that they are still susceptible to blackmail. These guys had all their data, probably still do, and so at that point, they can control how they [the congressmen] vote, but they could control any number of things because these members of Congress are deathly afraid of the data that these guys have. Frankly, you don’t have to have emails — the politically damaging emails and the semi-sketchy stuff that you would see if you were to look at any congressman’s emails that gives you a lot of leverage. This is not to say that all these congressmen are committing crimes or something… But when you’re a congressman, anything embarrassing or politically sketchy or personally weird… They [the Awans] have extraordinary leverage.
And so when he [Imran Awan] snuck into the House of Representatives after he was banned, he stole Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s laptop, and he left it in a phone booth for the police to find. And I took that as a warning shot. “I know we’re on the same side here, but you guys better get me out of this because don’t forget, I’ve got all your data. And don’t try me. I will release it.” And sure enough, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz threatens to disband the Capitol Police if they don’t, basically drop the investigation into this. She spends her life savings hiring an outside lawyer to help Imran Awan.
These are all things that are documented in government records. You can see some of them on video.
And then he [Imran Awan] steals the identity of an intelligence aide for Andre Carson, and… Basically they shut off his email address when he’s banned, but they don’t arrest him.
And so what you see is sort of obstruction of justice, where the evidence starts disappearing — the server, the main server they had hacked disappears completely at one point…Just insane stuff that is not at all things that should be happening in a First World country. And you would think that if these things happened, someone would have told us.
And so, all these things happen, kind of incrementally from 2015 really onwards to 2018, and at the end of the day, Imran Awan was given full immunity by prosecutors, and they, sort of the Democrats implanted the narrative that this is a conspiracy theory. But I don’t know if you’ve read the book Ben or not, but I hope that your listeners read it because when you read it, there’s really no specific fact in the book that you can quibble with. It’s very clear what happened. It’s all documented. You cannot make the argument that this is a conspiracy theory.
This is a frightening major thing that occurred. And it’s bad what the Pakistani guys did, but the other side of it that bothers me more Ben, is that the people that we elected and that we entrusted that are government officials were willing to rig a case of this scale. And you combine it with what we know they did with the Russia hoax, and the Hillary server investigation, and you realize that this is systemic, and my G-d, the things that are in this book… People compare it to a spy novel all the time because it’s truly over the top. There’s murders. There’s bars of gold… Computer equipment turns up in an elevator shaft. You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.
But the fact that no one was going to tell us about any of this stuff, despite there being police reports documenting all of it, the brazen lies that were told not just by the Awans and their Hillary Clinton-connected defense attorney, but by prosecutors and FBI agents, and the threats against witnesses by FBI agents… Really shocks the conscience. And it makes you wonder… My G-d. What else is going on that we haven’t found out about? Because, not to toot my own horn, I was kind of the only reporter who was on this case. And if I didn’t write this book, this story would never be known. And it’s a pretty shocking thing to have happened.
And so, my perspective on a lot of things has kinda changed since writing this book… The government, the DOJ problems with politicization and dishonesty go far beyond what we ever knew in ways that really make me wonder what else are they hiding.
Ben Weingarten: In your view, why were you among the only journalists in Washington covering the story of the Awan brothers? In the book, you write about the fact that obviously there’s a level of Trump Derangement Syndrome, and people are chasing every Trump-related story and the competing Russiagate, and then now, Spygate narrative. What I wonder is, is there potentially also in some sense collusion between the Deep State and media figures to “deep-six” this story, the likes of which we saw on the Russiagate side as well?
Luke Rosiak: Yeah, and these stories are intrinsically linked. The only difference is this is the most successful Deep State cover-up operation because most people didn’t read about it. And even though most of what we read about Russia was false, at least there was ultimately sort of a deconstruction of that hoax. But it was all part of the same cover-up. And the underlying dynamic in the book is this axis between the Democrats, the media and Department of Justice. And I think that’s such an important issue. And when you read this book, Obstruction of Justice, you kinda learn the techniques, and you see the plotting and the strategy that they use to make this happen where they leak false details, they tell the Republicans, “You’re not allowed to talk to the media,” but the Democrats talk to media anyway.
And… Basically, the Democrats are just much better at working the media, and obviously the media is naturally predisposed to be on their side anyway. But I was shocked and disgusted by the media’s unwillingness to look into a story that had to do with cybersecurity on Capitol Hill and that was clearly documented.
It was amazing how they would do things like “Conservative media claims that the Capitol Police wrote a report saying that the House Democratic Caucus server went missing while it was the subject of a felony hacking investigation.” Like, there’s literally a police report. There’s a six-page document by the chief administrative officer. There’s sergeant-at-arms memos. These are things that could have been obtained… Documents that are a matter of public record and they would sort of attribute it to “conservative media,” instead of doing their own investigation on something that is clearly newsworthy.
And so, I always… When the emails got hacked from the DNC, I thought the Democrats were right to make it a big deal. Hacking is where so much of war goes on in the modern era. And I was shocked when it turned out that they weren’t sincere in that belief that hacking was a big deal. It turns out they only pretend hacking is a big deal when it feels like they can help them win an election.
Hacking is a big deal. We are sort of at cyber war. And so much of our activities are conducted online nowadays. But the media was disinterested at best. And it’s so funny because the Washington Post when they would finally write about the story — as I said one of the many women who came forward and said, “Imran Awan is threatening to have me murdered. He’s clearly like a hacker, and blackmailer, and extortionist and just a horrible dude, and he’s obstructing justice, and destroying evidence, and threatening witnesses — I had all this on the record from this stepmom. She went to court here in Virginia and put it all [in a] sworn deposition. And the Washington Post finally writes about it, and they go “an unflattering portrait of Imran Awan’s family life emerged according to the Daily Caller.” That’s one way to put it. I mean, here we’ve got this guy that’s under investigation for hacking Congress and had access to all the data on Capitol Hill, and then his own stepmom and his own wife are saying, sure enough, he uses his IT skills to blackmail and surveil me to come up with information that he can use to blackmail and extort me. I think that’s kinda relevant. I think that’s not about his family life.
But just the dishonesty was shocking about the things that the media wants to be true, and then versus a big story like this where the media is sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. People would say, “Why are you spending time on… That weird story. It doesn’t get much attention.” I don’t care what gets attention by others. All I can do is make the judgment for myself what’s a big deal. This was one of the biggest things to ever happen in congressional history, and to some extent even on the conservative side, I think people are influenced by the mainstream media because what you hear about most feels like a big story. And that’s the fundamental dishonesty here is that the media is being dishonest in what they’re telling us about and what they choose to elevate as a big story. There’s so much partisanship built in on that.
And then the last thing I’ll say about that is… I got into investigative reporting because I wanted to speak truth to power. And a lot of the media nowadays is the opposite. And they don’t wanna do any investigating. They want to kind of just sit on the shoulders of government investigators and just tell you what they found.
And so you rig — the narrative is the most important thing, ’cause that’s what informs voters. They rigged this criminal investigation essentially because that’s the upstream way of breaking the narrative. What I mean by that is, if you’re a lazy reporter, you’re not gonna do any investigation. You’re gonna say, “According to the DOJ, Imran Awan didn’t do anything wrong, ’cause he wasn’t charged.” And that gives you an out, because when you do the investigation, yourself, you see that he very much did do these things regardless of what the DOJ might say.
And so this started about a story that wasn’t in my view partisan at all when I started looking into it. I thought it was some bad dudes that pulled a con on some unsuspecting members of Congress. But it turned into something much worse where it was members of Congress, and it was DOJ officials who were lying and covering it up to political ends. And I think at the end of the day, that’s the most disturbing, and that’s an issue that we’re still grappling with.
Ben Weingarten: You’ve written about other cases of staffers obtaining information in an unauthorized fashion. I’m thinking here of Jackson Cosko for example… More broadly, based on what you observed in the case of the Awans, do you think there are countless other Awans representing other foreign powers potentially who have infiltrated our government, and also civil society institutions?
Luke Rosiak: That’s a good question… Where the book ends, this kind of very depressing epilogue, backs up and reveals that over the years, there had been numerous instances where it became very clear that the House of Representatives had a very, very sloppy IT infrastructure, and they kept saying, “Oh geez, we’re so stupid. We gotta fix this.” And they never did. And even after the Awans, they never fixed it.
So Jackson Cosko was a Senate IT aide who had the same job as Imran Awan, but on the Senate side. And so he was a convicted felon that got hired by [Senator] Maggie Hassan… From New Hampshire, even though he was a felon. And she gave him access to all of her data, and he eventually did something really bad that she refuses to say what it was, and he got fired. And so then he just starts stewing with resentment that he’s fired. And so what he does is he gets into cahoots with a second Maggie Hassan staffer named Samantha DeForest-Davis. And the two of them worked together. She’s still on the inside. And she gets him a key and she helps him break into the office at three in the morning. And they put key loggers in the computers. So key loggers are an astonishing… It’s like a spy device. It’s like a little thing that every single time you hit your keyboard, it’s beaming the data back to him.
So he got all the passwords on the Senate side that way, and then he would break in and use those passwords and access all that data. And he was using this to blackmail members of Congress. And eventually, he got caught at the [Justice] Kavanaugh hearings because basically he used the data that he stole from Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan to doxx Republicans. And then when he got caught, he tried to blackmail witnesses who were Democratic staffers and said, “If you tell anyone, I’m gonna release all the data that I stole.”
So this is kind of a mini version of the Awans that happened after the Awans. The difference was this guy actually was charged, but Samantha his accomplice has not been charged.
And so, it comes down to… And again, actually when you read the book, I started to say something about Democrats, but the book is actually quite non-partisan. And I would say Republicans come across worse in it then Democrats do just because they’re such pushovers, and they’re so easily manipulated. The Democrats — at least they’re savvy and maybe kind of nefarious what they’re doing, and a little bit diabolical, but hey, it’s kind of cool to see them be at least good at their jobs.
But regardless of party, politicians care about their reputation more than anything else. That’s kind of the fundamental theme that emerges in this book. And I bring that up because the screw-ups, the constant IT screw-ups and the lack of oversight in the House of Representatives looks bad for them for all of them ’cause they should’ve learned. They should have learned that after the Awans, and they should’ve learned before the Awans. And they never learned. And so the incentive, as you indicated earlier, then is to make this go away because, otherwise, it exposes the… Members of Congress of all parties of incompetence. And that’s actually one of the ways that they got Paul Ryan to kind of seed this investigation over to the Democrats, even though he was in charge.
Number one, they [the Democrats] said, “It’s our staffers, and so we’re not gonna cooperate unless you let us be in charge.” And number two, “Hey, you were in charge, and all this happened on your watch. And we’re gonna pin it all on you and say you’re the nincompoop who let all this happen,” which, they had a valid point because so many of the House rules had been violated without Paul Ryan’s people stopping them, that they basically turned it around on the Republicans.
Ben Weingarten: Yeah, since you mentioned Speaker Ryan, and the failings of his administration to deal with this, how closely was Nancy Pelosi implicated in this, and how does her involvement in the whole Awan case impact your evaluation of her as Speaker today? What’s the bearing of her involvement in the Awan case on her speakership right now?
Luke Rosiak: Nancy Pelosi is absolutely central to the manipulation in this book mostly through one of her staffers who is called “the puppeteer… ” On Capitol Hill he’s known sometimes as “the mayor” of Capitol Hill, and sometimes as “the puppeteer” ’cause he’s so good at manipulating people. He’s named in the book and I guess I won’t say it now ’cause it’ll leave a little curiosity gap to pick up the book, but this is a well-known person on Capitol Hill, who is known as Nancy Pelosi’s shadiest and most cunning operator — and sort of fixer is I guess what you would call it. And so he is the key manipulator in this book. And any time he’s doing something, it’s on behalf of Nancy Pelosi.
But then we also have Nancy Pelosi’s general counsel is also involved threatening investigators. And ultimately what they do is they frame the House. Inspector General, who was originally appointed by Nancy Pelosi back in 2009, the last time she was Speaker. And Paul Ryan kept her on ’cause she was so good at her job. So Nancy Pelosi’s people framed her for a crime, and drove her out of government, in order for the express purpose of killing this investigation.
So from the outside, most people never heard of it, and it seems kind of like off-the-beaten-path thing, but that’s the whole point. And this book kind of documents how you come to rig a case of this scale. And it was done by Nancy Pelosi and people who are… It takes you really behind the scenes on Capitol Hill in a way that I think no other book ever has. And what people know. Who’ve worked on the Hill… The staff does a lot of things on Capitol Hill. And so this is a book that if you’re really finding out how things are rigged on Capitol Hill, it’s gonna be done by the staff. And so, Nancy Pelosi is in the book, but also almost all the things in the book were taken by her very very top operator…working on her behalf.
Ben Weingarten: Is there anything that has been done since this case to prevent future Awans from potentially engaging in these massive data breaches that threaten our national security?
Luke Rosiak: So if you can believe it, what they had them do is sign a piece of paper saying, “I promise to follow the rules.”
Literally, you can’t make this up. That’s what they did.
And so, there was an issue where the House administrators, when they uncovered a hack, that the Democrats forced them to never talk about this publicly, but I have the documents (it’s online and things like that) — they caught them violating basically every policy in the House of Representatives, and they wrote a memo saying, “There’s ‘re a severe and urgent threat and we need to immediately change all the locks on the entire House of Representatives and we need to make sure these guys never set foot on it again.”
What happened is, the Democrats say “We are independent members of Congress who were elected by our voters, and we have no other boss. You can’t tell us what to do.” And so there was this tension between protecting the nation, and enforcing the rules of the House, juxtaposed with the autonomy that is important for a member of Congress.
And so you had two things as it relates to keeping the FBI beholden to them and making sure the FBI didn’t meddle too much: They had the Speech and Debate clause… And also the separation of powers.
So both of those things are clauses in the Constitution that basically mean anything that happens in the House stays in-house if they want it to. They’re above the law. They have ways of dealing with this.
And then the second thing is just this idea that if you’re a member of Congress, you don’t have a boss. You have 600,000 bosses which voted for you. And it turned out that 600,000 bosses don’t do a very good job of overseeing people.
And so they try to make it so that if you hack Congress and you violated the rules, you would be fired. And they backtrack on that because they were bullied by Democrats and the instances that we’re really most prominently referring to was Debbie Wasserman-Schultz refusing to fire her IT guy who was a known hacker.
And so they were basically unable to implement any reforms, and what they did instead is some really, really superficial almost farcical stuff designed to tell themselves, that they did something and give themselves a nice pat on the back without actually fixing the problem.
Ben Weingarten: Lastly, at the end of this book, you give a little tease, which is you say that this story — the story of the Awans — isn’t even the half of it. What you include in the book is only a fraction of what you were able to investigate and observe and analyze. What are some of the other fruits of this poisonous tree that you discovered in your investigation?
Luke Rosiak: That’s a good question. So one of the roommates [of Imran Awan] is the head of IT for Customs and Border Patrol and immigration, rather. So you could imagine this person going in and bringing people into the country, changing the database.
Another close friend of his had an intelligence contract with the Obama White House, even though his job was working as a used car salesman.
These guys have… Further connections to really some of the IT people with inordinate access and people…Anyone these guys were hanging out with is a bad person, and they’ve still got people in these high-ranking roles and especially working in IT where again the IT guy is someone in the office who you typically don’t think of — he’s just some low level guy that’s out of sight, out of mind. But in this day and age, the IT guys are in some ways more important than the boss because he can go in and change data, he can read emails and things like that.
And so there are people still out there who are closely tied to the Awans who have faced no accountability, and even in Homeland Security and Border Patrol and things like that, which is… There’s been no investigation, no accountability. The FBI refused to interview most people. Those that they did interview they threatened, and even threatened to basically charge the witnesses instead of the suspects… The FBI — it was worth them not looking into it. They “lost evidence” and things like that. But this is still going on. Not only do the Awans have the data of the members of Congress who are still in office, but they have associates in all kinds of very high and frightening places.
Ben Weingarten: We talk a lot on this podcast about national security threats, and in particular, those domestic ones, and how the people doing the good work, the people who have US national interests at heart often get quashed, quelled, their stories are attacked in the media and the like. And what you’ve put together in this book, Luke, Obstruction of Justice: How the Deep State Risked National Security to Protect the Democrats is maybe as you put it kind of a novelesque, the best encapsulation of all of the problems facing our justice system, our national security system and our political system, and at the end of the day, really the consent of the governed, and their protection of their life and their liberty. So I thank you for writing this book and thanks so much for coming on the podcast.