Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.) told the U.S. Capitol Police chief in a bizarre and contentious exchange that there would be "consequences" if he did not return equipment that belonged to a staffer.
"I'd like to know how Capitol Police handle equipment that belongs to a member or a staffer that's been lost within the Capitol complex and found or recovered by one of your officers," Wasserman Schultz said during a Thursday subcommittee hearing on the Capitol Police budget.
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Chief Matthew R. Verderosa said the equipment would be processed, and that "generally" it would be returned once ownership was established. "If it's part of an ongoing case, then there are other things that have to occur for that to happen," he noted.
But the Florida Democrat and former DNC chairwoman continued to press the issue, stressing that she was asking about cases where the members themselves were not under investigation. Verderosa continued to say it depended on the circumstances and if there was an ongoing investigation.
The back and forth continued for three minutes. "If I—if a member loses equipment and it is found by the Capitol police or your staff and identified as that member’s equipment and the member is not associated with any case… it is supposed to be returned. Yes or no?" Wasserman Schultz asked.
"It depends on the circumstances," he repeated.
"I don't understand how that's possible," Wasserman Schultz responded.
Verderosa appeared to realize that the constant hypotheticals were really about a specific case.
"I think there's extenuating circumstances in this case and I think that working through my counsel and the necessary personnel, if that in fact is the case and with the permission of the investigation, we will return the equipment," he said. "But until that's accomplished, I can't return the equipment."
Wasserman Schultz was visibly upset.
"I think you're violating the rules when you conduct your business that way," she said, "and should expect that there would be consequences."
A police source told the Daily Caller that the "equipment" alluded to was actually a laptop belonging to Wasserman Schultz, stolen by an employee and stashed in a House office building.
Politico reported in March that the staffer in question, Imran Awan, was one of five Democratic House staffers under investigation for "stealing equipment from members’ offices without their knowledge and committing serious, potentially illegal, violations on the House IT network." Two weeks later, Fox News reported that Awan was still employed by Wasserman Schultz.