The last time Ethics Alarms discussed Imran Awan was on August 11, 2017. Before we get to that, however, let me refresh your memory about the story, an example of the mainstream news media leaving the reporting of news damaging to Democrats to the so-called “conservative media,” so they could call the whole thing a fever dream of the Right.
Up to the moment he was arrested for bank fraud as he attempted to leave the country for Pakistan, Imran Awan was being paid by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former chair of the Democratic National Committee, former Hillary Clinton campaign staffer (added immediately and shamelessly after having to resign after being revealed as leading the rigging of the nomination against Bernie Sanders and for Hillary), and hilariously dishonest spinner for Barack Obama for eight years, as her trusted IT employee.
Aswan’s wife, Hina Alvi, was also in the family business of being paid by Democrats. She had already fled the country with her three young daughters. The Awans had fraudulenty acquired a $165,000 loan from the Congressional Federal Credit Union, and sent it home to Pakistan. Aswan’s position with the DNC and Wasserman-Schultz had given him and his relatives in various Hill IT departments years of access to the e-mails and electronic files of members of the House’s Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. They were at very least, the evidence shows, stealing computer equipment.
The Democrats fired all of the Awans except, oddly, for Awan himself, who stayed on Wasserman’s staff. The perpetually incompetent and shady Congresswoman kept him in a job that allowed access to the work product and communications of members of United States Congress right up until he was arrested.
Why were they given access to highly sensitive government information? Ordinarily, that requires a security clearance, awarded only after a background check that peruses ties to foreign countries, associations with unsavory characters, and vulnerability to blackmail. These characters could not possibly have qualified. Never mind access; it’s hard to fathom how they retained their jobs…the [Aswans were] involved in various suspicious mortgage transfers. Abid Awan [Imran’s brother], while working “full-time” in Congress, ran a curious auto-retail business called “Cars International A” (yes, CIA), through which he was accused of stealing money and merchandise. In 2012, he discharged debts in bankruptcy (while scheming to keep his real-estate holdings). Congressional Democrats hired Abid despite his drunk-driving conviction a month before he started at the House, and they retained him despite his public-drunkenness arrest a month after. Beyond that, he and Imran both committed sundry vehicular offenses. In civil lawsuits, they are accused of life-insurance fraud. Congressional Democrats hired Abid despite his drunk-driving conviction a month before he started at the House, and they retained him despite his public-drunkenness arrest a month after. Democrats now say that any access to sensitive information was “unauthorized.”
But how hard could it have been to get “unauthorized” access when House Intelligence Committee Dems wanted their staffers to have unbounded access? In 2016, they wrote a letter to an appropriations subcommittee seeking funding so their staffers could obtain “Top Secret — Sensitive Compartmented Information” clearances. TS/SCI is the highest-level security classification. Awan family members were working for a number of the letter’s signatories. Democratic members, of course, would not make such a request without coordination with leadership. Did I mention that the ranking member on the appropriations subcommittee to whom the letter was addressed was Debbie Wasserman Schultz? Why has the investigation taken so long? Why so little enforcement action until this week? Why, most of all, were Wasserman Schultz and her fellow Democrats so indulgent of the Awans?
The probe began in late 2016. In short order, the Awans clearly knew they were hot numbers. They started arranging the fraudulent credit-union loan in December, and the $283,000 wire transfer occurred on January 18. In early February, House security services informed representatives that the Awans were suspects in a criminal investigation. At some point, investigators found stolen equipment stashed in the Rayburn House Office Building, including a laptop that appears to belong to Wasserman Schultz and that Imran was using. Although the Awans were banned from the Capitol computer network, not only did Wasserman Schultz keep Imran on staff for several additional months, but [Representative Carrie] Meeks retained [ Awan’s wife] Alvi until February 28 — five days before she skedaddled to Lahore. Strange thing about that: On March 5, the FBI (along with the Capitol Police) got to Dulles Airport in time to stop Alvi before she embarked. It was discovered that she was carrying $12,400 in cash. As I pointed out this week, it is a felony to export more than $10,000 in currency from the U.S. without filing a currency transportation report. It seems certain that Alvi did not file one: In connection with her husband’s arrest this week, the FBI submitted to the court a complaint affidavit that describes Alvi’s flight but makes no mention of a currency transportation report. Yet far from making an arrest, agents permitted her to board the plane and leave the country, notwithstanding their stated belief that she has no intention of returning.
Many congressional staffers are convinced that they’d long ago have been in handcuffs if they pulled what the Awans are suspected of. Nevertheless, no arrests were made when the scandal became public in February. For months, Imran has been strolling around the Capitol. In the interim, Wasserman Schultz has been battling investigators: demanding the return of her laptop, invoking a constitutional privilege (under the speech-and-debate clause) to impede agents from searching it, and threatening the Capitol Police with “consequences” if they don’t relent. Only last week, according to Fox News, did she finally signal willingness to drop objections to a scan of the laptop by federal investigators. Her stridency in obstructing the investigation has been jarring.
As evidence has mounted, the scores of Democrats for whom the Awans worked have expressed no alarm. Instead, we’ve heard slanderous suspicions that the investigation is a product of — all together now — “Islamophobia.” … The Awans have had the opportunity to acquire communications and other information that could prove embarrassing, or worse, especially for the pols who hired them. 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?
Meanwhile, the New York Times was doing its part to advance the Axis of Unethical Conduct’s agenda by covering this as a Trump problem, in this hack job:: “Trump Fuels Intrigue Surrounding a Former I.T. Worker’s Arrest.”
In the last Ethics Alarms post about the Awan scandal, I wrote in part,
Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been unavailable to the news media, refusing to explain why she continued to employ Imran Awan, an IT staffer who was under a federal investigation for an alleged equipment and data scam in the U.S. House of Representative. She finally fired the Pakistan scamster on July 25, six months after learning that he was not to be trusted, and one day after authorities arrested him at the airport trying to feel Pakistan after wiring $283,000 there. She finally issued a written statement on the controversy, and it is about what I would have expected from her: shameless, brazen, and dishonest.
“As a mother, a Jew, and a Member of Congress, if there is one thing I know for sure, it’s this: my commitment to doing what’s right and just — even if it isn’t what’s easy and simple — is unyielding.Undoubtedly, the easier path would have been to terminate Mr. Awan, despite the fact that I had not received any evidence of his alleged wrongdoing. Over time, the investigation raised troubling concerns for me about fair treatment, due process, and potential ethnic and religious profiling.”
I asked, “What does being a mother and a Jew have to do with allowing a shady character to have access to her party members e-mail accounts and communications? Is she really saying that she believes it was more important to make a foolish grandstanding gesture against imagined anti-Muslim bias than to prevent a suspected criminal to have access to her party’s elected officials’ communications?
And now, the rest of the story:
A November 25 New York Times story was headlined, “Congress Pays $850,000 to Muslim Aides Targeted in Inquiry Stoked by Trump,” revealing that the previously unreported settlement is one of the largest to resolve discrimination or harassment claims. The Times called the Awans people who “lost their jobs and endured harassment in part because of their Muslim faith and South Asian origins.”
They lost their jobs because they were breaking the law, and any such employees would have been similarly treated.
Reporters Noam Scheiber and Nicholas Fandos give no date for the settlement and did not explain why it was “previously unreported.” It was previously unreported because the payment looks like hush money, and because the Times, like the rest of the news media, avoided any stories that might reflect negatively on Democrats until the election was over. And look! What a coincidence: the Times picked Thanksgiving Day to publish the story! I just caught it as I was throwing out old newspapers yesterday.
This has been a pattern in the handling of the Awan saga. Federal judge Tanya S. Chutkan, an Obama appointee, repeatedly delayed Awan’s trial on bank-fraud charges so it was not resolved until after the 2018 election, when the Democrats took control of the House. The party’s inexplicable choice of the Awan family to handle sensitive material on Democratic Party computers might have cost Democrats some votes. Can’t have that.
Meanwhile, I presume the payment means that the Awan family defamation lawsuit filed in January against The Daily Caller will quietly go away, so this embarrassing and mysterious episode won’t be re-opened for the public scrutiny it never received.