DOJ Defies Trump, Cuts Sweetheart Deal with Central Figure in House IT Scandal
In an extraordinary turn of events, federal prosecutors say Imran Awan is innocent, directly contradicting congressional investigators
Federal prosecutors on Tuesday entered a plea deal with Imran Awan, ringleader of the Pakistani family at the center of the House IT scandal, and in the process defied President Donald Trump and explicitly contradicted congressional investigators who described the group as “an ongoing and serious risk to the House of Representatives.”
In a statement to the court, Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors said they “found no evidence that [Imran] illegally removed House data from the House network or from House members’ offices, stole the House Democratic Caucus server, stole or destroyed House information technology equipment, or improperly accessed or transferred government information.”
The prosecutors told the court they would not object if Awan received probation, and they agreed to drop fraud-related charges against his wife. The deal means Awan is free to leave the country and won’t face prosecution in connection with his congressional employment.
The DOJ announcement flew directly in the face of Trump’s June 7, 2018, tweet saying, “Our Justice Department must not let Awan & Debbie Wasserman Schultz off the hook. The Democrat I.T. scandal is a key to much of the corruption we see today. They want to make a ‘plea deal’ to hide what is on their Server. Where is Server? Really bad!”
As part of the deal, Awan agreed to plead guilty to one count of bank fraud. He was arrested at Dulles International Airport in July last year just before boarding a flight home, having wired nearly $300,000 to Pakistan.
Just hours before his arrest, Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF) investigative reporter Luke Rosiak had revealed that Awan was the subject of an FBI investigation. Awan was subsequently represented by Chris Gowen, a Washington, D.C., attorney who was a former aide to Bill and Hillary Clinton.
The DOJ prosecutors did not explain how or why they reached a conclusion diametrically opposed to that of the House sergeant-at-arms Paul Irving and House chief administrative officer Phil Kiko.
In a six-page Feb. 3, 2017, memo labeled “URGENT” and addressed to the House Committee on Administration, Irving and Kiko described, according to Rosiak, “‘numerous and egregious violations of House IT security’ by members of the Awan family, including using Congress members’ usernames and ‘the unauthorized storage of sensitive House information outside the House.'”
“‘These employees accessed user accounts and computers for offices that did not employ them, without the knowledge and permission of the impacted member’s office,’ it said, adding, ‘Four of the employees accessed the Democratic Caucus computers 5,735 times.’ More than 100 office computers were open to access from people not on the office’s staff, it said.”
Previously, the House inspector general warned congressional leaders that evidence had been found concerning Awan’s group suggesting “steps are being taken to conceal their activity” and that their behavior mirrored a “classic method for insiders to exfiltrate data from an organization.”
Awan, two of his brothers, one of his wives, and at least one unrelated associate worked as IT aides for more than 40 House Democrats, beginning in the mid-2000s, including numerous members of the armed services, homeland security and intelligence committees.
Awan and his cohorts were able to access dozens of members’ office computer systems because they were employed as “shared” workers, with their compensation divided among the congressmen for whom they provided IT services.
Former Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) kept Imran and his wife, Alvi, on her payroll for months after their access to the House computer information system was withdrawn as a result of an internal investigation in February 2017.
At one point, Wasserman Schultz threatened the head of the U.S. Capitol Police with unstated “consequences” if a laptop computer from her office that Awan used was not returned to her.
It was during Wasserman Schultz’s tenure as DNC chief in 2016 that her committee’s computer system was hacked, allegedly by Russian interests.
Rosiak often has been the sole journalist working the House IT scandal. In addition to the cybersecurity and procurement fraud conclusions House investigators have reached, his reporting has included allegations of elder abuse, bigamy, and deceptive and misleading business practices in connection with a now-defunct luxury car sales operation and acceptance of funds from a Middle Eastern businessman, with extensive connections to the Hamas terrorist group, who is wanted by U.S. law enforcement authorities. (Editor’s note: From February to September 2017, prior to joining LifeZette in December 2017, LifeZette senior editor Mark Tapscott was Rosiak’s primary editor on the Awan story at the DCNF.)
Here’s a comprehensive link bank of Rosiak’s reporting on the House IT scandal.