The right-wing Daily Caller published an “exclusive” report last September, alleging that Imran Awan, a former IT aide for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) — then the chairperson of the Democratic National Committee — had been banned from the House of Representatives for using a secret server.
The report claimed Awan had “allegedly routed data from numerous House Democrats to a secret server” and that police had grown suspicious after receiving a copy of the server with an “elaborate falsified image designed to hide the massive violations.”
Since then, conservative media has been obsessed with the conspiracy theory. The Daily Caller has published dozens of pieces about him, and speculation about Awan’s role has also reached Fox News, Fox Business, Breitbart, The Gateway Pundit, and other popular right-wing websites.
On Tuesday, however, the Department of Justice (DOJ) blew a hole in that conspiracy theory. Announcing that the aide, who was indicted in August on multiple charges, including bank fraud, had reached a plea deal with investigators, the DOJ said it found no evidence of wrongdoing in his handling of House computer systems.
— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) July 3, 2018
“The Government has uncovered no evidence that your client violated federal law with respect to the House computer systems,” they stated. “Particularly, the Government has found no evidence that your client 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, including classified or sensitive information.”
In July 2017, Awan was arrested at Dulles International Airport as he was attempting to board a flight to Lahore, Pakistan. Awan and four other congressional staffers had been under investigation on allegations of a procurement scam since earlier in the year.
According to Politico, Awan and his wife, Hina Alvi, “allegedly obtained $285,000 in home equity loans from the Congressional Federal Credit Union on two residential properties in Virginia” and then “transferred nearly all of those funds — $283,000 — to individuals in Faisalabad, Pakistan…. They repaid one loan, but failed to repay $165,000 from another loan.”
While he was being investigated, Awan and the four other staffers were barred from using the House computer networks, prompting the Daily Caller to publish its “exclusive” report, which claimed the ban was instead due to Awan’s alleged private server use.
Prior to the DOJ’s statements Tuesday, several prominent conservatives were busy spinning the news that Awan had reached a plea deal as a sign that Democrats would be hurt by the development. Others, like Project Veritas’ Laura Loomer, claimed the mainstream media was working with Democrats to purposely cover up the news.
The MSM must be sleeping…with the Democrats.
No coverage about this at all today.
What a snooze fest. https://t.co/GEOXX4qbUF
— Laura Loomer (@LauraLoomer) July 3, 2018
JUST IN: Imran Awan pleads guilty to Federal Bank Fraud in deal to cooperate with prosecutors as Democrats brace for impact
— Jacob Wohl (@JacobAWohl) July 3, 2018
Once the plea deal was made public, however, many of those same voices fell silent.
On Tuesday, David Damron, Wasserman Schultz’s spokesperson, referenced the right-wing conspiracy theory and conservative media spin while discussing Awan’s guilty plea. “We rely on our justice system to produce a fair result, after a considered, objective review,” Damron said. “That role is even more important at a time when Donald Trump and his allies spread dangerous distortions with the intent of falsely smearing his political opponents.”
Awan’s attorney, Christopher Gowen, went further, saying the “repugnant behavior went straight to the top.”
“This was all made up, for purposes of clickbait, Fox News stories, and political opportunism,” he said. “And yes, this repugnant behavior went straight to the top. Just weeks ago, the president of the United States tweeted again alleging that Imran was responsible for a missing Democratic Party server. Like so many irresponsible, misleading or simply untrue tweets from the President, this allegation displayed a complete lack of respect for law enforcement.”
Awan will be sentenced on August 21 and faces up to six months in prison.