Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the controversial former head of the Democratic National Committee, defended employing Imran Awan for six months after he had been banned from the network used by the U.S. House and fired by multiple other members of Congress. Wasserman Schultz told Florida newspaper Sun Sentinel, in an exclusive interview, that she did the right thing by maintaining his employment until he was arrested and affirmed that she would do it again.
"There are times when you can't be afraid to stand alone, and you have to stand up for what's right," Wasserman Schultz stated, claiming that it would have been easier for her to just fire him.
Ultimately, she did fire him, but only after he was arrested on charges of bank fraud. He was arrested while allegedly trying to flee the county to return to Pakistan. Hina Alvi, Awan's wife, had already fled to Pakistan, according to an FBI affidavit. The couple reportedly wired $283,000 to Pakistan in January, which included $165,000 from a home equity line of credit acquired from the Congressional Federal Credit Union. The home equity line of credit was acquired after Awan allegedly gave false information about two properties, according to Fox News.
Many conservatives and even progressives have suggested that Wasserman Schultz is hiding something that pertains to Awan, while Wasserman Schultz still asserts that there is no actual evidence that Awan did anything wrong involving his work with Congress's network while he was an IT worker. Wasserman Schultz claims that Awan might be being targeted simply because he is a Muslim. When multiple lawmakers fired Awan in February, Wasserman Schulz had her team create a new job that would allow Awan to continue to do work, Wasserman Schultz told Sun Sentinel.
"He didn't have access to the network, but he was able to give us guidance and advice and troubleshoot on a wide variety of other technological issues," Wasserman Schultz said. Wasserman Schultz said that Awan and his family had been under investigation for "procurement violations and data transfer violations," and had access to the House IT network revoked. She says that since members of Congress aren't allowed to store classified information on their computers, Awan never had access to that kind of information, a point that many of Debbie Wasserman Schultz's critics find laughable given that classified emails has been such a hot topic in recent politics.
Wasserman Schultz was chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee from 2011 to 2016. She resigned in July at the Democratic National Convention after WikiLeaks published internal DNC emails. Wasserman Schultz pointed out to Sun Sentinel that Awan never worked for the DNC.
Meanwhile, the Capitol Police recovered a laptop issued to Awan by her office. She says he accidentally left it somewhere and the Capitol Police had wanted to include it in their investigation. After a dramatic protest, Wasserman Schultz said she agreed to allow the police to look at the laptop that they refused to return to her. She was very clear that it wasn't her laptop and she had no idea what was on it.
Wasserman Schultz says that it's absurd to assume that Awan was trying to flee the country, because he filed for an unpaid leave of absence and even discussed his return dates with her chief of staff, Tracie Pough. Her faith in Awan is in contrast to the opinion noted in the FBI affidavit, which claimed Awan most likely did not intend to return to the United States.According to Politico, charges against Wasserman Schultz's former tech guy Imran Awan and his wife "include conspiracy to commit bank fraud; false statements on a loan or credit application; unlawful monetary transactions; and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions."
[Featured Image by Wilfredo Lee/AP Images]