“Congress Pays $850,000 to Muslim Aides Targeted in Inquiry Stoked by Trump,” reads the November 25 New York Times headline. According to the story, the previously unreported settlement is one of the largest to resolve discrimination or harassment claims, in this case by people who “lost their jobs and endured harassment in part because of their Muslim faith and South Asian origins.”
Reporters Noam Scheiber and Nicholas Fandos give no date for settlement and do not explain why it was “previously unreported.” Congress reportedly made the payment but the only House member quoted is Florida Democrat Ted Deutch, a leading figure in Democrats’ charge that candidate Donald Trump was guilty of collusion with Russia and a vocal proponent of impeaching President Trump.
“It is tragic and outrageous the way right-wing media and Republicans all the way up to President Trump attempted to destroy the lives of an immigrant Muslim-American family based on scurrilous allegations,” Deutch told Sheiber and Fandos. As they explain, the settlement was also “an attempt to bring a close to a convoluted saga that led to one of the most durable — and misleading — story lines of the Trump era.”
What started as “a relatively ordinary House inquiry into procurement irregularities by Imran Awan, three members of his family and a friend, who had a bustling practice providing members of Congress with technology support, was twisted into lurid accusations of hacking government information.” That side of the story could use more detail.
Of all the IT people in all the IT firms in all the world, House Democrats thought Imran Awan was best man for the job. Sometimes working from his native Pakistan, Awan and his family team accessed the computers of some 40 Democrats, including those on the intelligence and foreign affairs committees. Without their consent Awan and his team stashed the Democrats’ data on a server controlled by Xavier Becerra, chair of the House Democratic Caucus.
Capitol Police wanted a copy of the server but the one Awan produced turned out to be a fake. In February, 2017, Awan and his team got booted off the House computer network, but Becerra had already fled to California where Gov. Jerry Brown made him state attorney general. Becerra had nothing to say about Awan’s IT intrigue, and he got additional protection from federal judge Tanya S. Chutkan.
The Obama appointee repeatedly delayed Awan’s trial on bank-fraud charges, and the case did not become a factor in the 2018 election that kept Becerra in the AG slot. In August of 2018, Awan was sentenced to time served, his one day in detention and 11 months of GPS monitoring and three months’ supervision. Judge Chutkan was not content to let Awan off with nothing.
“There have been numerous allegations lobbed at him from the highest branches of the government,” she said, “all of which have been proved to be without foundation by the FBI and the Department of Justice.” In reality, Awan had never been formally charged with unauthorized possession of government material or anything of the sort. Judge Chutkan conveniently left out the context and background.
At the time, the upper reaches of the FBI and DOM were still involved in covert operations against duly elected President Donald Trump. For its part, the FBI had been known to look the other way at terrorist threats from Muslims. For example, as Lessons from Fort Hood confirms, the FBI knew Nidal Hasan was plotting with terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki to kill Americans, but the Washington office of the FBI deliberately dropped the case.
For FBI agents of that mindset, it would be an easy call to look the other way at Imran Awan’s security infractions, especially since one of his accusers was President Trump, the man FBI bosses were trying to take down. Trump wondered aloud about Awan’s capers, so Chutkan had to pronounce Awan innocent. By contrast, judge Emmett Sullivan continued to prosecute Trump’s national security advisor Michael Flynn, after new evidence showed he was entrapped by the FBI and after the DOJ dropped the case against him.
For further reading on the Awan case, see Spies in Congress by Frank Miniter and Obstruction of Justice: How the Deep State Risked National Security to Protect Democrats, by Luke Rosiak, target of lawsuit by Imran Awan. While that plays out, Joe Biden has tapped Xavier Becerra to head the Department of Health and Human Services, a position for which he is highly unsuited.
As California attorney general, Becerra worked three shifts filing lawsuits against the Trump administration. On the other hand, a killing spree of 19 murders and “medieval-style violence,” by the Salvadoran MS-13 gang in Los Angeles drew no special action. After a “reign of terror” claimed at least 14 victims in Mendota, Becerra made it clear he was not concerned with the gang’s “status.”
Senate Republicans may not be able to send Becerra packing but they could use the confirmation hearing to grill him on Imran Awan and the elusive server. Was anything possibly amiss? Or were Awan and his family simply persecuted for their Muslim faith and South Asian origins?
What goes around comes around. Special privilege for Muslims is back, with rewards for enablers and protectors. As President Trump says, we’ll have to see what happens.