News & Politics

Dem IT Staffer's Lawyer Blames 'Anti-Muslim Bigotry' and 'PizzaGate Media' for Arrest

The lawyer of Imran Awan — the House IT staffer who was arrested by the FBI Monday night after wiring $283,000 from the Congressional Federal Credit Union to Pakistan — is putting out the word to a sympathetic mainstream media that his client is a victim of “anti-Muslim bigotry” and the “ultra-right-wing pizzagate” media.

Two days after Awan was arrested at Dulles Airport trying to flee the country to Pakistan, ABC, CBS, and NBC finally ended their news blackout on the story, which was broken by BuzzFeed and Politico in early February.

NBC News:

Awan’s lawyer, Christopher Gowen, said the charges are politically-motivated and “began as part of a frenzy of anti-Muslim bigotry in the literal heart of our democracy, the House of Representatives.”

“For months we have had utterly unsupported, outlandish, and slanderous statements targeting Mr. Awan coming not just from the ultra-right-wing ‘pizzagate’ media but from sitting members of Congress,” Gowen said in an emailed statement.

“Now we have the Justice Department showing up with a complaint about disclosures on a modest real estate matter. To an extent, the situation speaks for itself.”

ABC News:

Gowen says the federal bank fraud count stems from a “modest real estate matter” and is motivated by anti-Muslim bigotry

He noted that Awan is an American citizen and said “this outrageous political prosecution” was forcing his children to live in squalor in Pakistan.

He said he’s confident Awan “will soon be able to clear his name and get on with his life.”

CBS:

Awan’s attorney railed against the charge in a statement to CBS News, saying that was a “modest real estate matter” exacerbated by “ultra-right-wing-media” and “anti-Muslim bigotry.” Awan, Gowen said, has been victimized, and the charges against him will not hold up in court. He added that Awan was not trying to flee the country — he just wanted to visit family members who were staying in Pakistan with other extended family because of financial troubles.

“They will stand and fight whatever charges are presented,” Gowen said about Awan and his wife. “Once they have prevailed, we will have a chance to more closely examine the ugly political and media dynamics that have driven this controversy from the beginning.”

The Washington Compost also belatedly filed a story on Wednesday.

“Check out the grabby, juiced-up, must-read, must-RT headline they gave this compelling set of facts?” quipped Ace of Spades.

CNN also ended its embargo. Again from Ace:

CNN did post an online recap of the story — pioneering the the innovative Don’t Read This Boring Story Which the Right Is Forcing Us to Mention format that the National Laughingstock later imitated:

Awan’s lawyer, Gowen, you’ll be amused to discover, “is a long-time campaigner for former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a member of an attorney team that brought a fraudulent lawsuit against energy giant Chevron,” according to The Daily Caller’s Mark Tapscott.

His official bio on the firm’s web site notes that he “left the Public Defender’s office to work for former President William Jefferson Clinton and then-Senator Hillary Clinton. Chris was a fact checker for President Clinton’s memoir, My Life.

“He also served as a traveling aid for President Clinton’s national and international trips. Chris finished his tenure with the Clintons by directing the advance operations for then-Senator Hillary Clinton during her 2008 presidential campaign.”

The so-called “ugly political and media dynamics” Gowen referenced began with a report in BuzzFeed on February 2:

According to the member, the chiefs of staff for 20 lawmakers were summoned to a closed-door meeting with House administration officials, who briefed them on the incidents. The chiefs were told the men were conducting a procurement scam, although officials acknowledged the men — who staff were told were brothers — had access to virtually all of the computer systems used by the affected lawmakers. Members were also told Thursday night to change the passwords to their email and other applications.

Politico also reported on February 2:

Five House employees are under criminal investigation amid allegations that they stole equipment from more than 20 member offices and accessed House IT systems without lawmakers’ knowledge.

Access to the House network was terminated for the five employees — four men and a woman — on Thursday afternoon, but it’s up to individual lawmakers to fire the staffers in question, according to a senior House official. The official said most members are proceeding with termination.

On February 4, Luke Rosiak of The Daily Caller News Foundation picked up the ball and has been running with it ever since. Many news outlets on the right — including PJ Media — have picked up the story while most of the mainstream media have ignored it. The vast majority of what is known about the case has come through Rosiak’s dogged reporting.

Needless to say, none of the news outlets involved with breaking the story are what any fair-minded person would call “ultra right-wing” or “pizzagate media.”

The U.S. Capitol Police has reportedly been conducting an active criminal investigation into this serious matter since late 2016. The DCNF reported on Sunday that the FBI had joined the investigation and seized smashed hard drives from Imran’s home. Awan’s arrest at Dulles Airport on bank fraud charges appears to be a “placeholder” to keep the suspect in the United States while the case is still being investigated.

According to The Daily Caller on Tuesday:

Democratic members of Congress, including Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York, have suggested that police had framed the Pakistani-born brothers out of Islamophobia. Yet his own stepmother, a devout Muslim, filed court documents accusing him of using high-tech devices to wiretap her and extorting her (see p. 23 of court documents in that case). A dozen people who have dealt with Imran painted a picture in interviews with TheDCNF of a charming, “cunning” extrovertwho bragged about his power among Democratic officials and who seemed to have an unquenchable thirst for cash.

The affidavit also paints him as an overly confident con artist, saying he listed his House phone number when initiating the wire transfer, and pretended to be a woman — his wife — on the phone when a Congressional Federal Credit Union questioned the transfer. “The person answering the call, who was a male, pretended that he was Alvi. On the call, the [bank] representative asked the man to verify the address of where the wire was being sent and the purpose of the outgoing wire,” the document says.

Imran claimed the $300,000 was for “funeral arrangements.”

“The CFCU representative then stated that ‘funeral arrangements’ may not be an acceptable reason for the wire. The male speaking to the representative then responded that he would look online for an acceptable reason for the wire. After a long pause, the male said that the reason for the wire was ‘buying property.’ The representative accepted that reason and initiated the wire transfer to Pakistan.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia told The DCNF that Awan:

…was arraigned today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on one count of bank fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1344. He pled not guilty and was released pursuant to a high-intensity supervision program. The conditions of release are that he receive a GPS monitor, he abide by a curfew of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and that he not leave a 50-mile radius of his residence in Virginia. Awan was also ordered to turn over all of his passports.

Luke Rosiak appeared on Fox Business’ Varney and Co. Wednesday to provide the latest details in the case.