Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's former information-technology staffer was cleared Tuesday of allegations that he stole classified information or illegally removed data from Congress' computer network.
As part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors, Imran Awan pleaded guilty to making a false statement on a bank-loan application after the federal government concluded an 18-month investigation that drew the attention of President Donald Trump and conservatives on Capitol Hill. Awan's wife, Hina Alvi, had bank-fraud charges against her dropped as part of the plea deal.
Awan was employed by Wasserman Schultz until he was arrested on the bank-fraud charges last July while attempting to leave the country. The Weston Democrat continued to keep Awan on the payroll for months even though other Democrats, including Miami Rep. Frederica Wilson, cut ties with him last February after he was accused of stealing computers and data systems.
Federal prosecutors said Tuesday they didn't find evidence that Awan used his access to sensitive information while working on Capitol Hill to break the law.
"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," prosecutors said in the plea deal. Awan will be sentenced on August 21 and will be released from electronic monitoring.
Wasserman Schultz's office said in a statement that Trump's public comments on the case as prosecutors negotiated a plea deal with Awan in recent weeks amounted to a smear campaign.
“We rely on our justice system to produce a fair result, after a considered, objective review," Wasserman Schultz spokesperson David Damron said in a statement. "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.”
Trump tweeted last month that Awan's access to sensitive information "is a key to much of the corruption we see today" as prosecutors began hammering out a plea deal.
“Our Justice Department must not let Awan & Debbie Wasserman Schultz off the hook,” Trump tweeted last month. “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!”
Wasserman Schultz's former primary opponent, Tim Canova, who is now running against the longtime congresswoman as an independent, has frequently posted reactions to stories from conservative media outlets about Awan's case. The former Democratic National Committee chairwoman is the target of frequent attacks and conspiracy theories from conservatives.
Federal prosecutors said their investigation included an analysis of computer equipment and other devices along with interviews with about 40 witnesses, according to The Washington Post.
“The amount of misinformation publicized by right-wing media, all the way up to the President, has created a false story,” Awan's attorney, Christopher Gowen, said in an interview with the Post.