Politico

House Democrats fire two IT staffers amid criminal investigation

Written by Lisa

Two House Democrats fired technology staffers linked to an ongoing criminal investigation this week, more than a month after the husband-wife couple in question was barred from House computer networks.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) confirmed to POLITICO that Hina Alvi’s last day an as IT support staffer in his office was Tuesday. Her husband, Imran Awan, was working for Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) as of Tuesday evening but a spokeswoman for Fudge said midday Wednesday that Imran was no longer an employee.

Imran is still working for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) as a technology adviser, although he’s been blocked from accessing the House computer system since early February.

Alvi, Imran and three other House aides, including Abid Awan and Jamal Awan, relatives of Imran, and Rao Abbas, are all linked to the ongoing criminal investigation being conducted by the Capitol police.

The five current and former House staffers are accused of stealing equipment from members’ offices without their knowledge and committing serious, potentially illegal, violations on the House IT network, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the probe.

Meeks said he still isn’t convinced Alvi and Imran, both of whom worked in his office at different times, are involved in the procurement scam but the ongoing investigation was interrupting the day-to-day functions of his office.

“As of right now, I don’t see a smoking gun,” Meeks said. “I have seen no evidence that they were doing anything that was nefarious.”

Meeks said he was hesitant to believe the accusations against Alvi, Imran and the three other staffers, saying their background as Muslim Americans, some with ties to Pakistan, could make them easy targets for false charges.

“I wanted to be sure individuals are not being singled out because of their nationalities or their religion. We want to make sure everybody is entitled to due process,” Meeks said. “They had provided great service for me. And there were certain times in which they had permission by me, if it was Hina or someone else, to access some of my data.”

Fudge told POLITICO Tuesday she would employ Imran until he received “due process.”

“He needs to have a hearing. Due process is very simple. You don’t fire someone until you talk to them,” Fudge said.

On Wednesday, Lauren Williams, a spokeswoman for Fudge, wouldn’t provide exact details about Imran’s firing but did confirm he was still employed in their office Tuesday afternoon.

Sources close to the House probe that initially uncovered potential wrongdoing said not one of the accused staffers have made any attempts to regain access to the House computer system.

Imran is working in an “advisory” role for Wasserman Schultz, according to spokesman David Damron, “providing advice on technology issues.” Wasserman Schultz was forced to resign as Democratic National Committee chairwoman last year after a trove of embarrassing emails was released by WikiLeaks.

Imran has long-standing relationships with Meeks, Wasserman Schultz and Fudge. Meeks was one of the first lawmakers Imran worked for after coming to Capitol Hill in 2004. He joined Wasserman Schultz’s office in 2005 and started working for Fudge in 2008.

In addition, Meeks and, to a larger extent, Wasserman Schultz are said to have a friendly personal relationship with Imran and his wife, according to multiple sources.

Imran has made nearly $2 million since starting as an IT support staffer for House Democrats in 2004, according to public salary data. Alvi, who worked for House Democrats since 2007, earned more than $1.3 million as an IT staffer during that time.

As shared employees, Imran, Alvi and their relatives worked for dozens of House Democrats at a time, meaning no one lawmaker was responsible for paying their full salary.

Sources close to the House investigation said the former staffers, while able to view some member data, did not have access to any classified information.

Capitol Police spokeswoman Eva Malecki declined to provide an update on the status of the criminal investigation this week.

“We do not comment on ongoing investigations,” Malecki wrote in an email.

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