Trump, conservative media focus on Wasserman Schultz firestorm

President Donald Trump commented indirectly Thursday, on Twitter, about Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The White House press secretary offered her thoughts. And conservative media outlets directed a fusillade of criticism.

They focused on the representative from Weston, one of a group of Democrats who shared services of an information technology employee who is charged with fraud and reportedly banned from the House IT system. Multiple members of Congress severed ties with Imran Awan when told about the investigation earlier this year, but Wasserman Schultz didn’t fire him until Tuesday — the day after he was arrested at an airport, preparing to leave the country for Pakistan.

Trump weighed in Thursday morning, retweeting a comment from the conservative website that “ABC, NBC, And CBS Pretty Much Bury IT Scandal Engulfing Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Office.” Trump didn’t add any comments of his own.

At the daily White House news briefing, Fox News reporter Kevin Corke asked Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about the matter.

Corke: “Is the President aware of the story of the IT staff — of the congressional IT staffer who most recently worked for Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Imran Awan, who was recently arrested attempting to leave the country, although he said he was not trying to flee the country? Is the President aware of that particular circumstance? And is he satisfied with the pace of the investigation?”

Sanders: “I haven’t had a conversation with him specifically about that, but I do think that is something we should fully look into and there should be a thorough investigation into that.”

The FBI, among other agencies, is already investigating.

Wasserman Schultz spokesman David Damron said the comments are an attempt to distract attention from Trump.

“Donald Trump wants to talk about anything but his savage health care bill and his discriminatory transgender policy. It’s no surprise he’s attacking the congresswoman, one of the most vocal critics of Trump’s devastating and dangerous policies,” Damron said by email.

An affidavit filed in federal court in connection with Awan’s arraignment Tuesday detailed part of what’s being investigated: an allegation that Awan and his wife improperly used a rental property to secure a home equity line of credit from a credit union — and then wired the proceeds to Pakistan.

Awan’s wife is in Pakistan and he was preparing to travel there when he was arrested. The conservative website The Daily Caller, which has been writing extensively about Awan in recent months, suggested it was a way to keep him in the country while an investigation into what it said is improper billing for computer equipment continues.

Awan’s lawyer said his client is the victim of an anti-Muslim witch hunt, and Wasserman Schultz hinted at the same in a statement Wednesday. She said there were “troubling concerns about due process, fair treatment and potential ethnic and religious profiling.”

South Florida Democratic U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch and Frederica Wilson also used Awan’s services as a shared employee, with each office paying a part-time salary. U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel used his brother for IT services; U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings didn’t use Awan.

Attention is focused on Wasserman Schultz because she’s the most prominent Democrat of 20 who The Daily Caller said used the family’s IT services. And she has attracted the attention of Trump, and conservative websites, before because of her role as former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

Contributing to the attention on Wasserman Schultz is the fact that she kept Awan employed until he was arrested.

Wasserman Schultz has not been accused of any wrongdoing in connection with Awan.

Awan, 37, of Lorton, Va., was arraigned Tuesday in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia on one count of bank fraud. He pleaded not guilty and was released “pursuant to a high-intensity supervision program.” He has to receive a GPS monitor, abide by a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., remain within a 50-mile radius of his home, and turn over all his passports., 954-356-4550

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