Debbie Wasserman Schultz stands by decision to delay firing staffer accused of bank fraud

'I believe that I did the right thing & I would do it again,' congresswoman says

By Amanda Batchelor - Senior Digital Editor

WESTON, Fla. - U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz told the Sun Sentinel that she stands by her decision to wait to fire an information technology aide accused of bank fraud until he was arrested.

"I believe that I did the right thing, and I would do it again," Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, told the Sun Sentinel on Thursday. "There are times when you can't be afraid to stand alone, and you have to stand up for what's right.

"It would have been easier for me to just fire him." 

The congresswoman from Weston kept Imran Awan on her payroll for six months after he was banned from the House network and fired by other members of Congress.

She fired him last week after he was arrested on a bank fraud charge at a Virginia airport where he was trying to board a flight to Pakistan.

Wasserman Schultz spokesman David Damron said Awan was fired by Wasserman Schultz on July 25.

Awan's attorney, Chris Gowen, confirmed that his client was arrested the previous day at Dulles International Airport.

He said Awan was cleared to travel and had informed the House of his plans to visit his family before the scheduled trip.

Gowen said the federal bank fraud count stems from a "modest real estate matter" and is motivated by anti-Muslim bigotry. He's confident Awan "will soon be able to clear his name and get on with his life."

The Sun Sentinel reported that the congresswoman also believes that Awan might have been put under scrutiny because he is Muslim.

Awan was considered a shared employee because each office paid him a part-time salary.

Wasserman Schultz told the Sun Sentinel that her office worked with the House chief administration officer during the investigation to develop a job description that "would allow him to continue to do work … until such time as there were other charges brought or we had some evidence that there was something that was produced that warranted further action."

An arraignment is scheduled for Aug. 21, according to Gowen.

Below is a full statement released by Wasserman Schultz:

"As a mother, a Jew, and a Member of Congress, if there is one thing I know for sure, it's this: my commitment to doing what's right and just - even if it isn't what's easy and simple - is unyielding.

Whether that meant standing in opposition to the Terri Schiavo bill, combating prejudice by encouraging my colleagues to bring Muslim-American constituents to the State of the Union, or questioning whether an employee has been afforded due process before terminating him, I have never been afraid to stand alone when justice demands it.

Undoubtedly, the easier path would have been to terminate Mr. Awan, despite the fact that I had not received any evidence of his alleged wrongdoing; but that is not the woman my constituents elected, and that is not the mother my children know me to be.

Over time, the investigation raised troubling concerns for me about fair treatment, due process, and potential ethnic and religious profiling. As the representative of Florida's 23rd Congressional District, one of the most vibrant and diverse districts in the nation, I may not always be the darling of the conservative media, but I will always protect the democratic and pluralistic values that we South Floridians hold so dear, and I will always live up to the oath I took when my constituents first sent me to Washington: to support and defend the Constitution.

At the end of the day, there are times in our lives when we must do what may be hard but right, even when there is a cost. This was one of those times for me and I would make the same decision again."
 

Copyright 2017 by WPLG Local10.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.