The far right will not rest until they’ve pinned a conspiracy on the folks at the Democratic National Committee, but they’re having a hard time coming up with what that conspiracy is supposed to be.
It’s only been weeks since folks from random trolls to Fox News promoted the idea that former DNC staffer Seth Rich — murdered in what police believe was a botched robbery — was trying to leak DNC secrets before he was killed.
Now those same people are zeroing in on Imran Awan, a Pakistani House of Representatives staffer who used to work in IT for several members of Congress — most recently, former DNC chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
This conspiracy has a bit more substance to it than the baseless Seth Rich rumors, but it departs from the realm of sanity all the same. Below, we broke down where fiction breaks from fact.
What we know
The story began in February when United States Capitol police named Awan and members of his family as subjects of an investigation. That investigation involved computer equipment stolen from the government and possible abuse of the House’s IT network.
No one was arrested, but members of Congress slowly began cutting their relationship with Awan, except for Wasserman Schultz, who demanded that the chief of the Capitol’s police give back a computer of hers that police took as part of their investigation.
She did end ties with Awan earlier this week, when the man was arrested as he tried to fly to Qatar and then to Pakistan from Washington Dulles International Airport, in Virginia.
But he wasn’t arrested for anything to do with the equipment investigation.
While investigators were looking into that, they came across one of Awan’s tax returns that listed a property as a primary residence when he and his wife were renting it.
By listing it as a primary residence, the couple was able to get a loan of $165,000 from the Congressional Federal Credit Union. If they’d listed the property as something they rented out, the union likely wouldn’t have allowed them to use that property as collateral for the loan. The couple then told the union to send the money to Pakistan to buy another property there, according to The Washington Post.
Awan’s wife, Hina Alvi, left the country for Pakistan along with their three children in March, but Awan himself didn’t make it. A preliminary hearing on charges of bank fraud is set for Aug. 21.
It’s not hard to see that this conspiracy at least has some meat to attack. There’s an IT guy and his family, and they may have broken into the House IT network to do… something.
Of course, it also has a few elements ripe for right-wing conspiracy: Wasserman Schultz is tangentially involved, and Awan is Muslim.
So, here we go.
The far right started to rattle off the tracks when, in February, a YouTuber named George Webb suggested out of nowhere that maybe Awan and members of his family are spies from Pakistan.
Just the other day, rape apologist and far-right internet icon Mike Cernovich tweeted a video that suggested Awan might have connections to al-Qaeda, although the video doesn’t attempt to back that up.
Cernovich and Webb are still marginal characters compared to Fox News’s Sean Hannity, though, and Hannity wants anyone but the Russian government to have hacked the DNC.
The Fox News star loves Trump, and he almost certainly understands that the president is threatened by multiple investigations into ties between the administration and the Russian government. Moscow, according to the intelligence community, is behind the hack that resulted in DNC emails being dumped online before the 2016 presidential election, an attempt to harm Hillary Clinton’s shot at the White House.
Hannity would love if someone else was responsible for getting those emails, and on Monday he and fellow Fox person Geraldo Rivera floated the idea that Awan is their guy.
This is the part where I would provide you with the evidence that they themselves provided, but by now you know how that story ends.
Hannity recently had dinner with the president, who often tweets about whatever is on Fox News. And, while Trump hasn’t suggested that Awan is maybe the guy who gave DNC emails to Wikileaks, he did retweet a story from a conservative outlet that suggested mainstream news networks had blacklisted the story.
There’s little evidence that this story deserves any more attention than it’s already received, but it’s found The Donald’s radar.