Report reveals a GOP anti-Muslim push led to 5 wrongful termination claims — costing the House $850k

Report reveals a GOP anti-Muslim push led to 5 wrongful termination claims — costing the House $850k
President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence walk with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senator Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Tuesday, March 10, 2020, upon their arrival to the U.S. Capitol for a Senate Republican policy lunch. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

President Donald Trump and some of his Republican allies have not been shy about fear-mongering over Muslims. And that fear-mongering, according to the New York Times reporters Noam Scheiber and Nicholas Fandos, is costing the federal government a lot of money. Scheiber and Fandos are reporting that this year, the U.S. House of Representatives "quietly" paid a total of $850,000 to "settle wrongful termination claims by five Pakistani-American technology specialists, after a set of routine workplace allegations against them morphed into fodder for right-wing conspiracy theories amplified by President Trump."

According to Scheiber and Fandos, "What started as a relatively ordinary House inquiry into procurement irregularities by Imran Awan, three members of his family and a friend — who had a bustling practice providing members of Congress with technology support — was twisted into lurid accusations of hacking government information."

Scheiber and Fandos recall that when Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland in 2018, he "implied that one of the employees involved in the House case — a 'Pakistani gentleman,' he said — could have been responsible for stealing e-mails of Democratic officials leaked during the 2016 campaign. His own intelligence agencies had concluded that the stolen e-mails were part of an election interference campaign ordered by Moscow."

Rep. Ted Deutch, the Florida Democrat who chairs the House Ethics Committee, used Awan for tech support in the past — and he slammed Trump for defaming the Pakistani-American tech specialists.

Deutch told the Times, "It is tragic and outrageous the way right-wing media and Republicans all the way up to President Trump attempted to destroy the lives of an immigrant Muslim-American family based on scurrilous allegations. Their names were smeared on cable TV, their children were harassed at school, and they genuinely feared for their lives. The settlement is an acknowledgment of the wrong done to this family."

The case, however, preceded Trump's presidency and originated in 2016.

Scheiber and Fandos explain, "Officials in the House, then controlled by Republicans, began investigating claims that the specialists had improperly accounted for purchases of equipment and bent employment rules as they worked part-time for the offices of dozens of Democratic lawmakers. In the hands of the chamber's inspector general and later the Capitol Police, the investigation slowly expanded to include concerns that the workers had illicitly gained access to, transferred or removed government data and stolen equipment."

The Daily Caller, a right-wing media outlet co-founded by Fox News' Tucker Carlson, only made things worse — as did Trump after he entered the White House.

Scheiber and Fandos report, "The Daily Caller…. published allegations that the workers had hacked into congressional computer networks, and other right-wing pundits speculated that the group were Pakistani spies. Mr. Trump, in addition to his comments in Helsinki, repeatedly amplified conspiracy theories about the investigation on Twitter, where he referred to a 'Pakistani mystery man.'"

But the U.S. Department of Justice, according to the Times reporters, "found 'no evidence' that Mr. Awan illegally removed data, stole or destroyed House equipment, or improperly gained access to sensitive information."

Eventually, Awan and the four other tech specialists agreed to a settlement in their case, and it was signed by Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California in January and paid out this summer, Scheiber and Fandos report.

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