So, Sean Hannity, which one is it?
A month ago, Hannity was sure the DNC was hacked not by the Russians, but by a heroic Wisconsinite named Seth Rich trying to get out the truth about Hillary Clinton. Rich, a former DNC staffer, was murdered last July and right-wing conspiracy theorists claim the Democrats are to blame. (Police, who are still investigating the killing, believe it was a botched robbery.)
“My guess is there are a lot of angry, disgruntled, whistleblowing truth tellers within the DNC that were there that saw the collusion, that saw that the fix was in against Bernie Sanders, that saw that there was corruption at the highest levels,” Hannity said on June 22nd.
But now, Hannity is intimating that a Pakistani man named Imran Awan, who never worked at the DNC and has no ties to Rich, hacked the committee, as part of a still unfolding nefarious plot.
In Hannity’s world, here's the going theory, plucked from the same right-wing blogs and commenters that invented Pizzagate: When Awan, an IT specialist, worked for several Congresspeople, including former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, he supposedly found a way to hack the DNC’s entire email server, despite never working there, and handed the contents over to Wikileaks. Not content with getting away with an international hacking conspiracy, Awan returned to real estate chicanery, receiving a fraudulent loan from a Congressional Federal Credit Union before shipping the cash off to Pakistan to pay for a different property.
This is instead of the widely accepted explanation, which is that Russians hacked the DNC because they wanted Donald Trump to win the election, the view shared by all American intelligence agencies.
“Here’s my theory: Maybe Debbie-Wasserman Schultz didn’t want to be exposed, which is why they smashed the hard drives, because she knows she colluded against Bernie Sanders,” Hannity said on his show Wednesday night.
Hannity was responding to Geraldo Rivera, who claimed Awan was fleeing to Pakistan to evade the alleged cyber crime.
Awan was, in fact, arrested this week, but not for hacking the DNC. An American citizen, Awan was nabbed for allegedly wrongly classifying a rental property he owned as a private residence when he received a $165,000 loan from the Congressional Federal Credit Union. He then separately shipped cash off to his family in Pakistan. Awan was detained before boarding a plane to Pakistan in Virginia at Dulles Airport on Tuesday.
Awan’s lawyer, Chris Gowen, claims his client, whose job was mostly to troubleshoot programs like Microsoft Word for Congressional staffers, is in trouble for writing the wrong thing on a tax return.
Awan became conspiracy fodder in February when U.S. Capitol Police announced five unnamed House staffers were part of a criminal probe into stolen computer equipment. Awan and his family members were later named as subjects of the investigation.
Investigators told representatives they were probing Awan and his family in an alleged “procurement scam” involving computer equipment, but made no arrests at the time and allowed representatives to continue or end their working relationships with Awan at their own discretion.
Gowen told The Daily Beast that Awan’s wife and children moved in with family in Pakistan after a popular YouTube conspiracy theorist allegedly showed up at Awan’s children’s school.
“There are a bunch of these people who have been tormenting my client and their family for months,” said Gowen.
Gowen insisted Awan did not have “any security clearance” when working for members of Congress and had “no access to confidential documents.” He said the procurement probe into Awan centered around paperwork involving office supplies.
“People are ordering standing desks, iPads, iPhones, whatever. People order stuff, and sometimes they say, ‘If you want it fast you have to pay a little extra, or it can be under the $500 [threshold] and you don’t have to fill out these forms.’ And there was a report that shows some money was not processed through these forms,’” he said.
“That’s it. That’s what it is.”
Eventually, the probe into procurement of those supplies led investigators to discover a tax return where Awan incorrectly listed his rental property, Gowen said.
When asked for more details about the case, Capitol Police referred The Daily Beast to an affidavit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The affidavit filed on behalf of the government on Wednesday makes no reference to hacking or any cyber crime and references only a “scheme to defraud the Wright Patman Congressional Federal Credit Union.”
The FBI declined to comment on the case.
Awan was released under surveillance until his August 21 court date.
After months of similar internet detective work by Hannity into Seth Rich’s murder, Rich’s parents repeatedly begged Hannity to stop amplifying elaborate conspiracies involving their son. Hannity initially said he’d comply before referencing Rich on his show just days later.
The Daily Beast asked Fox News public relations if Hannity no longer considers Seth Rich a possible leaker of the DNC emails. The company did not respond.
Gowen said defamation suits against those boosting conspiracy-based harassment campaigns against Awan aren’t off the table, and that it’s “something we may look into.”
“We have this right-wing media company that can make up anything. Sean Hannity, last night I saw him going, ‘Is it this? Is it that?’” said Gowen. “It’s nuts. They’re just completely and totally missing facts.”