President Donald Trump on Thursday called on his Justice Department to keep legal pressure on Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a former Democratic National Committee chair, and a former aide of hers who has been charged with bank fraud.
“Our Justice Department must not let Awan & Debbie Wasserman Schultz off the hook. The Democrat I.T. scandal is a key to much of the corruption we see today,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning, referring to the case involving Imran Awan, who worked for Wasserman Schultz and other House Democrats as an IT specialist.
The President also said Awan wants “a ‘plea deal’ to hide what is on” the Democratic National Committee’s server.
The tweet is the latest extraordinary public effort by Trump pushing the Justice Department to pursue a political nemesis, while at the same time criticizing the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation into his campaign. Last month, Trump demanded that the department examine whether or not the FBI spied on his campaign for political reasons and has asked why Justice officials haven’t pursued his 2016 general election opponent, Hillary Clinton, more aggressively, despite the fact that an FBI investigation into Clinton concluded with no recommendation of charges in July 2016.
Awan, a Pakistani-American, was arrested in Washington, DC, last July and charged with bank fraud as he attempted to leave the country to Pakistan, according to legal documents. He and his wife have a hearing scheduled for July 3 in Washington.
Awan’s attorney, Chris Gowen, acknowledged to CNN Thursday that his client and prosecutors are close to a plea deal, and expected to finalize the deal at the July 3 hearing.
But now, “it’s a major concern that the plea agreement could be off the table in the wake of the President’s tweets,” Gowen said.
“We are deeply concerned that the President of the United States is making a strong effort to prevent justice,” Gowen said. “We are now very worried that we’ll never be able to resolve this case because my client’s due process rights have been completely violated by the head of the executive branch in a tweet.”
Wasserman Schultz responded by saying in a statement that she’s “focused on doing my job. Donald Trump should focus on doing his.”
For months, conspiracy theorists have speculated wildly about the case, and have circulated baseless allegations that Awan was involved in the 2016 hack of DNC computer systems in the run-up to the 2016 election. The US intelligence community has determined that the hack was the work of Russians. Trump has alternatively acknowledged this assessment and cast doubt on the government’s findings.
Awan and his wife are currently facing federal charges for bank fraud, while simultaneously under investigation by Capitol Police and the FBI for allegedly stealing congressional computer equipment. That investigation has not resulted in any charges.
“There’s been an incredibly thorough investigation. My client has provided an unbelievable amount of cooperation and the allegations by the right wing media and others, as well as Republican lawmakers, are all completely false,” Gowen said.
CNN’s Eli Watkins contributed to this report.