The news of Imran Awan’s sweetheart plea deal emerged quietly during Fourth of July week, but it hasn’t gone unnoticed here, even with the predominant story right now being President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. My initial thought about the Awan deal was, “Oh, man, the DOJ has buried another scandal,” and many readers agreed, some commenting that they were disgusted and even literally sickened by the outcome.
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But one response offered an interesting take. Mind you, it involves giving Jeff Sessions the benefit of the doubt and picturing him as working steadfastly behind the scenes to ensure that justice is eventually done. Not easy, I know; it’s like being the kid who gets a pile of manure at Christmas and just KNOWS there has to be pony in there somewhere! But for the moment, let’s try to do that and take the ride with reader Bonnie Robinson.
“When you want to catch a fish, you use a smaller fish,” she reminds us. Of course, we already knew that’s been the strategy behind the treatment of Paul Manafort –- were you aware he’s spending 23 out of every 24 hours in solitary confinement before he’s been tried, even though the only charge against him is unrelated to the “Russia” investigation and goes back many years? –- to get cooperation against President Trump, but it applies here as well. Awan was allowed to plead guilty to one measly charge of bank fraud when he could have been charged with much more: espionage, perhaps, or theft of government property, just for starters. I would note that he’s also alleged to have attempted to evade justice by hopping a plane to Pakistan. Robinson points out that since plea deals come as part of an agreement to cooperate with investigators, Awan has likely provided them with information relating to the Democrats who hired him. If she’s right, that means that for a deal as sweet as the one he got, he’s likely been singing like Pavarotti.
But Robinson goes on to address another aspect of this case: namely, how unlikely it is that an objective grand jury could be empaneled in Washington, DC, for a case against congressional Democrats charged with something as serious as (perhaps) treason. The same would go for prosecutors and judges assigned to such a case. She reminds us that with all the evidence against the FBI presented in the IG report, the Inspector General left out that same part: the prosecution part. “Do you think this was going to be litigated in this setting?” she asks.
So, if it’s not going to be handled in DC, where WILL it be handled? Robinson suggests that it’s moving from DC to Utah, under U.S. Attorney John Huber, who was selected by Attorney General Sessions to handle cases related to the IG report. Remarkably, Huber operates with a staff of 470 investigators, far exceeding the investigative power of a special counsel. One other possibility, if the cases relating to Awan include allegations of treason or other matters of national security, is that they will be tried in a military court, away from the media and the chance of compromising sensitive information, sources or methods. That lessens the likelihood that any “big fish” will get away on a technicality.
“Rest assured,” Robinson concludes, “this entire case is being handled with the utmost care.”
It’s hard to have confidence in that, especially when we’ve watched certain people skate for so long, but let’s hope she’s right. Sessions’ decision to call upon John Huber to team up with the IG and conduct a full-fledged criminal investigation in Utah, in the clean mountain air far from the stinky DC swamp, may turn out to be every bit as brilliant as top legal expert Jonathan Turley said it was in March.