Democrat hush money paid to Imran Awan

The House of Representatives quietly paid $850,000 this year 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 Donald Trump.

Together, the payments represent one of the largest known awards by the House to resolve discrimination or harassment claims, and are designed to shield Congress from potentially costly legal action.

But aides involved in the settlement, which has not previously been reported, said it was also an attempt to bring a close to a convoluted saga that led to one of the most durable — and misleading — story lines of the Trump era. The aides said its size reflected a bid to do right by a group of former employees who lost their jobs and endured harassment in part because of their Muslim faith and South Asian origins.

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.

Awan’s lawyers approached the House after Democrats took control of the chamber in 2019 to discuss a possible settlement. Many of the lawmakers who had employed him pushed their leaders to strike a deal.

he resulting agreement was signed by Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, the chairwoman of the Administration Committee, in January and paid out this summer.

In a statement, Lofgren said that the employees had threatened to sue various House members, offices and other employees, “seeking millions of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages.” She said the House decided to settle “due to the likelihood of an unfavorable and costly litigation outcome,” although she asserted that based on the information it had at the time, the House had been right to revoke their network access.