This post has been updated.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) struck back hard at unproven accusations Wednesday that a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is part of a conspiracy by the Muslim Brotherhood to infiltrate the top reaches of the U.S. government.
McCain, often considered the GOP’s leading voice on foreign affairs, said the accusations made by House Republicans against Huma Abedin are “an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable woman, a dedicated American and a loyal public servant.”
Abedin is the long-time aide to Clinton who has worked for the former first lady and U.S. senator since the administration of President Bill Clinton. In recent years, she served as Hillary Clinton’s “body man” along the 2008 presidential campaign trail and has traveled the world with the secretary as a senior State Department aide. The perch means Abedin is often photographed standing behind Clinton.
Abedin, 37, is also the wife of former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who resigned in disgrace last year after he sent inappropriate pictures of himself to women via Twitter.
In a floor speech Wednesday, McCain defended Abedin, calling her “an intelligent, upstanding, hard-working and loyal servant of our country and our government, who has devoted countless days of her life to advancing the ideals of the nation she loves and looking after its most precious interests. That she has done so while maintaining her characteristic decency, warmth and good humor is a testament to her ability to bear even the most arduous duties with poise and confidence.
“Put simply, Huma represents what is best about America: the daughter of immigrants, who has risen to the highest levels of our government on the basis of her substantial personal merit and her abiding commitment to the American ideals that she embodies so fully,” McCain said. “I am proud to know Huma and to call her my friend.”
The lawmakers have sent letters to inspectors general at the departments of Homeland Security, Justice and State asking about the U.S. government’s involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood, noting that the group calls for “civilization jihad.”
McCain struck back hard at his Republican colleagues.
“These sinister accusations rest solely on a few unspecified and unsubstantiated associations of members of Huma’s family, none of which have been shown to harm or threaten the United States in any way,” McCain said. “These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis and no merit. And they need to stop now.
In response to McCain’s remarks, Bachmann said that her inquiries “are unfortunately being distorted.”
“The intention of the letters was to outline the serious national security concerns I had and ask for answers to questions regarding the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical group’s access to top Obama administration officials,” Bachmann said in a statement issued by her office.
Bachmann cited her concerns that Egyptian Hani Nour Eldin, a known member of terror group Gamaa Islamiya, had been granted a visa to visit the United States and then meet with administration officials while in Washington.
“This is just the latest example of the dangerous national security decisions made by the Obama administration,” Bachmann said. “I will not be silent as this administration appeases our enemies instead of telling the truth about the threats our country faces.”
McCain then waxed personal, recalling a trip he took a few years ago with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and then-Sen. Clinton, who was accompanied by Abedin.
“I had the pleasure of seeing firsthand her hard work and dedicated service on behalf of the former Senator from New York – a service that continues to this day at the Department of State, and bears with it significant personal sacrifice for Huma.”
McCain then concluded: “I hope these ugly and unfortunate attacks on her can be immediately brought to an end and put behind us before any further damage is done to a woman, an American, of genuine patriotism and love of country.”
In an e-mail, Weiner expressed thanks to McCain for his comments.
“My family and I are grateful to Senator McCain,” Weiner said. “I think he spoke for many Americans in expressing his disgust for the charge against my wife.”
A spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) declined to comment. In a statement, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) praised McCain for “his powerful rejection of these baseless accusations.”
“Every wave of new immigrants to America has faced a wave of ignorance and discrimination,” Pelosi said. “I would have hoped that this type of discourse no longer existed in our country, but clearly we have more educating to do with respect to what America is about.”
The controversy comes as Weiner has dismissed reports this week that he is seeking to run for New York City mayor or another political office — and just one day after People Magazine published a new article about the couple’s reconciliation process since last year’s scandal.
In the article, Abedin said, “It took a lot of work to get to where are are today, but I want people to know we’re a normal family.”
“Anthony has spent every day since [the scandal] trying to be the best dad and husband he can be,” Abedin told People. “I’m proud to be married to him.”
Among other details, the article said Weiner is now responsible for doing “all” of the couple’s laundry.
This story has been updated.
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Full Text: McCain Defends Huma Abedin on Senate Floor
“Mr. President: Rarely do I come to the floor of this institution to discuss particular individuals. But I understand how painful and injurious it is when a person’s character, reputation, and patriotism are attacked without concern for fact or fairness. It is for that reason that I rise today to speak in defense of Huma Abedin.
“Over the past decade, I have had the pleasure of coming to know Huma during her long and dedicated service to Hillary Rodham Clinton, both in the United States Senate and now in the Department of State. I know Huma to be an intelligent, upstanding, hard-working, and loyal servant of our country and our government, who has devoted countless days of her life to advancing the ideals of the nation she loves and looking after its most precious interests. That she has done so while maintaining her characteristic decency, warmth, and good humor is a testament to her ability to bear even the most arduous duties with poise and confidence.
“Put simply, Huma represents what is best about America: the daughter of immigrants, who has risen to the highest levels of our government on the basis of her substantial personal merit and her abiding commitment to the American ideals that she embodies so fully. I am proud to know Huma, and to call her my friend.
“Recently, it has been alleged that Huma, a Muslim American, is part of a nefarious conspiracy to harm the United States by unduly influencing U.S. foreign policy at the Department of State in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist causes. On June 13, five members of Congress wrote to the Deputy Inspector General of the Department of State, demanding that he begin an investigation into the possibility that Huma and other American officials are using their influence to promote the cause of the Muslim Brotherhood within the U.S. government. The information offered to support these serious allegations is based on a report, ‘The Muslim Brotherhood in America,’ produced by the Center for Security Policy.
“To say that the accusations made in both documents are not substantiated by the evidence they offer is to be overly polite and diplomatic about it. It is far better, and more accurate, to talk straight: These allegations about Huma, and the report from which they are drawn, are nothing less than an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable woman, a dedicated American, and a loyal public servant.
“The letter alleges that three members of Huma’s family are ‘connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations.’ Never mind that one of those individuals, Huma’s father, passed away two decades ago. The letter and the report offer not one instance of an action, a decision, or a public position that Huma has taken while at the State Department that would lend credence to the charge that she is promoting anti-American activities within our government. Nor does either document offer any evidence of a direct impact that Huma may have had on one of the U.S. policies with which the authors of the letter and the producers of the report find fault. These sinister accusations rest solely on a few unspecified and unsubstantiated associations of members of Huma’s family, none of which have been shown to harm or threaten the United States in any way. These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis, and no merit. And they need to stop now.
“Ultimately, what is at stake in this matter is larger even than the reputation of one person. This is about who we are as a nation, and who we still aspire to be. What makes America exceptional among the countries of the world is that we are bound together as citizens not by blood or class, not by sect or ethnicity, but by a set of enduring, universal, and equal rights that are the foundation of our constitution, our laws, our citizenry, and our identity. When anyone, not least a member of Congress, launches specious and degrading attacks against fellow Americans on the basis of nothing more than fear of who they are and ignorance of what they stand for, it defames the spirit of our nation, and we all grow poorer because of it.
“Our reputations, our character, are the only things we leave behind when we depart this earth, and unjust attacks that malign the good name of a decent and honorable person is not only wrong; it is contrary to everything we hold dear as Americans.
“Some years ago, I had the pleasure, along with my friend, the Senator from South Carolina, Senator Lindsey Graham, of traveling overseas with our colleague, then-Senator Hillary Clinton. By her side, as always, was Huma, and I had the pleasure of seeing firsthand her hard work and dedicated service on behalf of the former Senator from New York - a service that continues to this day at the Department of State, and bears with it significant personal sacrifice for Huma.
“I have every confidence in Huma’s loyalty to our country, and everyone else should as well. All Americans owe Huma a debt of gratitude for her many years of superior public service. I hope these ugly and unfortunate attacks on her can be immediately brought to an end and put behind us before any further damage is done to a woman, an American, of genuine patriotism and love of country.”
Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost
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