U.S. House Speaker John Boehner defended a senior adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after five members of his caucus claimed her relatives had ties to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.
Boehner, an Ohio Republican, told reporters in Washington today that while he doesn’t know Huma Abedin personally, his impression is that she has a “sterling character.” The accusations made against her in a June 13 letter to the State Department were “pretty dangerous,” the speaker said.
A day earlier Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, criticized five House Republicans, including former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, who sent the letter alleging Abedin’s family had connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and questioning whether she promoted the organization’s cause within the U.S. government.
McCain, in a Senate floor speech yesterday, called the allegations “an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable citizen, a dedicated American and a loyal public servant.”
“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,” the 2008 Republican presidential nominee said, adding that he has known Abedin for more than a decade.
In the letter, Bachmann and the other House Republicans cited a report from the Center for Security Policy claiming that Abedin’s mother, brother and late father had connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. It is Egypt’s largest Islamist organization, from whose ranks the country’s new president, Mohamed Mursi, was selected. The Center for Security Policy is a Washington policy group that likens Islamic extremism to the Communist threat during the Cold-War era.
The letter said Abedin’s position as Clinton’s aide “affords her routine access to the secretary and to policymaking,” and that the State Department has “taken actions recently that have been enormously favorable to the Muslim Brotherhood and its interests.”
Bachmann yesterday said she stood by her inquiries, which she said “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 groups’ access to top Obama administration officials,” she said in a statement.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said in an interview today that he agreed “1,000 percent” with McCain’s defense of Abedin.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a potential running mate for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, said today in an interview with National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm that he didn’t “share the feelings that are in that letter.”
“I am very, very careful and cautious about ever making accusations like that about anybody,” said Rubio, a Tea Party- backed member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a Tea Party Republican who has advocated cutting off aid to Egypt, said he didn’t share the concerns Bachmann and her colleagues raised about Abedin.
“I don’t like sending money to Egypt, but, other than that, I don’t know enough to comment nor am I aware of any evidence to make that accusation,” Paul said in an interview.
Abedin, the wife of former Representative Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat, has been an aide to Clinton since 1996.
State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters yesterday, “the secretary very much values her wise counsel and support, and we think that these allegations are preposterous.”
Weiner resigned from Congress in June 2011 after a lewd picture of himself that he had sent to another woman was posted on the Internet.
Weiner, Abedin and their six-month-old son were featured in a July 18 People magazine article in which the former congressman said he was “very happy” and “not doing anything to plan a campaign” for future public office.
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