Spot­light back on Clin­ton aide

Abe­din, Weiner part amid an­other sex­ting scan­dal

Baltimore Sun - - ELECTION 2016 - By Evan Halper

WASH­ING­TON — Be­fore any of for­mer U.S. Rep. An­thony Weiner’s creepy sex tweets even came to light, his wife had at­tracted un­wanted at­ten­tion for her boss, Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Huma Abe­din is a fa­vorite tar­get of Repub­li­cans. They ac­cuse the Clin­ton aide of be­ing a Saudi spy, a self- deal­ing in­sider, the mas­ter­mind be­hind a plot to hide Clin­ton’s email.

But the noise around Abe­din was so of­ten dis­torted with con­spir­acy the­o­ries that the pub­lic seemed to tune it out — un­til Weiner sud­denly ap­peared back in the spot­light with the rev­e­la­tion this week of what some are call­ing his most dis­turb­ing tweet yet: an il­licit photo sent pri­vately to a woman in which his son was a prop. Abe­din an­nounced Mon­day that she and Weiner would sep­a­rate. Now, Clin­ton’s cam­paign finds it­self un­able to duck un­wanted at­ten­tion drawn to Abe­din, who is closer to Clin­ton than any­one else on her pay­roll.

Abe­din, 40, who has been re­ferred to as Clin­ton’s “sec­ond daugh­ter,” is the gate­keeper to the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee. Even Bill Clin­ton some­times can’t get to his wife with­out work­ing through Abe­din, who usu- Huma Abe­din, left, who has been re­ferred to as Hil­lary Clin­ton’s “sec­ond daugh­ter,” is the gate­keeper to the nom­i­nee. ally car­ries Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cell­phone in her purse. Abe­din’s im­pri­matur can be found all over Clin­ton’s world: on emails she sent to Clin­ton try­ing to ex­plain how to use a fax ma­chine, high­stakes diplo­matic ef­forts in Libya (Abe­din was called to tes­tify be­fore the House com­mit­tee on the Beng­hazi at­tacks) and the care and feed­ing of bil­lion­aire donors.

Yet Abe­din al­most never Weiner speaks pub­licly, mean­ing her work for Clin­ton i s opaque to vot­ers. Op­er­a­tives and pun­dits as­cribe to her the mo­tives that suit their own agenda. The me­dia out­let that has most ag­gres­sively tar­geted her is the right-lean­ing web­site Bre­it­bart News, which first un­cov­ered Weiner’s sex tweets. More re­cently, it has taken to sug­gest­ing Abe­din is spy­ing for Saudi Ara­bia and work­ing to spread Sha- ria law. Bre­it­bart’s leader, Stephen Ban­non, re­cently was named to run Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign.

The me­dia at­ten­tion on Abe­din right now, though, is not Bre­it­bart’s mak­ing. It is the kind of staff drama the Clin­ton op­er­a­tion had been so good at avoid­ing dur­ing her pres­i­den­tial run over the past year and a half, the kind as­so­ci­ated with pre­vi­ous cam­paigns of both Bill and Hil­lary Clin­ton. By con­trast, Clin­ton’s cur­rent team is dis­ci­plined, tight-lipped and dull.

Trump wasted no time pounc­ing af­ter Abe­din said she was sep­a­rat­ing from Weiner. Abe­din’s an­nounce­ment fol­lowed a New York Post story de­tail­ing a pri­vate mes­sage Weiner sent on Twit­ter last year, where he, while clothed, ap­par­ently tries to im­press a woman with an im­age of his and Abe­din’s tod­dler son sleep­ing along­side him — and with the out­lines of Weiner’s gen­i­tals clearly vis­i­ble in the photo.

“I only worry for the coun­try in that Hil­lary Clin­ton was care­less and neg­li­gent in al­low­ing Weiner to have such close prox­im­ity to highly clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion,” Trump said in a state­ment Mon­day. “Who knows what he learned and whohe told? It’s just an­other ex­am­ple of Hil­lary Clin­ton’s bad judg­ment. It is pos­si­ble that our coun­try and its se­cu­rity have been greatly com­pro­mised by this.”

Abe­din’s and Weiner’s re­la­tion­ship has been strained since his sec­ond round of pub­licly re­vealed sex tweet­ing sunk his may­oral bid in 2013. They scarcely saw each other amid the rig­ors of the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, dur­ing which Politico noted Abe­din was fre­quently seen with­out her wed­ding ring. Abe­din is al­most al­ways within steps of Clin­ton, and Clin­ton is al­most al­ways on the road.

But that close prox­im­ity to Clin­ton — paired with Abe­din’s up­bring­ing in Saudi Ara­bia — has fu­eled many con­spir­acy the­o­ries.

“Why aren’t we talk­ing about Huma and her ties to the Mus­lim Brother­hood?” said Rep. Sean Duffy, a Wis­con­sin Repub­li­can, dur­ing a CNN ap­pear­ance last week. “Why aren’t we talk­ing about the fact that she was an ed­i­tor for a Sharia news­pa­per?” That same day, Roger Stone, a long­time Trump in­sider, ac­cused Abe­din of be­ing a “Saudi as­set.”

Fact check­ers at the Wash­ing­ton Post looked into the charges and found them to be “bo­gus.” The al­le­ga­tions stem from Abe­din’s child­hood in Saudi Ara­bia and an aca­demic jour­nal her mother pub­lishes that Is­lamic schol­ars say is not rad­i­cal.

But the Clin­ton camp has been un­able to eas­ily swat away some of the other charges that swirl around Abe­din. She op­er­ates in the con­tro­ver­sial nexus of Clin­ton’s gov­ern­ment work and the Clin­ton fam­ily foun­da­tion. At one point while Clin­ton was sec­re­tary of state, Abe­din was be­ing paid by the gov­ern­ment and a con­sult­ing firm founded by one of the ex­ec­u­tives at the foun­da­tion.

Abe­din is ask­ing for the me­dia to back off. “Dur­ing this dif­fi­cult time, I ask for re­spect for our pri­vacy,” she said in a state­ment Mon­day.

But as long as Abe­din re­mains a vi­tal part of the Clin­ton op­er­a­tion, her life is al­most cer­tain to re­main pub­lic.

AN­DREW THEODORAKIS/GETTY

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