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Monday, October 31, 2016
Wanted a New Chief of Staff Email Probe Leaves Future Role of Huma Abedin in Question
Hillary Clinton aide, long seen as a fixture if the campaign wins, may face different prospects if findings are serious
Huma Abedin, left, stood near Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton after the final presidential debate at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas on Oct. 19.
Huma Abedin has been by Hillary Clinton’s side for 20 years, since she was a White House intern assigned to the first lady’s office. There has never been much question that if Mrs. Clinton returned to the White House as president, Ms. Abedin would come too.
Now with Ms. Abedin again part of unwelcome attention, even some Democrats are wondering if Mrs. Clinton might be forced to rethink Ms. Abedin’s role if she is elected president, and whether a cloud would linger over her if Ms. Abedin were to take a senior White House job, as has long been expected.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Friday it had found additional emails potentially related to the probe, completed this summer, of Mrs. Clinton’s private server when she was secretary of state. The new emails come from a laptop that investigators believe was used by Ms. Abedin and her estranged husband, former Rep. Anthony Weiner, and were found during an investigation of Mr. Weiner for allegedly exchanging sexually explicit text messages and photos with a 15-year-old girl.
Ms. Abedin now finds herself as a central character in a late-breaking drama that has added an unpredictable factor into what many people in both parties saw as an election heading toward a Clinton victory.
Some Democrats said Sunday they had no doubt Mrs. Clinton would bring Ms. Abedin with her to the White House. Others said her future may depend on what the renewed investigation finds. It is possible the emails are purely personal, were already turned over to investigators, or are duplicates of messages already examined, meaning the long-term damage to Mrs. Clinton—and Ms. Abedin—may be minimal.
More serious findings could have more significant ramifications. And the process of reading the messages, which may number in the thousands, will take weeks and won’t be completed until well after Election Day.
Democrats point to Mrs. Clinton’s loyalty to her friends and staff, many of whom have been with her for years. Ms. Abedin, who is said to be personally closer to the candidate than any other adviser, is often described as akin to a second daughter.
“She’s played a central and vital role in this campaign,” Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. “And she continues to do that and continues to do her work running our overall scheduling and advance operation, being a confidante to senior people in the campaign, and traveling with Hillary.”On the campaign, Ms. Abedin has been involved in anything involving Mrs. Clinton personally, including speeches, statements, meetings and debate preparation. She manages the candidate’s large network of contacts and serves as gatekeeper, determining who and what gets through to her. Ms. Abedin wasn’t on the road this weekend, but is expected to return to Mrs. Clinton’s side in coming days. At rallies this weekend, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump repeatedly mentioned Ms. Abedin by name. “Is she going to keep Huma?” Mr. Trump asked Saturday in Golden, Colo. “Huma’s been a problem. Do we agree? Huma. Huma’s been a problem. I wonder if Huma’s going to stay there.” The timing of this disclosure, just days before the election, is particularly uncomfortable for Ms. Abedin. But it isn’t the first time she has been under scrutiny, and it is far from her first public embarrassment.
Because she had a personal email address on the Clinton family server, conservative groups have been able to obtain, through lawsuits, all of Ms. Abedin’s correspondence. They have also gotten many of her emails from her State Department account. Several of them show Clinton Foundation officials asking her for favors.
That has led Mr. Trump to charge that there was a “pay to play” scheme at work, in which supporters of the foundation may have obtained favors from the department. Mrs. Clinton’s campaign has said her decisions as secretary of state were unrelated to requests from the foundation and its supporters.
Ms. Abedin also has been under investigation by Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) for an arrangement under the Special Government Employee program, which allowed her to simultaneously work for the State Department, Mrs. Clinton personally, the Clinton Foundation and a private consulting firm called Teneo, which was founded in part by a former foundation official.
The program was created to allow agencies to give short-term jobs to individuals from the private sector with a particular expertise, and Mr. Grassley has argued that using it in Ms. Abedin’s case was an abuse.
The State Department has said Ms. Abedin’s work for Teneo was unrelated to her work for the government, and that her outside employment while at State was arranged so the government wouldn’t be paying her for work she did charting Mrs. Clinton’s post-State career.
But the actions of Mr. Weiner, whom Ms. Abedin married in 2010, are the most personal and likely the most painful public controversy she has confronted. In 2011, the New York lawmaker resigned from Congress after admitting he had sent salacious photos and messages over the internet to other women. Ms. Abedin, who was pregnant at the time, opted to stay with him, and was by his side in 2013 when he attempted a political comeback. During his campaign for mayor of New York City, it was disclosed that he had continued exchanging sexually explicit messages with other women after he left Congress—a story chronicled in a documentary that Ms. Abedin participated in, which was released this summer.
The New York Post reported this summer that Mr. Weiner had sent yet another provocative picture, this time sending a photo of himself in his underwear to a woman while their 4-year-old son was lying next to him in bed. After that, Ms. Abedin announced she was leaving him.
In September, the FBI opened its investigation of him after a report that he had exchanged messages with a minor. It was that probe that led to the discovery of the new emails and, ultimately, to Friday’s announcement, a development that is rocking the campaign of the woman to whom Ms. Abedin has devoted her career.