Huma Mahmood Abedin (born July 28, 1976) is an American political staffer who was vice chair of Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign for President of the United States. Prior to that, Abedin was deputy chief of staff to Clinton, who was U.S. Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. She was also the traveling chief of staff and former assistant for Clinton during Clinton's campaign for the Democratic nomination in the 2008 presidential election.
During Hillary Clinton's tenure at the State Department and her presidential campaign, Abedin became one of her closest aides. Her high-profile political career has led her personal life to come under public scrutiny over the years, particularly her marriage to disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner.
Both of her parents were educators. Her father, born in New Delhi (India) on April 2, 1928, was an Islamic and Middle Eastern scholar of Indian descent, who received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, and then in 1978 founded the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, an organization devoted to the study of Muslim communities in non-Muslim societies around the world. In 1979, he founded the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, which his wife took over after his death; Huma was listed as an associate editor from 1996–2008. Her mother, also born in colonial India (now Pakistan after the 1947 British Partition), also received her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, and is currently an associate professor of sociology and dean at Dar Al-Hekma College in Jeddah.
At age 18, Abedin entered George Washington University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree as a journalism major with a minor in political science. As a teenager, she aspired to be a journalist like her role model Christiane Amanpour and wanted to work in the White House press office.
While a student at George Washington University, Abedin began working as an intern in the White House in 1996, assigned to then-First Lady Hillary Clinton. From 1996 to 2008, she was an assistant editor of the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs. For several years, she served as the back-up to Clinton's personal aide. She officially took over as Clinton's aide and personal advisor during Clinton's successful 2000 U.S. Senate campaign in New York and later worked as traveling chief of staff and "body woman" during Clinton's unsuccessful campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Writing in Vogue during the 2007 campaign, Rebecca Johnson called her "Hillary's secret weapon" and noted that what seemed to motivate Abedin were not the details of policy or political horse-racing, but rather "the way that politicians are uniquely invested with the power to help individuals—as with, say, the woman whose legs were badly broken by a piece of plane fuselage on September 11", whom Abedin and Clinton visited in the hospital. Abedin told Johnson, "To me, that's one of the blessings of this job. In some tiny, tiny way I am part of history, but I am also able to help people." According to a number of Clinton associates, Abedin is also a trusted advisor to Clinton, particularly on the Middle East, and has become known for that expertise. "She is a person of enormous intellect with in-depth knowledge on a number of issues—especially issues pertaining to the Middle East", said Senator John McCain.
State Department, Clinton Foundation, Teneo, 2009–2013
Abedin in October 2010
In 2009, Abedin was appointed deputy chief of staff to Clinton in the State Department, under a "special government employee" arrangement created by the department which allowed her to work for private clients as a consultant while also serving as an adviser to the Secretary of State. Under this arrangement, she did consultant work for Teneo, a strategic consulting firm whose clients included Coca-Cola and MF Global, and served as a paid consultant to the Clinton Foundation, while continuing her role as body woman to Clinton. The New York Times reported that an associate of Abedin's said the arrangement also allowed her to work from her home in New York City, rather than at the State Department's headquarters in Washington, to be able to spend more time with her child and husband.
Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign
Abedin has served as vice chairwoman for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign for president since 2015 and in 2015 had a role as personal assistant to Clinton. In her role as the campaign's vice chairperson, she screened and interviewed applicants for key campaign roles, including campaign manager Robby Mook, and was the primary channel for communications to Clinton before the campaign officially began. After Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump proposed banning Muslims from entering the United States, she wrote an email to Clinton supporters calling herself "a proud Muslim" and criticized Trump's plan as "literally (writing) racism into our law books".
Accusations by Michele Bachmann
In a letter dated June 13, 2012, to the State Department Inspector General, five Republican members of Congress—Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Trent Franks of Arizona, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Thomas J. Rooney of Florida, and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia—claimed that Abedin "has three family members – her late father, her mother and her brother – connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations." The five members of Congress alleged that Abedin had "immediate family connections to foreign extremist organizations" which they said were "potentially disqualifying conditions for obtaining a security clearance" and questioned why Abedin had not been "disqualified for a security clearance".
The claims in the letter were debunked and were flagged as conspiracy theories. The Washington Post editorial board called the allegations "paranoid", a "baseless attack", and a "smear". The letter was also criticized by, among others, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Representative Keith Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota, the first Muslim member of Congress, who called the allegation "reprehensible". Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, also rejected the allegations, saying: "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. ... These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis and no merit." Bachmann's former campaign manager Ed Rollins said the allegations were "extreme and dishonest", and called for Bachmann to apologize to Abedin. The Anti-Defamation League condemned the letter, calling upon the Representatives involved to "stop trafficking in anti-Muslim conspiracy theories".
Outside employment while at State Department
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, raised questions about Abedin's work as a State Department employee, concerning the fact that she held four jobs from June 2012 to February 2013. These included serving as a part-time aide to Clinton at the State Department, while also working as a consultant to private clients for the consulting firm Teneo Holdings, a consulting firm run by Douglas Band, a longtime aide to former president Bill Clinton. At the time, she was also being paid a salary for work at the Clinton Foundation, and working as Hillary Clinton's personal assistant. The State Department and Abedin both responded, with the State Department indicating that it uses special government employees routinely "to provide services and expertise that executive agencies require", and Abedin stating that she did not provide any government information or inside information gained from her State Department job to her private employers. Grassley said he found the letters unresponsive. In July 2015, Grassley released information indicating that the State Department's inspector general had found that Abedin was overpaid by almost $10,000 for unused leave time when she left the government, resulting from violations of the rules governing vacation and sick leave during her tenure on the payroll as a Federal employee in the department. Abedin's attorneys said that she had learned in May that the Department's inspector general had found that she improperly collected $9,857 for periods when she was on vacation or leave, responded with a 12-page letter contesting the findings, and formally requested an administrative review of the investigation's conclusions. Her lawyer, Miguel Rodriguez, told The New York Times that the inspector general's report showed that Abedin worked during her maternity leave and had thus earned that pay.
Employment records and emails
In October 2015, a federal court in Washington, D.C. heard arguments on a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by conservative watchdog organization Judicial Watch for records related to Abedin. Judicial Watch asked to make Ms. Abedin's emails and employment records public, requesting details of the arrangement under which Abedin was designated a "special government employee", allowing her to do outside consulting work while also on the federal payroll. On October 6, the State Department said it would be able to hand over 69 pages of emails in response to the FOIA request.
In 2015, emails by Abedin became part of the FBI investigation and the controversy concerning Hillary Clinton's private email account while Secretary of State, resulting in various allegations by Republicans of violations of State Department regulations. Some officials within the intelligence community have stated that potentially-classified information was contained in e-mails from Abedin relating to the 2012 Benghazi attack and its aftermath, which had been sent through Clinton's private, non-government server. As of February 2016, 1,818 emails were found containing classified information on the private server; 22 of those were classified as Top Secret. "They were not marked classified at the time they were sent, but they did contain classified information when they were originally sent and received." Clinton's aides also sent and received classified information.
House Benghazi Committee testimony
On October 16, 2015, Abedin testified in closed session before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, in a session that was expected to focus on the 2012 Benghazi attack during which Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. The committee had previously heard closed-door testimony from two other Clinton aides, Cheryl Mills and Jake Sullivan, in September 2015, and former Secretary Clinton appeared before the panel in a public hearing on October 22.
The Republican-led committee's top Democratic representative, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, questioned the panel's decision to hear testimony from Abedin, arguing that her knowledge of details at the time of the attacks was minimal. Republican Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas defended the decision to interview Abedin, saying: "Ms. Abedin was a senior official at the State Department at all of the relevant times. Every witness has a different set of knowledge." Although there were political tensions surrounding Abedin's appearance, the proceedings were friendly, and after her almost eight hours of testimony, Abedin said: "I came here today to be as helpful as I could be to the committee."
2015 State Department subpoena
In February 2016, The Washington Post reported that the United States Department of State had issued a subpoena to the Clinton Foundation in the fall of 2015. According to the report, the subpoena focused on "documents about the charity's projects that may have required approval from federal government during Hillary Clinton's term as secretary of state"; it "also asked for records related to Huma Abedin, longtime Clinton aide who for six months in 2012 was employed simultaneously by the State Department, the foundation, Clinton's personal office, and a private consulting firm with ties to the Clintons".
On October 28, 2016, the FBI announced that while investigating allegedly illicit text messages from Anthony Weiner to a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina, they discovered e-mails related to Clinton's private server on a laptop computer belonging to Abedin's husband. FBI Director James Comey said the agency would review the e-mails to see if they contained classified material. Clinton called for the FBI to release its findings as soon as possible. CNN reported: "The Justice Department and FBI officials are working to secure approval that would allow the FBI to conduct a full search of top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s newly discovered emails, sources familiar with the discussions told CNN." The issue is complex because Abedin shared a computer with Weiner, according to officials, and the case may raise "spousal privilege legal protections" for Abedin since the computer belongs to her husband. In addition, a new search warrant is needed because the existing subpoena relates only to the investigation of Weiner.
The FBI's New York field office were conducting the Weiner investigation and "stumbled on" the Abedin emails on the computer, which they thought was only Weiner's, the officials said. They then stopped their work and contacted the team of investigators from FBI headquarters who had handled the probe of Clinton's private email server. The investigators saw enough of the emails to decide that they seem pertinent to the Clinton server investigation and that they might be emails not seen before. Because they feel they need a warrant specific to Abedin's emails, officials have not been able to examine them further.
Abedin is cooperating with the investigation, according to Justice Department and FBI officials. Investigators believe that some emails which were deleted from the Clinton server are possibly among those in question, and that they will need to interview Abedin again after examining the emails in Weiner's computer.
On October 30, 2016, the FBI obtained a search warrant for the Abedin-linked emails related to the probe of Hillary Clinton's private server that were discovered on Weiner's laptop. Abedin used the same laptop to send thousands of emails to Clinton, according to NBC sources. On November 6, in a letter to Congress, the FBI said that, after reviewing all of Clinton's emails from her tenure as Secretary of State, it had not changed its conclusion reached in July exonerating Clinton.
On July 10, 2010, Abedin married then-U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton officiated the wedding ceremony. In December 2011, Abedin gave birth to a boy, Jordan Zain Weiner. On August 29, 2016, Abedin announced her separation from Weiner after new sexting allegations were made against him. In early 2017, Abedin announced her intent to file for divorce with sole physical custody of their son. On May 19, 2017, after he pled guilty, she filed for divorce. Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner withdrew their divorce case from court in January 2018, stating that they decided to settle the divorce privately in order to spare their six-year-old son further embarrassment.
Hillary Clinton has been described as a mentor and mother figure to Abedin. In 2010, at Abedin's wedding to Weiner, Clinton said: "I have one daughter. But if I had a second daughter, it would [be] Huma." During a trip that Clinton and Abedin made to Saudi Arabia, Abedin's mother, Saleha Mahmood Abedin, said to Clinton: "Hillary, you have spent more time with my daughter than I have in the past 15 years. I'm jealous of you!"
In popular culture
In Saturday Night Live's season 41 premiere on October 3, 2015, SNL cast member Cecily Strong played Abedin in a comedy sketch, which included cast member Kate McKinnon performing a parody of Hillary Clinton, along with the real Hillary Clinton playing a bartender serving drinks to McKinnon as her doppelgänger and Strong's Abedin, and with Darrell Hammond as Bill Clinton.