WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner Thursday 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 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 Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., criticized five House Republicans, including former Republican 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 Wednesday, 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,” McCain 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, a Washington policy group, 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 letter said Abedin’s position “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 Wednesday 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.
McClatchy Newspapers reported Friday that Bachmann broadened her allegations Thursday, accusing Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., of associations with the Muslim Brotherhood.
“He has a long record of being associated with (the Council on American–Islamic Relations) and with the Muslim Brotherhood,” Bachmann told right-wing radio and TV show host Glenn Beck.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a potential running mate for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said Thursday 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.
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 Wednesday, “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.