Earlier this month, five House Republicans, including Rep. Michele Bachmann, alleged that Huma Abedin, a longtime personal aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the wife of former Representative Anthony Weiner, was part of an Islamic terrorist plot to infiltrate the United States government. As news of the letter filtered out this week, the backlash gave the impression that an exceptional number of Washington elites — including top Republicans like John McCain and John Boehner — were rushing to Abedin’s defense. The allegations may have been extreme and unfounded enough to cause Republicans to turn against one another, but this wasn’t the first outrageous charge Bachmann ever made.
So why the outpouring of bipartisan support for a political aide?
The former Research Director for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and Editor-in-Chief of Think Progress, Judd Legum, suggested the support is probably a result of Abedin’s close ties to the Secretary of State. Abedin, who served as Clinton’s “body woman” and is by her side as much as almost anyone else, has become closely aligned with Clinton.
The suggestion is the support is explained by the fact that a majority of Washington, at least right now, is very supportive of Clinton and her people — even if they have political beliefs that differ. Clinton has had a surge in popularity over the past year (her approval ratings are as high as ever) and her role as a stateswoman has allowed her to stay out of the most partisan debates. So it’s natural that politicians from all sides would rush in to the defense of her close aide.
“She’s always there with Hillary. If you like Hillary, you’d have gotten to know her,” Legum said. In addition to her current global popularity, Clinton has had a fairly long positive relationship with Senate Republicans: as a 2010 New York Times article put it, Clinton has a “reputation for getting along with Republicans.”
“There are people who are opposed to her politically, but they have a respect for her and the way she conducts herself,” he added. “My sense is that there’s not any larger political play.”
Standing with Abedin has become something of a cause celebre in Washington circles, and not only among those who sit at the top tiers of the government. Those who don’t have the clout to make pronouncements in the Senate or House have taken to a Facebook group called “I Stand With Huma Abedin,” where dozens of strategists, aides and other D.C. insiders have made the social network their own soapbox for stating their support for Abedin.
In the Facebook group, dozens of Washington insiders, many of them friends and of former staffers, have piped in with their support:
Patti Solis Doyle, a former Senior Adviser and campaign manager for Hillary Clinton and Chief of Staff for Joe Biden.
Debra Schiff, a former White House receptionist and aide during the Clinton era. She was also a flight attendant on Bill Clinton’s campaign flights.
Burns Strider, a former advisor to Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi with connections to Democrats in the House and Congress.
Justin Schall, a campaign manager for Maryland congressional hopeful John Delaney.
Chris Gowen, a professor at American University Washington College of Law and former aide to President Bill Clinton of five years. He also fact-checked Clinton’s memoir, My Life.
Seth Bringman, spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party.