Huma Abedin has worked with Hillary Clinton for decades, serving as the presidential candidate’s right-hand woman at the White House, Senate, State Department and private life.
But her role in Clinton’s career has come into a harsh spotlight as the relationship between the Clinton Foundation and Clinton’s State Department is being scrutinized, and Abedin’s name is front and center in emails being parsed to determine any inappropriate links.
And continued scandals surrounding her now-estranged husband, Anthony Weiner, have further thrust her into the public eye.
Now vice chairwoman of Clinton’s presidential campaign, Abedin, 40, was Clinton’s deputy chief of staff at the State Department. Freedom of Information Act requests from a conservative organization have made many of Clinton’s staff’s emails sent during that time public, and Abedin was involved in most of the exchanges drawing scrutiny.
In one exchange when Clinton was secretary of state, then-Clinton Foundation executive Doug Band asked Abedin to facilitate a meeting between Clinton and the crown prince of Bahrain. In another, Band and Abedin emailed about job opportunities at the State Department for a person whose name was redacted.
Abedin has been in Clinton’s orbit since 1996, when she got a White House internship as a student at George Washington University. She has said she was hoping for a job in the press office, aspiring to be a journalist like her role model, Christiane Amanpour — but she was assigned to work with the then-first lady’s chief of staff. “The rest, as they say, is history,” Abedin said of the experience in an April “Call Your Girlfriend” podcast.
Born in Michigan, Abedin spent the majority of her childhood in Saudi Arabia, returning to the US for college. Her parents were scholars — her father from India and her mother from Pakistan.
Abedin has worked closely with Clinton in practically all of her endeavors since the White House. She worked for Clinton in the Senate and worked for her Senate campaign. She was the traveling chief of staff, known as the body woman, for Clinton’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign.
State Department tenure controversial
But her time at the State Department has not only drawn controversy because of the emails later made public.
Abedin was also given special status as a contractor with State after she left her formal role with Clinton to consult as well for a company called Teneo, formed by a Clinton insider. She also worked with the Clinton Foundation.
Just before she left her official State post, a mysterious LLC was formed with ties to her.
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican, has long demanded answers about Abedin’s work with the State Department, criticizing her designation as a Special Government Employee. Abedin has answered Grassley’s inquiries with a defense of her varied work as separate.
Personal life made public
Abedin hasn’t only made the news for her work with Clinton. Abedin married Weiner, the former New York Democratic congressman, in 2010. Former President Bill Clinton officiated their wedding.
At the time, the power couple was notable for Weiner’s rising career and their Muslim-Jewish relationship. But in 2011, Weiner admitted to sending sexually explicit messages and pictures to women online, a scandal that effectively ended his political career. One picture accidentally appeared on his Twitter account.
Abedin stayed with him through that scandal, and the couple had a son, Jordan Zain Weiner, later that year.
During a failed run for New York City mayor in 2013, more explicit messages he sent came to light, originating from the time after his original scandal.
That time, Abedin again stood by his side and gave remarks at a press conference.
“What I want to say is I love him, I have forgiven him, I believe in him, and as I have said from the beginning, we are moving forward,” she said in 2013, acknowledging “horrible mistakes” her husband had made. “It took a lot of work and a whole lot of therapy to get to a place where I could forgive Anthony. … It was not an easy choice in any way, but I made the decision that it was worth staying in this marriage.”
But in August, when another sexting scandal came to light, Abedin had enough and announced she would be separating from her husband. Sources close to Abedin told CNN that the couple had been estranged for some time, but said she was “furious and sickened” after The New York Post published a sexually suggestive photo of Weiner next to their four-year-old son.
Questions over Abedin’s background
Clinton’s critics have seized on Abedin’s Muslim and international background, with the New York Post making allegations this week about her association with an academic journal founded by her late father and run by her mother that examines issues related to Muslims living in Western societies. Abedin was listed on the publication’s masthead for 10 years as an assistant editor, according to the Post.
The Post called it a “radical Muslim journal,” but people familiar with it and the region describe the journal as scholarly, academic and nonpartisan, and said its content does not raise red flags.
Clinton’s campaign said Abedin had very little involvement with the journal.
“She wasn’t paid — did little to no work,” Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said in an email to CNN.