Monday, May 20, 2013

State Dept. spokesman fielded question about Hillary Clinton Deputy Chief of Staff after Huma Abedin 'quietly' left position

State Department and President Obama defended likely NYC mayoral candidate's wife in summer of 2012 after GOP Congress members questioned her alleged familial ties to Muslim Brotherhood, but no one told the press or public about her "new working arrangement"

Last Thursday, Politico and The New York Times broke the news that Anthony Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, "quietly" reached a "new working arrangement" in her last months at the State Department, where she worked closely with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"The disclosure of the agreement that Ms. Abedin made with the State Department comes as her husband, former Representative Anthony D. Weiner, a Democrat, prepares for a mayoral run in New York City," Raymond Hernandez reported for The New York Times. That same day, news broke out on Twitter that Weiner and Abedin shot what appeared to be a TV commercial at his childhood residence in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

"[S]o @anthonyweiner & Huma (gorgeous!) are shooting a commercial on my block. i wonder what it's for.. #runanthonyrun," @chippygee tweeted, and posted the following picture:

"Ms. Abedin reached her new working arrangement in June 2012, when she returned from maternity leave, quietly leaving her position as deputy chief of staff and becoming a special government employee, which is essentially a consultant," Hernandez reported for The New York Times on May 16, 2013. "A State Department official said that change freed her from the requirement that she disclose her private earnings for the rest of the year on her financial disclosure forms. Still, during that period, she continued to be identified publicly in news reports as Mrs. Clinton’s deputy chief of staff."

Maggie Haberman, John Bresnahan and Glenn Thrush reported for Politico that "Abedin never would have had to make the information public had her friend not provided the details."

Some critics of Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin believe that there may have been another reason why a "new working arrangement" occurred in June of 2012.

"Did Huma Abedin ‘quietly’ step down as Deputy Chief of Staff in same month Bachmann letter sent to IG?" Walid Shoebat, asked at his blog on May 17, 2013. Shoebat notes that on June 13, 2012, a "letter sent by Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA), and Tom Rooney (R-FL) to the State Department’s Deputy Inspector General...specifically named Huma Abedin and her familial connections to the Muslim Brotherhood."

The letter sent by Bachmann and four other Republican congress members charged that "the Department’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Huma Abedin, has three family members – her late father, her mother and her brother – connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations. Her position affords her routine access to the Secretary and to policy-making."

In an article which unknowingly wrongly reported Abedin was still Deputy Chief of Staff, Politico's Jonathan Allen reported on July 19, 2012, "Similar letters were sent to inspectors general at the departments of Defense, Justice, Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence."

"Had an announcement been made in June of 2012 that Abedin was stepping down as Deputy, it clearly would have fueled the controversy," Shoebat speculates.

Shoebat is "a Palestinian militant turned peacemaker", according to a 2004 BBC News profile, but a 2010 Washington Post column questioned his terrorist "credentials," and quoted critics who suggested that "Christian fundamentalists in the U.S. military" were "promoting terrorists-turned-Christians, with potentially deadly consequences" to "spew[] Islamophobic hatred."

At a July 18, 2012 daily press briefing, the Acting Deputy Spokesperson and Director of the Press Office Patrick Ventrell was asked a question by a reporter who specifically referred to Abedin as Deputy Chief of Staff, but he didn't correct him.
QUESTION: No? All right. Well, I was going to bring this up, but since Senator McCain took to the floor of the Senate this morning --


QUESTION: -- and delivered a rather stirring defense of the Secretary’s Deputy Chief of Staff, I’m wondering if you, speaking on behalf of her employer, would like to add your two cents to that.

MR. VENTRELL: Can you repeat your question? Sorry, I didn’t hear the --

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the allegations that are being made against Huma Abedin?

MR. VENTRELL: We think that – again, if you’re referring to the very specific thing that was about a member of Congress writing to the OIG --

QUESTION: Five members of Congress, yes. And Senator McCain --

MR. VENTRELL: -- I’ll have to look into it for more information on that. But, obviously, the Secretary very much values her wise counsel and support, and we think that these allegations are preposterous.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you know if the Inspector General, to whom Representative Bachmann and the others have sent the letter to asking for him to open an investigation, do you know if there is going to be an investigation being opened, or is it just so preposterous, in your words, that it doesn’t even warrant that?

MR. VENTRELL: I’ll have to check in with the Office of the Inspector General. I don’t have any information, but I’ll check in.
The next day Ventrell was asked, "anything new or any new development in terms of what may have transpired since yesterday in terms of this Department’s response to Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s accusation of Ms. Huma Abedin?"

"As I said yesterday, we find those allegations preposterous, and we continue to think so," the Director of the Press Office shot back.

The reporter followed up, "Were you able to get an answer from the IG? Are they actually going to look into this?"

"I have not yet, but I’ll continue to inquire," Ventrell responded, and that appears to be the last time the subject was ever broached at a State Department briefing.

Republican Senator John McCain defended Huma Abedin in a speech on the Senate floor on July 18, 2012, and - as a result - The New York Times published multiple stories online and in the paper about Huma Abedin, three of which that wrongly referred to Weiner's wife as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's current deputy chief of staff.

On July 18, 2012, KJ Dell’Antonia reported for The New York Times Parenting blog, "Maybe Friday’s People cover story will focus instead on how Ms. Abedin juggles a young baby and a high-profile job as a deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton."

On July 18, 2012, Kate Taylor reported for The New York Times City Room blog, "Now, for the second time, Huma Abedin, a deputy chief of staff in the State Department, has been thrust into the limelight under unlikely, and unpleasant, circumstances."

On July 18, 2012, Ashley Southall reported for The New York Times Caucus blog, "She stayed by Mrs. Clinton’s side in the Senate and during her 2008 run for the Democratic presidential nomination, and is now her deputy chief of staff."

Four more articles about Huma Abedin which unknowingly wrongfully reported she was still Deputy Chief of Staff were published in The New York Times that summer, but apparently no one in the State Department or Weiner and Clinton households informed the paper about the new "working arrangement," even though all have a history of reacting rather quickly to complain about factually incorrect errors.

On July 16, 2012, Robert Mackey reported for The New York Times Lede blog, "Ms. Ahmed then directed Mr. Bradley to a transcript of a recent conversation between two American conservatives who claimed that Mrs. Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, Huma Abedin, was participating in a Muslim Brotherhood plot 'to penetrate our government.'"

On July 27, 2012, Jennifer Steinhauer reported for The New York Times Caucus blog, "Ms. Bachmann and four other lawmakers last month sent a letter to the State Department charging that Huma Abedin, a deputy chief of staff in the State Department and a long-time aide to Ms. Clinton, may be a part of a group of Muslims with ties to terrorist organizations alleged to have infiltrated the federal government."

On August 8, 2012, Peter Baker reported for The New York Times Caucus blog, "Hosting an iftar dinner at the White House marking the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Mr. Obama singled out Huma Abedin, the deputy chief of staff to Mrs. Clinton who has come under fire from a handful of House Republicans who made unsubstantiated suggestions that she was among Muslim Americans with terrorist ties who have infiltrated the government."

On August 15, 2012, Ashley Southall - in an article about Chelsea Clinton - referred to Abedin as "Hillary Rodham Clinton's deputy chief of staff."

Last July, another State Department spokesman, Philippe Reines, released a statement to the media defending Abedin and Clinton, but not informing them that the former was no longer Deputy Chief of Staff: "These accusations are nothing but vicious and disgusting lies, and anyone who traffics in them should be ashamed of themselves. I would hope that hearing such a remarkable statement from someone of Senator McCain's stature gives [Bachmann] pause in doing so any further."

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Reines has been described as a "loyalist" and Hillary's right hand "hatchet man," and - like Abedin - he followed Clinton from her Senate job to the State Department, and is still working for her.

In his July 18, 2012 speech, McCain never referred to Abedin's actual job title, and neither did President Barack Obama when he defended her as an "American patriot" at the annual Iftar dinner on August 10, 2012. "And that includes a good friend, Huma Abedin, who has worked tirelessly -- (applause) -- worked tirelessly in the White House, in the U.S. Senate, and most exhaustingly, at the State Department, where she has been nothing less than extraordinary in representing our country and the democratic values that we hold dear," Obama said, adding, "Senator Clinton has relied on her expertise, and so have I."

The White House listed her under Administration members as "Ms. Huma Abedin, Deputy Chief of Staff, Department of State" when she attended the 2010 Iftar dinnar.

On August 13, 2012, Jeane Macintosh, Jennifer Gould Keil and Josh Margolin reported for The New York Post, "Some Weiner-watchers are stunned that the pol, who gave up his $174,000 salary when he resigned, and Huma, who makes around $155,000 annually, can afford the posh pad at 254 Park Ave. South at East 20th Street."

The New York Post story added, "Weiner hasn’t landed steady work since leaving office, according to sources. But some friends of the onetime rising star said he has consulting work and will have no problem exceeding his congressional salary."

Politico reported on May 18, 2013, "One source said that the $135,000 she identified on the couple’s joint tax return of just over $490,000 was the entirety of her payment from the State Department for the calendar year 2012.

"An associate of Ms. Abedin’s said on Thursday that the arrangement allowed her to work from her home in New York, rather than at the State Department’s headquarters in Washington, and to spend more time with her child and husband," Raymond Hernandez reported for The New York Times. "She earned approximately $135,000 from the department during 2012."

On her Twitter account, Politico's Maggie Haberman tweeted, "In NYT piece on his consulting, 'most of' Weiner's and his wife's combined $496k was described as from his work," then observed, "But $135k was hers from State, and she had other consulting retainers that comprised the $360k combined in income."

"If the most Abedin made over six months was, say, $100k, then Weiner made about $250k for year. They won't answer q's," Haberman tweeted, then added, "Won't answer questions on the breakdown of who made what, that is."

Last night, I tweeted to Haberman - who @AnthonyWeiner follows on Twitter, "In 2012, @NYPost reported Abedin earned 'around $155,000.' Huma then made $135,000 working from home?"

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