NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Newly released e-mails offer a glimpse into Hillary Clinton confidant and personal aide Huma Abedin, who is facing growing scrutiny for her “special government employee” status inside the U.S. State Department while Clinton was in her final year as secretary of state.
Abedin has worked for Clinton for years, including her days in the U.S. Senate through the 2008 campaign and into the Obama administration. But it was a period of several months in 2012 — when she split time working for the State Department, Clinton Foundation, an outside consulting firm, Teneo, which has close ties to the Clintons, and for Clinton herself — that is now drawing a closer look by the State Department Inspector General and Clinton’s Republican critics about potential conflicts of interest.
Some have alleged that Abedin used her ties to Clinton to improperly exert influence for the benefit of her bosses. No evidence has been presented publicly, however, and Abedin has not been charged with any crime or formally accused of violating government policy.
Special government employees are similar to outside government contractors. They are on the federal payroll but subject to guidelines about financial conflicts of interest and other restrictions on outside activities.
The emails — which came to light as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request and lawsuit filed by the conservative group Citizens United, which was seeking information about the Clintons and Abedin’s time as a special government employee — show how Abedin at times brought together players from her three other employers.
One set of e-mails, which were first obtained by the Washington Post, show Abedin e-mailing with Declan Kelly, a Teneo executive, about an outing with Hillary Clinton, Kelly, Clinton Foundation donors and State Department officials during an official State Department trip to Ireland by the secretary of state in December of 2012.
“Maybe we can all gather for drinks/dinner and HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton] can come join for as long as she can?” Abedin wrote from her State Department account to the group about plans for the night of Dec. 6, 2012. “Declan has kindly offered to organize something. Either way, doubt we will lock anything for a few days but please know she does hope to see you that night!”
Abedin and Kelly exchanged several e-mails about plans for the evening. On Dec. 4, Abedin e-mailed a group that included Kelly, and members of the State Department and Clinton Foundation with the details of the event, which the Washington Post reported was organized by John Fitzpatrick, a Clinton supporter and Irish-American hotel magnate.
The e-mails do not detail whether Clinton attended the dinner with Teneo executives, but the Washington Post determined Clinton did participate, citing interviews with participants. The day of the dinner, Abedin informed a small group, including Kelly, that Clinton might be late because “hrc has to see the russians about Syria.”
The Clinton campaign defended Abedin and criticized Republicans’ for promoting “baseless” allegations about her.
“This is someone who has spent nearly two decades in public service, and is widely known for her integrity and tireless work ethic,” Nick Merrill, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign, said. “After the birth of her son she took maternity leave. The IG had questions about the details of her leave, Huma answered. Anything beyond that injected into the public sphere is unfounded and from partisans in Congress with a clear agenda. These emails serve to reinforce that these allegations are baseless. It’s not surprising, but it is disappointing.”
Abedin’s lawyer declined comment.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has been investigating Abedin’s special employment status and whether her work involved conflicts of interest. He is pressing the State Department and Abedin to clarify the nature of her work on Clinton’s Ireland trip.
In new letters to State and Abedin obtained by ABC News, Grassley suggested that the emails “raise a number of questions” about Abedin’s employment.
“How can the taxpayer know who exactly you were working for at any given moment? How can the ethics officer at the State Department know?” he wrote in his letter to Abedin.
In a letter to the State Department, obtained by The New York Times, Abedin’s lawyer called Grassley’s allegations “unfortunate and unfounded.”
“Ms. Abedin is known for her integrity and her tireless work ethic and has been a role model for young women who have sought careers in government, public policy, and foreign affairs,” the lawyer, Miguel Rodriguez wrote. “No staffer – indeed nobody at all – should be subject to such unfounded attacks based on ill-informed leaks, much less someone who has made countless personal sacrifices in distinguished service to the country she loves.”
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