Sunday, 30 August 2015

Hillary Clinton and Protégé Huma Abedin: Two Peas in a Pod?

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Hillary Clinton has gone to great lengths to keep the contents of her e-mail server from investigators. Initially, she flat refused to turn it over. When she finally did surrender the server, it had been wiped. She has handled questions about it in a way that has alienated many leaders and big donors in her own party. It's been enough to make investigators and journalists alike wonder what she had on that server that is worth going to such extremes to hide. As officials pore over the e-mails they do have, it is becoming apparent that not only did Hillary Clinton send and receive e-mails containing classified information on her private server, but that she also had other things to hide.

The Clintons and many of their associates have always played fast and loose with the rules everyone else is required to follow. The two terms she and Bill spent in the White House were marked by one scandal after another. Irregularities were, well, regular.

Old habits, it would appear, die hard.

Hillary Clinton's protégé Huma Abedin (shown behind Hillary in the photo) came to work in the White House in 1996 as a junior intern assigned to the first lady. She has been connected with Hillary Clinton — and her political career — ever since. She appears to have been a good student in the ways of playing fast and loose with the rules.

During Hillary Clinton's time as secretary of state, Abedin was her deputy chief of staff. During that time Abedin had a "special government employee" arrangement that allowed her to work other jobs. At one point she held four jobs simultaneously. All of those jobs were connected, in one way or another, to Hillary Clinton. She was part time aide to Hillary Clinton at the State Department, personal assistant to Hillary Clinton, salaried employee of the Clinton Foundation, and private consultant for Teneo Holdings, which was founded by three partners all with close ties to the Clintons.

Not only was Abedin's "special government employee" arrangement "special," it was also not completely above board. In July, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) made public information that the State Department's inspector general had discovered irregularities in Abedin's salary and paid leave, saying she was overpaid by almost $10,000 for unused vacation and sick time due to violations of the rules regarding the way that time is allocated and used.

Grassley said he believed that the investigation had been made more difficult than it should have been because much of the e-mail communication between Abedin and Hillary had been sent and received over the private e-mail system Hillary had set up using her private server. Those e-mails were not in the "work related e-mails" Hillary initially turned over on a USB drive, even though she said that she and her staff, which included Abedin, had meticulously gone over all e-mails and turned everything over.

Now that more e-mails are coming forward, Grassley's suspicions seem to be correct. While employee records show Abedin never took time off, her e-mails say differently. After the birth of her son, Abedin went to Italy for 10 days, and during that time she e-mailed co-workers that she was "on leave."

Grassley also expressed concerns that Abedin was running roughshod over conflict-of-interest laws due to her divided loyalties with her various employers. He wrote that the Office of the Inspector General:

had reason to believe that e-mail evidence relevant to that inquiry was contained in e-mails Ms. Abedin sent and received from her account on Secretary Clinton's non-government server, making them unavailable to the OIG through its normal statutory right of access to records.

The e-mails that are beginning to trickle down the pipeline are shedding much-needed light on the extent to which Abedin's loyalities may have been divided. In late 2012, while still employed as an aide to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Abedin was helping future presidential candidate Hillary Clinton transition out of her job at State and into the political ring. If that's confusing, it's because it's supposed to be. Such ambiguity led Grassley to write to Abedin and the current secretary of state, John Kerry, to ask, "How can the taxpayer know who exactly SGEs [Special Government Employees] are working for at any given moment? How can the ethics officer at the State Department know?"

During that time of ambiguous multi-employment, she helped plan and execute a trip to Northern Ireland for then-Secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who was going there on official state business. In one e-mail, dated November 30, 2012 she helped pull together a meeting at a private club in Dublin that was attended by donors for both the Clinton campaign and the Clinton foundation, as well as her other boss Declan Kelly, CEO of Teneo Holdings. But Kelly was also the U.S. economic envoy to Northern Ireland appointed by none other Hillary Clinton. In that e-mail, Abedin wrote, "Maybe we can all gather for drinks/dinner and HRC [Hillary Rodman Clinton] can come join for as long as she can?" So, Abedin planned to have Hillary there and she was there. But it's hard to say which hat(s) she wore on that occasion — secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, the Clinton Foundation, and/or a future presidential candidate. But regardless of whatever hat(s) she wore, she was Abedin's boss — or at least one of Abedin's bosses.

It's easy to see why Grassley thinks there may be a conflict of interest going on here.

In July 2012, Abedin corresponded via e-mail with a New York bank executive's assistant who asked her whether he should take a job with Teneo Holdings; she agreed to meet with him and he did accept the job. Grassley says these e-mails "raise a number of questions about the intersection of official State Department actions, private Teneo business, and Secretary Clinton's personal interest in fundraising for the Clinton Foundation and related entities."

No wonder Hillary and her protégé wanted those e-mails kept private. If the few e-mails seen so far are any indication, there was some personal business going on at State on the taxpayers' dime, and Hillary and her friends are in for a long, bumpy ride. That ride may end many of them in jail.

Photo of Hillary Clinton with Huma Abedin behind her: AP Images 

(Information for this article was gathered from a variety of sources, including Fox News, Irish Central, the Washington Post, and Independent Journal.)

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