Secretary of State Clinton, Part 1: With Friends Like These...

Charles Dharapak

Hillary Clinton, Obama’s former Democrat primary rival, became his first Secretary of State.  Early in her tenure (March, 2009) Clinton made two key trips abroad.  In Israel, she met with officials there and announced that she was sending two diplomats to Damascus to discuss relations between the United States and Syria.  On March 6, 2009, in Switzerland, she met Sergei Lavrov and presented him with that comical large red “reset” button that really said “overload” in Russian.  Throughout 2009-2010, according to Gallup, Clinton enjoyed the highest approval ratings of any Obama administration official.

However, two of her associates were troublesome and it pays to look at two of them- Sidney Blumenthal and Huma Abedin.

Upon her confirmation, there were reports among fierce infighting among Clinton associates to obtain jobs at the Department.  Former members of her campaign and HillPac, a political action committee, were looking for jobs by hounding Maggie Williams, a former campaign manager tasked with the hiring process at the State Department by Clinton.  

One associate who did not follow her to the State Department was Sidney Blumenthal, but it was not for a lack of trying on Clinton’s part.  Blumenthal is the archetypical Clinton insider and adviser who has been at the side of both Clintons for over 30 years.  It was the Clinton impeachment trial that solidified their relationship with Blumenthal as he would often routinely provide the Clintons with information about their Republican opponents and how to create a message against them.  He was a former journalist who became a senior White House adviser from 1997 to 2001.  As a journalist, before moving onto the White House, he was often criticized by other journalists for showing favoritism in coverage of the Clintons.  Once an adviser, he quickly gained a reputation of doing anything to defend the political family with many referring to him as “Sid Vicious.”   Initially, Clinton fought to have him become an adviser at the State Department, but the move was blocked by key Obama aides.

During Clinton’s impeachment trial, Blumenthal is believed to be the source behind the revelations of Rep. Henry Hyde’s extramarital affair.  Blumenthal denied he was behind the revelations.  By this time, besides calling him “Sid Vicious,” others referred to him as “Grassy Knoll” in the White House for his penchant for conspiracy theories.  In the press, he stated that the Special Prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, was “a mad man on a mission from God,” “a constitutional illiterate, and “a key player in a vast right wing conspiracy.”  He depicted his boss as a “victim” of a predatory and sexually demanding woman, Monica Lewinsky.

After writing a memoir about his time in the White House, he became a key adviser to the Clinton campaign in 2007-2008.  Though Obama emerged the winner, his close aides became incensed with some of the heated rhetoric in the primaries which they attributed to Blumenthal.  It was later revealed by McClatchy Report’s Washington Bureau Chief, James Asher, that Blumenthal had personally told him that it was believed Obama was born in Kenya.  Larry Johnson, a former CIA operative and close adviser to Clinton in her 2008 campaign confirmed that Blumenthal had on many occasions in emails and private discussions followed up on and was transfixed by rumors that Obama was born in Kenya.  He stated that Bill Clinton was particularly impressed with the attacks on Obama.  Johnson followed up by stating that the 2008 Clinton campaign was “hot and heavy” on allegations that Obama was a Muslim because he was a conduit for those attacks based on information provided by Blumenthal.

According to a report in Vanity Fair, Clinton clearly wanted Blumenthal to follow her to the State Department.  That was thwarted as Obama expressly denied the request.  The situation came to a head after two key Obama aides- David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs- threatened to quit if Blumenthal was hired since they believed (probably correctly) that he was behind the personal attacks on Obama.  Having been denied the job, he was eventually hired by the Clinton Foundation to help with research, messaging, and planning events.

Huma Abedin came into the Clinton orbit during Bill’s tenure in the White House.  In 1996, the George Washington University graduate became an intern in the White House and was assigned to Hillary Clinton.  From 1997-1999 while still an intern, she became an executive board member of GWU’s Muslim Students Association (MSA).  One of the board members was Mohammed Omeish who headed the International Islamic Relief Organization which was later charged with funneling cash to al-Qaeda.  His brother, Emash, was closely associated with Abdurhaman Alamoudi who was later convicted on terrorism charges.  Another spiritual leader for the Board was Anwar al-Awlaki who ministered to some of the 9/11 hijackers.  From 1996-2008, Abedin was employed by the IMMA as the assistant editor of a publication called Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs (JMMA).  The first seven of those years overlapped with Abdullah Omar Naseef’s presence on the board of JMMA.  Naseef is a known al-Qaeda supporter.  Throughout her years with the IMMA, she remained a Clinton adviser and confidante.  During the 2008 primary, she became a primary adviser on the Middle East.

In January, 2010 she married Congressman Anthony Weiner in a ceremony officiated by Bill Clinton.  The couple had a baby the following year.  Upon her return from maternity leave, Clinton changed her title from “deputy chief of staff” to “special government employee.”  This allowed Abedin to earn income as a private consultant despite holding a job at the State Department.  Her outside clients included the State Department, Hillary Clinton, and the Clinton Foundation.  Abedin earned $135,000 for her efforts which did not become public until March 2013 after she and Clinton left the State Department.  By this time, what triggered the requests, was Anthony Weiner’s resignation from Congress amid a sex scandal.  

Abedin stood by her man and she stood by Clinton after Clinton left the State Department by chairing her 6-member post-State transition team in 2013.  When the Clinton email scandal erupted, she testified to the FBI that she turned over all communications to the FBI and State Department upon her departure.  In August 2016, the New York Post published text messages of a sexual nature between Weiner and an underage girl.  In the course of the investigation, it was learned that she shared a computer with Weiner on which were over 650,000 email records, many between Abedin and Clinton.  

Next: The Arab Spring