Hillary Clinton's Top Aide Huma Abedin Questioned About Benghazi Attacks
Huma Abedin, a "very nice lady," sat for several hours at a closed-door meeting.
— -- Hillary Clinton’s close aide Huma Abedin fielded questions from the House Select Committee on Benghazi Friday, sitting for nearly eight hours for a closed-door interview with members of Congress and panel investigators.
Abedin, the vice chairwoman of Clinton’s presidential campaign and a near-constant fixture at her side for more than 15 years, was questioned on events surrounding the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, six days before Clinton is scheduled to appear before the committee for a much-anticipated public hearing.
"I came here today to be as helpful as I could be to the committee," Abedin said in brief remarks after the interview. "I wanted to honor the service of those lost and injured in the Benghazi attacks."
Abedin said she answered all the committee's questions "to the best of my ability."
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., said Abedin described the "shock" at the State Department following the attacks that left four Americans dead.
"Shock would be the best way to describe it," he said of what she told investigators today. "Shock that four Americans had been killed over there.
"It's been helpful to understand what the mood was like at the Department of State," he continued. "She gave a pretty good idea of how they were trying to prioritize what needed to be done in light of the tragedy."
The aide Clinton once described as a second daughter, who is not accused of any wrongdoing, arrived shortly after 10 a.m.
She spent the day fielding questions from Republicans and Democrats, with each side questioning her for an hour at a time.
In a statement before Abedin's appearance, the Clinton campaign accused the committee of focusing on Abedin, 39, at the expense of the Benghazi attacks -- as did Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the panel's top Democrat.
Abedin, Cummings said, "had no policy responsibilities, no operational responsibilities, and was not with Sec. Clinton on the night of this phenomenal tragedy."
But Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., defended the committee's decision to interview Abedin.
"Ms. Abedin was a senior official at the State Department at all of the relevant times," he said. "Every witness has a different set of knowledge."
Clinton's actions surrounding the deadly Benghazi attack and her use of a private email server are under scrutiny. She has denied doing anything illegal.
Abedin, the wife of former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, has also been under scrutiny from a Senate committee for her employment status at the State Department -– when she simultaneously worked for State, the Clinton Foundation a consulting firm and Clinton as a special government employee.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has suggested the arrangement could have led to potential conflicts of interest, but she has not been accused of any wrongdoing. Abedin's lawyer has previously declined comment to ABC News but called Grassley's allegations "unfortunate and unfounded."
Those subjects were not expected to be covered by the Benghazi Committee, a spokesman said before the interview.
The committee has similarly interviewed Clinton’s former chief-of-staff Cheryl Mills and deputy chief-of-staff Jake Sullivan, and also deposed longtime confidant Sidney Blumenthal.
The Benghazi committee has emerged as an issue during the 2016 campaign.
On Sep. 29, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., suggested the panel’s probe was responsible for Clinton’s declining presidential poll numbers – a gaffe he later apologized for and Democrats seized upon.
On Wednesday, Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y, said in an interview that the committee’s probe “was designed to go after people and an individual, Hillary Clinton.”
Democrats and Clinton’s campaign were quick to pounce on Hanna’s aside.
“House Republicans aren’t even shy anymore about admitting that the Benghazi Committee is a partisan farce,” said Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon in a statement.
Republicans have dismissed the comments from the upstate New York Republican, who is not on the panel.
"There are seven members of the Benghazi Committee who are intimately familiar with the work of the committee, the motives behind the work, and the results of that work. Congressman Hanna is not one of them," committee chairman Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, wrote in a statement.
Despite the political tensions surrounding Abedin's appearance, today’s proceedings were cordial. Abedin, who appeared in good spirits throughout the day, shook hands with Pompeo as the Kansas Republican left the meeting. Westmoreland praised Abedin, calling her a "very nice lady."