WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. John McCain came to an unusual and impassioned defense of Huma Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, saying the "sinister accusations" by congressional conservatives about her alleged connection to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood must end.
The attacks have been led by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., chairwoman of the Tea Party Caucus in the House, and four other conservative lawmakers, including Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla.
They have asked federal officials to investigate whether Abedin, a Muslim American who is deputy chief of staff at the State Department, is using her influence on U.S. policy toward the Islamic group. The lawmakers cite a report showing that Abedin's relatives, including her deceased father, have alleged connections to the Muslim Brotherhood.
"These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis and no merit. And they need to stop now," said McCain, the GOP's former presidential nominee and its top voice on defense policy. "I have every confidence in Huma's loyalty to our country, and everyone else should as well."
McCain acknowledged the unusual nature of his decision to come to the Senate floor to speak about a particular individual. He said he was compelled to do so to protect her character and reputation in the face of attacks being made "without concern for fact or fairness."
"Huma represents what is best about America: the daughter of immigrants, who has risen to the highest levels of our government on the basis of her substantial personal merit and her abiding commitment to the American ideals that she embodies so fully," said McCain. "I am proud to know Huma, and to call her my friend."
Bachmann and the other lawmakers have singled out various individuals for scrutiny in a series of letters late last week to the inspectors general at several departments, including State, Defense and Homeland Security. They are seeking investigations into the alleged ties of these individuals to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Muslim Brotherhood recently won the presidential election in Egypt, and Clinton met with President Mohammed Morsi last week in Cairo.
Abedin has long been a quiet presence with Clinton, on her Senate staff and later on the campaign trail as Clinton ran for the Democratic nomination for president. Abedin is married to former Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y.