WikiLeaks reveals the real Huma Abedin—47Hj.,b43
Neither simply body woman or scheduler, Clinton’s long-time aide acts as shield, translator, and history keeper.—By Annie Karni–10/18/16
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was frustrating Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta last year, dangling the possibility of an endorsement and then wavering about his potential support.
Clinton’s longest serving aide, Huma Abedin, told Podesta not to take it personally.
“He’s a tough one for us,” Abedin explained, according to hacked emails from Podesta’s personal account, released by WikiLeaks. “Never really had a relationship.”
It wasn’t the first time Abedin was on hand as a resource to explain the multi-layers of Clinton’s world. In April of 2015, the campaign’s top strategists were uncertain of how best to respond to Loretta Lynch’s appointment as attorney general.
“Pretty sure she knows her, but not certain,” Podesta wrote to a group of aides discussing what would be the right level of response. “+ Huma.”
“She knows Loretta,” Abedin replied, launching into a detailed backstory of local New York political relationships from Clinton’s first term in the Senate. “Not an extremely close relationship and don’t remember last time they connected. She was in running to be [Eliot] Spitzer LG [Lieutenant Governor] years ago. Hrc wanted Leecia Eve, others pushed Lynch. Regardless, definitely a cordial relationship. I would vote for a tweet.”
Abedin’s near constant presence by Clinton’s side for decades has made her a source of fascination and, in recent years, a paparazzi-stalked celebrity in her own right. Fans at rallies stop her for selfies; she has been photographed multiple times by for Vogue, this year by Annie Leibovitz; she hobnobs with movie stars at Paris Fashion Week; and she has the distinction of being the only Clinton campaign staffer who has been singled out by Donald Trump for attack (he used her marriage and recent separation from former Rep. Anthony Weiner to question Clinton’s judgment).
From the outside, it can seem like Abedin has what political aides refer to as “principal confusion,” that is, staying so close to the spotlight for so long that staffers begin to think it’s actually shining on them.
But the WikiLeaks release of thousands of stolen campaign emails — which the campaign has neither verified or denied — shed new light on her unique internal role this cycle: Abedin has been around so long (she started her career as an intern in the First Lady’s office) she’s become more than a body woman.
She is now Clinton’s external hard drive.
When it comes to Clinton’s complicated web of relationships with donors, elected officials, union members, and longtime supporters, Abedin is where all of that information is stored — she knows who needs a phone call or a personal visit to feel heard and come on board, who can be acknowledged merely in a Tweet, and who is a lost cause for Clinton.
Abedin, whose official title on the campaign is “vice chairman,” has been mentioned in fawning magazine articles as a potential chief of staff in a Clinton White House — a miscalculated assessment that taps at her power while misunderstanding the fundamental role she plays in Hillaryland.
She does not function as a chief power broker in the mold of Podesta or longtime Clinton aide Cheryl Mills, two aides dating back to the ‘90s whom Clinton consults as her peers. Nor does Abedin appear to work as a strategist, like communications director Jennifer Palmieri, campaign manager Robby Mook, or longtime media consultant Mandy Grunwald, thinking through the “how” and “why” of Clinton’s presidential bid.
In the thousands of emails released by WikiLeaks so far, Abedin is rarely found offering her own suggestions about campaign strategy, or yet another opinion on framing language for one of Clinton’s speeches.
Instead, she simply channels the boss, manages the boss, or serves as a very Clinton-specific Google search of a human being — the fastest way for the rest of the campaign’s top brass to find who and what Clinton wants and knows. In short, she comes across in the email as the invaluable, irreplaceable uber-assistant of every powerful person’s dreams.
When Mook advocated for canceling a Bill Clinton speech in front of a Wall Street bank, scheduled for just days after Hillary Clinton’s official campaign launch, Abedin calmly informed him of Hillary Clinton’s opinion without offering her own.
“HRC very strongly did not want him to cancel that particular speech,” Abedin emailed Mook and Podesta. “I think if John is getting involved in this scheduling matter, he must feel strongly. I will have to tell her that WJC chose to cancel it, not that we asked.”
She follows up the following day with a new message from the boss. “Robby – Just raised with her again. We are good to cancel esp if WJC is ok with it. Just needed a cool down period,” Abedin wrote on March 12, 2015.
When BuzzFeed was fact-checking Clinton’s claim that all four of her grandparents were immigrants, the campaign turned to Abedin, like an extended family member, to verify if the statement was true. “I think i have some documentation with full background that someone did for us,” she said. (Clinton’s claim was ultimately deemed “false” by PolitiFact.)
By Louis Nelson
While attorney Cheryl Mills and Podesta circulated a headline from People Magazine about Al Gore declining to endorse Clinton for president, Abedin already had the inside scoop.
“Yes he warned us,” she responded. “This was months ago, close to beginning of campaign.”
Mook and Podesta clearly recognized the value of Abedin’s involvement, but also appear to have struggled to figure out how best to use her unique-to-Hillary skillset on the campaign.
On Jan. 7, 2015, Mook sent Podesta a draft “Huma memo,” which appeared to outline a potential role for Abedin on the campaign.
“One issue I didn’t resolve is how much we’d want her to still participate in scheduling if she does the HQ job,” Mook writes (the attached memo was not posted on WikiLeaks). “I think it’s helpful for her to participate in calls and meetings because she’s the institutional memory–and that’s always invaluable.”
Ultimately, Abedin has been on the road with the candidate for the majority of the campaign (although one of the four corner offices on the campaign’s main floor has her name on the door), sitting in Clinton’s curtained-off section of the official campaign charter and standing behind her on rope lines and at parades across the country.
It’s her years of experience doing just that that has helped the Clinton machine run smoothly — and helped the Democratic nominee get out of situations that she doesn’t want to confront.
On June 4, Abedin raised a quiet alarm when political director Amanda Renteria appeared to change a plan and add to Clinton’s schedule a reception with Nancy Pelosi and other members of the House.
“Going to caucus is generally a better structure for her,” Abedin replied, putting her foot down for the boss. “She goes, she does her thing, hangs out and then has to leave. Remember we only had 30 min on schedule as you recommended and she loved that plan….A reception will get her trapped with aggressive members.”
source-wikileaks, annie karni, eric garcetti, leecis eve, annie leibovitz, robby mook, jennifier palmieri, mandy grunwald, ben schreckinger, buzz feed, louis nelson, people mag., amanda renteria