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Top Clinton aide testifies before Benghazi committee

Huma Abedin has been by Clinton's side for years, and testified before the House Select Committee on Benghazi Friday.

A close aide to Hillary Clinton testified before the House Select Committee on Benghazi Friday, just days ahead of Clinton’s much-anticipated testimony next week.

Huma Abedin has been by Clinton’s side for years — including during the 2012 attack on the diplomatic compound in Libya, which occurred while Clinton was secretary of state. Abedin currently serves as vice chair of Clinton’s presidential campaign. She can usually be spotted traveling everywhere with Clinton, but has not been visible on campaign stops since Tuesday night's debate, presumably because she is preparing for her testimony.

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Abedin's appearance before the committee began around 10:00 a.m. and was expected to last hours, as have previous appearances by Clinton aides and advisers. The testimony occurred behind closed doors, with a transcript to be released at an as-of-yet unknown later date.

Abedin "answered all questions posed by Members and staff, and the Select Committee on Benghazi greatly appreciates her willingness to take the time to voluntarily appear before the committee, as well as her service to the United States over a number of years," Rep. Trey Gowdy, who chairs the committee, said in a statement Friday evening. "The information she provided will assist the committee in writing its final report.” 

Abedin delivered a brief statement of her own after the appearance before the committee wrapped up, saying, "I came here today to be as helpful as I could be to the committee. I wanted to honor the service of those lost and injured in the Benghazi attacks. I'm proud to have served at the State Department, and I was honored to work with Secretary Clinton and alongside distinguished diplomats and foreign service officers. I appreciated the time of both the members and the committee staff today, and I answered all their questions to the best of my ability."

Abedin has been the subject of controversy over the fact that she seemed to hold several jobs during the waning days of Clinton’s time at the State Department. Abedin was given a special employee status, typically reserved for people with specialized skills, which allowed her to do work on the side for the Clinton Foundation and a consulting firm founded by a former Bill Clinton aide. But a source close to the Benghazi committee said that Friday’s appearance would not get into those issues, and instead focus squarely on the Benghazi attacks themselves.

Clinton campaign spokesperson Nick Merrill, who worked with Clinton and Abedin at the State Department, accused the committee of playing politics. "Huma has been nothing but entirely cooperative with the Committee's requests, yet it remains unclear why the committee is focused on her, given her lack of knowledge about the events surrounding Benghazi," Merrill said in a statement. "The Republicans' focus on her of all people, and their decision to leak details about her appearance, is just another tactic in their partisan plan to go after Hillary Clinton. And in that vein, we hope that the leaks that have become routine do not happen after she completes her interview."

Meanwhile, with Clinton set to testify next Thursday, committee's credibility has suffered several blows in recent days. It started when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested this month that the committee was created to damage Clinton.

On Wednesday, New York Republican Rep. Richard Hanna told a local radio station that the committee was “designed to go after people and an individual, Hillary Clinton.”

Gowdy said in a statement Thursday night that Hanna did not know what he was talking about. “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,” Gowdy said.

He added that Hanna had never raised concerns about the committee in private, and Gowdy insisted that he’s running a “serious, fact-centric” investigation. “The pitfall, of course, is that commentators, and sometimes even members of your own conference, offer thoughts on matters on which they are not familiar,” he added.