In a normal election year, a normal candidate’s close aide who caused even minor embarrassment to a campaign so near to Election Day would be whisked away as quickly as possible to avoid becoming a distraction.
But Huma Abedin is not simply a close aide, she’s a critical member of Hillary Clinton’s tiny inner circle that protects and — at times — enables the deeply flawed and secretive Democratic nominee.
So despite FBI Director James Comey’s announcement that the bureau is reviewing emails from Abedin’s time at the State Department reportedly found on a laptop she shared with her soon-to-be ex-husband Anthony Weiner (confiscated as a part of the FBI’s investigation into allegations he sexted with a 15-year-old North Carolina girl), the campaign made clear over the weekend that she’s not going anywhere.
John Podesta, the chairman of the Clinton campaign, told reporters on a conference call that Abedin had been nothing but cooperative with investigators and sat for hours of depositions last summer as part of the civil lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch.
"There's nothing that she's done that we think calls into question anything that she's done with respect to this investigation… we fully stand behind her," Podesta said.
But the new information that the FBI found State Department-related email on her home laptop also calls into question whether Abedin in fact turned over all of the devices she used to send and receive email while working at State. For her part, Abedin reportedly told the FBI she didn't know her emails were on the laptop.
On June 28, 2016, Abedin said under oath in a sworn deposition that she looked for all devices that she thought contained government work on them so the records could be given to the State Department. (These records were subsequently reviewed by the FBI.)
“How did you go about searching for what records you may have in your possession to be returned to the State Department?” Attorney Ramona Cotca for Judicial Watch asked her.
“I looked for all the devices that may have any of my State Department work on it and returned — returned — gave them to my attorneys for them to review for all relevant documents. And gave them devices and paper,” Abedin answered.
Cotca then asked Abedin specifically what devices she gave her attorneys.
“If memory serves me correctly, it was two laptops, a BlackBerry, and some files that I found in my apartment,” Abedin said, adding the BlackBerry was associated with her Clintonemail.com account.
Abedin maintained that she was “not involved in the process” of what records on her devices would be given to the State Department.
“I provided them [her attorneys] with the devices and the materials and asked them to find whatever they thought was relevant and appropriate, whatever was their determination as to what was a federal record, and they did. They turned the materials in, and I know they did so….”
Abedin was asked whether she supplied her login, password and other credentials to her “Clintonmail.com” account so that her attorneys could eyeball “all of the emails that were on that account” Abedin said she had.
Pressed how she was sure, Abedin said, “I cannot answer that question.”
Abedin said her practice was to rely on her State Department email through her laptop and BlackBerry for the “vast majority of my work” but acknowledged her personal account was a de facto business account too.
“I used that for the Clinton family matters and, frankly, I used it for my own personal e-mail, as well,” she testified.
Abedin helped set up a private email address for Clinton at the start of her tenure as Secretary of State, according to State Department emails. In one email, Clinton wrote Abedin on Nov. 12, 2010: “...I don’t want any risk of the personal being accessible.”
Asked about this exchange in her deposition, Abedin said she interpreted Clinton’s words to mean the Secretary of State hoped personal matters would “not accessible to anybody.”
“I would imagine anybody who has personal e-mail doesn’t want that personal e-mail to be read by anybody else,” Abedin said.
Asked whether the decision was made to deliberately avoid public disclosure through the Freedom of Information Act, Abedin responded, “I absolutely do not believe that no.”
When told she used her Clintonmail.com address for “State-related matters,” Abedin didn’t deny it.
“Yes. There were occasions when I did do that, correct,” she said.
But Abedin said she rarely deleted emails when it came to her official State Department email account or her personal Huma@Clintonemail.com.
“My practice with my Clinton e-mail was similar to what I had with my State account, which is that I left everything in — in the Inbox, and I transitioned to a new e-mail once the Secretary's office was set up, her personal office post State Department. And I was — and I no longer used Clinton e-mail.”
Abedin added that just before she left the State Department and “ceased” using her Clintonemail.com account, she couldn’t “recall how many [e-mails] were returned … I certainly don’t recally how many was on — was on the account. I just left everything on what — on the system, I guess.”
It appears that Abedin amassed emails on her computers and government-issued BlackBerry that she thought were automatically purged.
“The e-mails on my State Department system existed on my computer, and I didn't have a practice of managing my mailbox other than leaving what was in there sitting in there.
“So for my BlackBerry, if I exceeded the limit, I think it auto deleted. But, no, I didn't ... go into my e-mails and delete State.gov e-mails. They just lived on my computer.”
Abedin said she didn’t keep any paper printouts of any of the correspondence that may have been deleted or otherwise lost.
“Honestly, I wish I thought about it at the time. As I said, I wasn't perfect. I tried to do all of my work on State.gov. And I do believe I did the majority of my work on State.gov.
“And many of the instances where I was on Clinton e-mail, it was because I had forwarded something from a State.gov account into Clinton e-mail, and in other instances from my Clinton e-mail I was communicating with somebody who was on a State.gov account, and it was captured through there. I did the best I could to do everything right. It did not occur to me to print and file.”
Abedin was asked if she had “any concerns” about Clinton’s use of her private email server for State Department business.
“I assumed it was allowed,” Abedin answered. “It didn’t occur to us.”
Judicial Watch followed up, asking why no one inquired with a State Department official in charge of managing records to make sure it was allowed.
“We all wish we could go back and that not be the case,” Abedin, a wish that must only be greater 10 days before voters decide her boss’s fate.
Editor's Note, 10/31: Thie story has been updated with Abedin's reported response.