Longtime Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonSamantha Bee roasts Trump at mock correspondents' dinner Dems seeing big increase in midterm House candidates When it comes to Israel, Trump’s first 100 days were one big fail MORE aide Huma Abedin emerged from a nearly eight-hour closed-door meeting of the House Select Committee on Benghazi late on Friday afternoon, claiming to have done her best to answer the panel’s extensive questions.
“I came here today to be as helpful as I could be to the committee,” Abedin said in brief remarks to reporters after the daylong session.
“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.”
Committee member Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) earlier in the day described the meeting as “very productive,” without going into additional detail.
Abedin was a “senior official at the State Department at all of the relevant times [and] was privy to and had access to information that pertained to all of the things surrounding the events in Benghazi,” Pompeo added.
Abedin was asked about Clinton’s controversial use of a private email server, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) told reporters, but only to the extent that the emails pertained to the situation in Benghazi.
Only three lawmakers attended the briefing: Pompeo, Westmoreland and top Democrat Elijah Cummings (Md.).
Committee chairman Trey GowdyTrey GowdyRussia investigation 'back on track' after Nunes recusal Five questions for the House's new Russia investigator Chaffetz decision stuns Washington MORE (R-S.C.) was notably absent from the proceedings. His office declined to detail why he was not present for the questioning, though it claimed that he had been in contact with staffers ahead of time and trusted them to “ask substantive, investigatory questions.”
Nonetheless, in a statement after Abedin’s questions concluded, Gowdy said that the committee “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.
“The information she provided will assist the committee in writing its final report,” Gowdy added.
“I came here today out of respect for Ms. Abedin,” Cummings told reporters during a brief intermission in the committee’s questioning.
The probe is “a taxpayer-funded effort to derail the candidacy of Hillary Clinton,” he added.
Abedin had “no policy responsibilities [and] no operational responsibility,” as Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, Cummings said, and she “was not with Secretary Clinton on the night of this phenomenal tragedy.”
Clinton has described her longtime confidante as a “second daughter.” She began working with Clinton during her time as first lady, and was a nearly constant presence by her side during her stint at the State Department.
She is currently the vice chairwoman of Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Abedin and committee staffers moved to a secure room deep in the bowels of the Capitol for the last 45 minutes of her questioning, presumably to discuss more sensitive topics.
Abedin's appearance on Friday comes just days before Clinton will make her own public appearance in the Benghazi Committee, which is sure to be a spectacle on Capitol Hill covered heavily by news networks.
The job of Republican leaders of the Benghazi Committee was complicated in recent weeks, after remarks from multiple Republicans suggested that the panel’s goal in part was to take down Clinton’s presidential campaign.
In response, the campaign and congressional Democrats have gone on the offense.
On Friday, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said it “remains unclear” why the committee is focused on Abedin, and called it “additional evidence that the actual attack in Benghazi, and its lessons about how we might better protect diplomats serving in dangerous places, are the last things on the committee's mind.”
“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,” Merrill added.
Pompeo, however, denied that the job of the Benghazi panel had been made more difficult.
Its job is “no harder, no easier,” Pompeo said.
“Doesn’t make a difference what anybody says about the activities that our committee undertakes. We have a focused mission that hasn’t changed one bit.”
This story was updated at 6:56 p.m.