July 18th, 2012
01:36 PM ET

McCain refutes accusations by fellow Republicans about Hillary Clinton aide

Republican Senator John McCain (AZ)  took to the Senate floor Wednesday to criticize fellow Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN) and four other Republican members of Congress about their request that various agencies investigate whether the government has been infiltrated by Muslim extremists.

Bachmann is joined in her request by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Rep. Thomas Rooney (R-FL) and Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA).

Among the issues they raise is a claim that long-time aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin, has three family members connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, and is at risk of being influenced by her family members.  The members of Congress want to know how she holds a high level security clearance.

"The concerns about the foreign influence of immediate family members is such a concern to the U.S. Government that it includes these factors as potentially disqualifying conditions for obtaining a security clearance, which undoubtedly Ms. Abedin has had to obtain to function in her position," Bachmann wrote in a letter defending the request.  "For us to raise issues about a highly-based U.S. Government official with known immediate family connections to foreign extremist organizations is not a question of singling out Ms. Abedin.  In fact, these questions are raised by the U.S. Government of anyone seeking a security clearance."

State Department spokesman Phillipe Reines called the accusations "nothing but vicious and disgusting lies," in a statement to CNN.

McCain gave a full-throated endorsement of Abedin on Wednesday:

“To say that the accusations made...are not substantiated by the evidence they offer is to be overly polite and diplomatic about it. It is far better, and more accurate, to talk straight: These allegations about Huma, and the report from which they are drawn, are nothing less than an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable woman, a dedicated American, and a loyal public servant.

“The letter alleges that three members of Huma’s family are ‘connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations.’ Never mind that one of those individuals, Huma’s father, passed away two decades ago. The letter and the report offer not one instance of an action, a decision, or a public position that Huma has taken while at the State Department that would lend credence to the charge that she is promoting anti-American activities within our government. Nor does either document offer any evidence of a direct impact that Huma may have had on one of the U.S. policies with which the authors of the letter and the producers of the report find fault. These sinister accusations rest solely on a few unspecified and unsubstantiated associations of members of Huma’s family, none of which have been shown to harm or threaten the United States in any way. These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis, and no merit. And they need to stop now.

On Tuesday night, Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress. also criticized the claims made by Bachmann in an interview with Anderson Cooper on Anderson Cooper 360.   Bachmann's claims of 'deep penetration' of Muslim extremist infiltration into the highest levels of the U.S. government are "not true, it doesn't exist, its a phantom" and that "it just is the worst of guilt by association, it is a stark front to American values" and "we've got to stand up for this idea that we all count in this America."

Cooper and his team also took a closer look at the claims on the show last night (watch the interview with Ellison above):

Stay with me now because we're going to walk you through the logic that she lays out in this particular case.

Bachmann says that Huma Abedin's mother, brother and late father are connected to the Muslim Brotherhood. Here's how she figures it. Let's start with Abedin's father, a man named Syed Abedin, who's dead, by the way, a professor of social science, and the founder of the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia decades ago. Now, Bachmann attributes this information to 2002 "Law Review" article out of Brigham Young University. According to that article, Professor Abedin's institute had the support of another man named Dr. Umar Abdallah Nassif who is a former general secretary of another group called the Muslim World League. Bachmann says that according to the Pew Forum the Muslim World League has a history of, quote, "being closely aligned and partnering with the Muslim Brotherhood."

So that's how many degrees of separation Bachmann's claim is based on. Huma Abedin's deceased father, who started an organization decades ago, had the support of a guy who had another organization that might have had the support of another organization, the Muslim Brotherhood. And because of that, Huma Abedin might be some sort of spy or infiltrator and deserves to be investigated.

As per Abedin's mother and brother, Bachmann never gives any evidence of their alleged links to the Muslim Brotherhood.

We do know Bachmann and her fellow lawmakers repeatedly cites as their source the work of a group called the Center for Security Policy. A pretty serious sounding name. Its Web site is MuslimBrotherhoodinAmerica.com. The man who runs the group is Frank Gaffney who says the Muslim Brotherhood is infiltrating every aspect of American life in order to impose Sharia law.

Now the Southern Poverty Law Center calls Gaffney, and I quote, 'The anti-Muslim's movement most paranoid propagandist." Before Gaffney was focusing on Huma Abedin, by the way, he was pointing fingers of suspicion at conservative Grover Norquist who's married to a Muslim woman. Those allegations, by the way, were condemned by a number of conservative groups. Gaffney was actually not allowed to go to CPAC one year because of these allegations.

Now we should also point out this is not the first time that Bachmann has relied on questionable sources and leaps of logic. You may remember two years ago right here on this program, Congresswoman Bachmann made some pretty outrageous claims about the cost of a trip President Obama was taking to India, saying that it would cost taxpayers $200 million a day.

It was true. Totally false. And it turned out the source of her unsubstantiated claim was an Indian news report that quoted an anonymous Indian source allegedly an Indian government provincial official. How an Indian provincial official would even know how much the president of the United States' trip costs doesn't make sense and was apparently never even questioned by the congresswoman.

Among this cast here, all of whom we've asked to come on the program, we should point out Bachmann is not the only one who has a history of making unsupported claims. One of the four other congressmen calling for an investigation to root out Muslim infiltration in the U.S. government is Louie Gohmert from Texas. Now this is not the first time that Congressman Gohmert has spoken about dangerous conspiracies without providing concrete evidence.

In 2002 he was sounding alarm over what we termed - excuse me, 2010, he was sounding alarm over what we termed terror babies. A terror baby conspiracy. Making this explosive claim that pregnant foreigners were coming to America to give birth to future terrorists. Babies with U.S. citizenship under the 14th Amendment who would then be taken back to the Middle East, raised for about 20 years, trained overseas as terrorists, and then be able to come back to the United States because they had U.S. passports.

Insidious, right? In a speech on the House floor, Congressman Gohmert actually presented all of this as fact, saying a former FBI agent told him the FBI had been looking into this problem. Later he cited a second source. A Hamas-loving grandmother on a plane in the Middle East. And naturally, I had a lot of questions for the congressman.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Wait, what research? What research? Could you tell us about the research?

GOHMERT: You're attacking the messenger. Anderson, you're better than this. You used to be good. You used to find that there was a problem and you would go after -

COOPER: Sir, I'm just asking you for evidence of something you said on the floor of the House.

GOHMERT: I speak with a southern accent - I did. And you listen. This is a problem. If you had spent as much time looking into the problem as you have been trying to come after me and belittle me this week you would find out -

COOPER: Sir, do you want to offer any evidence? I'm giving you an opportunity to offer to say what research and evidence you have. You've offered none, other than yelling.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: He never offered any evidence. And you would think, by the way, if this was a real plot that he was really concerned about, you'd think he'd pick up the phone and maybe call the FBI, right? We actually did that. Unlike Congressman Gohmert, we talked with the FBI. They told us there was absolutely no credible evidence of a terror baby conspiracy. They had no idea what he was talking about.

And it's not surprising, I should point out, he declined our invitation to come back on the program as he was once on in 2010.

So back to this current conspiracy theory. We just received a statement from Huma Abedin's office about the allegations. The statement says, quote, "They are nothing but vicious and disgusting lies that have no place in reasonable political discourse. And anyone who traffics in them should be ashamed of themselves."

And as we said, Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, has taken the lead in demanding proof of these claims about Muslim extremists infiltrating the government. He joins me.

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