WASHINGTON Senator John McCain publicly supported a senior Obama administration official in denouncing concerns by a group of House Republicans that her family may have connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, which they fear may be trying to gain access to high levels of the U.S. government.
Former Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and four other lawmakers in the House of Representatives asked the State Department's inspector general's office last month to investigate the possibility that Huma Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, had family ties to the Islamist political group.
Their June 13 letter asserted that the State Department had recently taken action "enormously favorable" to the Muslim Brotherhood and that its interests could pose a security risk for the United States.
The letter cited a security study by an outside group alleging that three members' of Abedin's family, including her father who died two decades ago, and her mother and brother were linked to operatives or organizations of the Muslim Brotherhood.
"Her position affords her routine access to the secretary and policymaking," the letter said.
A State Department spokesman said Clinton "very much values" Abedin's "wise counsel and support" and called the allegations preposterous.
McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, took to the Senate floor and called the assertion an "unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable woman" and public servant whose family had never been shown in any way to "harm or threaten" the United States.
Bachmann said in a statement on Wednesday that the letter to the State Department and similar correspondence to inspectors general at the Pentagon, Homeland Security and Justice departments are "unfortunately being distorted."
"The intention of the letters was to outline the serious national security concerns I had and ask for answers to questions regarding the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical groups access to top Obama administration officials," Bachmann said.
She said she would continue to speak out on the issue.
(Reporting by John Crawley; editing by Christopher Wilson)