Huma Abedin testifies before House Benghazi panel

Story highlights

  • Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin testified before the House Benghazi committee Friday
  • Clinton herself is set to appear at a public hearing next week

Washington (CNN)Long-time Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin testified Friday in front of the House panel investigating the Benghazi attacks.

Abedin, the vice chairwoman of Clinton's presidential campaign and a former top aide at the State Department, went behind closed doors for a transcribed interview -- a major difference from what Clinton herself is set to face next week in a public hearing scheduled for Thursday.
After testifying, Abedin told reporters that she answered questions posed to her "to the best of my ability."
    "I came here today to be as helpful as I could," Abedin said, adding that she sought to "honor the service" of those who died in the attacks.
    "I answered all their questions to the best of my ability," said Abedin, who, despite her closeness to Clinton, rarely speaks to the media and did not take questions from reporters.
    Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, was not present at the hearing. But in a statement, he thanked Abedin for testifying and also said she answered all of the panel's questions.
    "She 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," Gowdy said. "The information she provided will assist the committee in writing its final report."
    Before the hearing started, a committee aide said Abedin would be questioned about the events leading up to, during and after the September 11, 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Libya -- as well as "executive branch activities and efforts to comply with congressional inquiries into them."
    She didn't face questions about her controversial work for Teneo, a strategic consulting firm, or the Clinton Foundation while also serving as a "special government employee" for Clinton at the State Department.
    In a written statement, Clinton campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said Abedin "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 written statement. "The Committee¹s focus on Huma (as opposed to numerous intelligence and defense community officials still outstanding) is 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."
    Ranking Democrat on the committee Elijah Cummings of Maryland, echoed those concerns to reporters after a few hours of testimony.
    "The question becomes whether this is a taxpayer funded effort to derail the candidacy of Hillary Clinton," he said. "It is interesting to note that the people most closely associated with Hillary Clinton seem to be treated differently."
    But Republican committee member Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia defended to CNN the need to talk to Abedin.
    "If you look at what her job was, you would think she would have some knowledge of some of the events," Westmoreland said, adding later, "I imagine everyone at the state department had some knowledge."
    Westmoreland said that Abedin spoke for roughly 30-35 minutes, and has been "forthcoming" and "very nice." He added there were some instances she couldn't "recall fully."
    The appearances come after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, credited the committee with dragging down Clinton's poll numbers in her bid for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination -- a line that fired up Democratic criticism of the panel.
    Gowdy has insisted the panel's work isn't driven by politics.