September 26, 2012 at 10:56 am
By Jonathan Mattise
Rep. Tom Rooney said Tuesday it was a mistake to name Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff in a letter as a potentially “serious security concern” when he and four lawmakers urged officials to study the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in the federal government.
Led by U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., legislators signed five letters in June beckoning federal departments to study how the Muslim Brotherhood can gain influence or intelligence. The letter sent to the Department of State singled out Huma Abedin, Secretary of State Clinton’s chief of staff, while citing three of her family members’ alleged ties to the Brotherhood.
The reference to Abedin struck a nerve the next month in the national media and in Congress, where criticisms came from as high up as House Speaker John Boehner and U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Bachmann, the Minnesota Republican who spearheaded the effort, didn’t backtrack or apologize afterward.
Rooney, R-Tequesta, reiterated the investigation’s importance Tuesday, specifically regarding Department of Defense issues and the tragedy at Fort Hood. Unlike Bachmann, however, he said the initiative was muddled by wrongly mentioning Abedin.
“With Mrs. Abedin, we made a mistake including her name in there,” Rooney said. “What got lost was a legitimate question, for the sake of using Congressman (Anthony) Weiner’s wife and Sec. Clinton’s assistant’s name specifically in a letter. It was unfortunate.”
Rooney added his group mostly just wanted Inspectors General to detail departments’ background check processes.
On the Senate floor in July, McCain called the claims against Abedin “attacks” with “no logic, no basis and no merit.” Boehner, R-Ohio, said the accusations were “pretty dangerous.”
Rooney sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence alongside Bachmann. Accompanying the two are Republican U.S. Reps. Trent Franks of Arizona, Louie Gohmert of Texas and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia. Rooney represents most of St. Lucie and Martin counties, but he’s running for a redrawn agricultural district to the west this election.
Rooney said investigations into the Fort Hood military attacks, where an Army psychiatrist killed 13 people at a Texas military post in 2009, spurred him to join Bachmann’s cause. Investigations showed the shooter had contact with radical groups, but his motive hasn’t been determined.
“It sort of became personal to me,” Rooney said. “I know that building where those people died. The fact is that we knew, or should’ve known, this guy was a loose cannon, and we still just sort of let him go by because maybe we were afraid of being politically incorrect.”