Huma Abedin, a top aide to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential race, was already a liability as a result of her estranged husband and former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s sexting scandals. But even Clinton’s affection for Abedin wasn’t enough to save her when another scandal erupted, a new book reveals. Emails pertaining to the investigation of Clinton’s private email server were found on a computer that was seized during the investigation into Weiner’s own scandal.
“Regardless of [Abedin’s] level of culpability — and her defenders say she’s unfairly targeted because she’s so close to Hillary — Huma was a disaster waiting to happen,” writes Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes in Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign, which released Tuesday. “In any other political operation, she would have been cast aside publicly and brutally long before this moment. Now her detractors’ fears were being realized, and the risk could no longer be ignored.”
FBI Director James Comey delivered the devastating blow to the Clinton camp when he wrote a letter to Congress 11 days before the election. In it, he declared that the newly discovered cache “appear[ed] to be pertinent to the investigation” of Clinton’s private email server.
The weekend after Comey’s Oct. 28 bombshell, Abedin was dutifully still at work, but at her desk in the campaign’s Brooklyn headquarters–not on the road at Clinton’s side, a campaign source tells PEOPLE.
“At one point Huma was sobbing that if she cost Hillary the election, she couldn’t live with herself. It was excruciating,” says the source.
According to the book, Clinton’s staff concluded there was most likely nothing new to be found in the emails. They were later proven right. But amid the scandal, staffers needed to sew up the new tear in Clinton’s reputation.
“This was a gut-wrenching time for Hillary, pitting her abiding sense of loyalty — the value she held above all others — against her own self-interest and the fates of the Democratic Party and the nation,” write Allen and Parnes.
“Beyond that, there was more than a little chutzpah in Hillary’s punishing another woman for a husband’s sexual misconduct. Neither banishing Huma nor keeping her at hand was a perfect solution.”
The Clintons never saw Abedin’s troubles as a political problem, just an anguishing personal one, a former Clinton White House adviser told PEOPLE back in Oct. 2016: “Anyone who knows the Clintons – and knows Huma’s relationship with with them – knows they’re not seeing this as political. There are lots of things you’d call distractions in a political campaign, but this is not one of them.”
“This is the personal pain of someone who is valuable and who they adore,” the source added. “To the extent that Hillary and Bill Clinton are playing a role at all, it’s to be comforting to her and to offer her the space to deal with all of this.”
A personal line may have been drawn, but neither Abedin or the Clintons could ignore the immediate political goal — winning the presidency. As a result, Abedin decided to step down.
“Huma chose to fall on her own sword,” Allen and Parnes write. “If [Clinton and her staffers] wanted her off the trail — where she couldn’t be photographed next to Hillary — she would accept that judgment.”
“‘I’ll do whatever,'” she said, according to the book. “‘I’ll put my situations in your hands.'”
After the scandal, Abedin was no longer visibly part of the campaign. She was replaced by “longtime Hillary confidante” Capricia Marshall.