WASHINGTON - Just as the controversy over Michele Bachmann's allegations of Islamist government infiltration had begun to subside, the Minnesota Republican is distributing a speech by a prominent supporter that attempts to connect a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the Al-Qaida terrorist network.
Bachmann's office sent out a speech Friday given by conservative scholar and former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, who says Bachmann and four other Republicans in Congress "actually understated the case" against Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
The accusation represents a significant escalation of Bachmann's original allegations tying Abedin to the Muslim Brotherhood. McCarthy's speech was followed by a "Bachmann Bulletin" redistributing a recent Star Tribune opinion piece she wrote describing her concerns about radical Islam.
McCarthy's speech, however, represents the most detailed public account that has been provided by any of Bachmann's supporters so far to substantiate her accusation against Abedin.
The State Department did not comment, though earlier a spokesman called Bachmann's allegations "vicious and disgusting lies."
Abedin, according to the McCarthy speech, "had a very lengthy affiliation with an institute founded by a top figure at the nexus between Saudi terror funding, Brotherhood ideology, and Al-Qaida jihad against the United States."
McCarthy gave the speech at the National Press Club on Wednesday at the invitation of the Center for Security Policy, the organization cited by Bachmann in June when she requested an investigation of Abedin and other top government officials.
Bachmann's request met with a firestorm of criticism from Democrats as well as top Republicans.
McCarthy's allegations dwarf those from Bachmann, who described Abedin as an "example" of her concerns about Muslim Brotherhood "influence operations" in the federal government.
Her congressional critics, notably Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison, have termed the allegations against Abedin "guilt by association." Bachmann also has accused Ellison of Muslim Brotherhood ties, which he denies.
Asked for evidence of Abedin's influence over Clinton -- one of the concerns cited by Bachmann -- McCarthy replied that Abedin "managed to get Mrs. Clinton to appear at a college that her mother founded in Egypt."
Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, who questioned McCarthy after the speech, noted that George W. Bush adviser Karen Hughes also spoke there. "If Abedin is in fact a Muslim Brotherhood plant spreading sharia law in the United States," Milbank wrote later, "she's using unorthodox methods: posing provocatively for a Vogue spread, then marrying and having the child of a Jewish congressman [former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner] ... . As Clinton's personal aide, helping her boss with suits and handbags and logistics, she has not been in an ideal position to advance the alleged cause."
In his speech, McCarthy acknowledged that Abedin is "not a policymaker."
On Friday night, President Obama honored Abedin at a White House dinner celebrating Ramadan. He called Abedin "an American patriot" and "an example of what we need in this country."
Kevin Diaz is a correspondent in the Star Tribune Washington Bureau.