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Weiner's wife a well-heeled power-broker

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., and his wife, Huma

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., and his wife, Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, are pictured after a ceremonial swearing in of the 112th Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Jan. 5, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

WASHINGTON -- Huma Abedin, the wife of Rep. Anthony Weiner, has for years drawn notice in Washington. In a town that demands conservative conformity, she has been seen as a high-powered professional with exotic beauty and a closet full of Prada suits and heels.

Now, with her husband's admission of sexually explicit Internet and phone exchanges with several women, Abedin, joins a more pedestrian group -- the wife of a wayward and powerful husband.

At his Monday afternoon news conference, in which he admitted that he had lied about sending a lewd photo to a college-aged woman, the seven-term congressman seemed to choke back tears as he apologized to Abedin, and said that he and his wife, "have no intention of splitting up over this."

As the controversy around Weiner, 46, has heightened in recent days, Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has not missed a day of work, said people close to her. Late Tuesday, she boarded a plane bound for Africa for a weeklong, four-country visit.

Abedin did not stand at her husband's side Monday during the news conference, but "he was speaking for both of them," said a friend close to Abedin.

"She is committed to their marriage, and she loves her husband very much," he said. "Obviously they have work to do, but she's committed."

Over the past 15 years, Abedin, 35, has been a fixture in Hillary Clinton's inner circle. She began an intern, rose through the ranks as an aide to the former first lady when Clintons were the White House, then worked for Hillary Clinton in the Senate and as an aide during her presidential campaign.

Abedin is one of the few Clintonites to remain an insider from the White House to the State Department. In briefings, it is Abedin who quietly hands Clinton a glass of water when her voice breaks.

On the campaign trail in 2008 as Clinton ran for the presidency, Abedin was her poised confidante and aide, a steady presence in a campaign punctuated by dramatic ups and downs.

While her official title is deputy chief of staff, Abedin is personally close to Hillary Clinton, an everpresent assistant and gatekeeper. She oversees planning and scheduling and advises both on politics and policy, especially the Middle East.

"I have one daughter. But if I had a second daughter, it would be Huma," Clinton said at a pre-wedding celebration for Abedin and Weiner in 2010.

Fluent in Arabic, and raised in Saudi Arabia by an Indian father and Pakistani mother, Abedin is a practicing Muslim who once dated actor John Cusack and has a Rolodex filled with political titans and celebrities.

While she traipsed around the country during the campaign as Clinton's traveling chief of staff, Weiner became a fixture on those trips, courting the George Washington University graduate who counts designer Oscar de la Renta as a friend.

Yet the couple always seemed an odd pair. She is Muslim and he is Jewish. She is the enigmatic woman who was once romanced by George Clooney, while the brash New York congressman has chased the spotlight, becoming a favorite progressive attack dog.

Friday marks the one-year anniversary of the couple's lavish Long Island wedding, where Bill Clinton officiated. The former president, himself no stranger to political and sexual scandals, had an awkward quip for the couple on their wedding day: Politicians can prove to be difficult spouses, he said, because it is "easy to distrust them, whatever their religion."

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