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political notebook

John McCain defends Clinton aide, chastises Michele Bachmann

Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, was accused of ties to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press/File

Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, was accused of ties to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

WASHINGTON — Republican Senator John McCain strongly defended a longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday against unsubstantiated allegations that her family has ties to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, repudiating charges leveled by another Republican, Representative Michele Bachmann.

In a speech on the Senate floor, McCain praised the work and patriotism of Huma Abedin, a State Department employee who has been a constant presence at Clinton’s side. Without mentioning Bachmann by name, McCain assailed the attacks on Abedin, a Muslim, as an example of ignorance and fear that defames the spirit of the nation.

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‘‘Huma represents what is best about America: the daughter of immigrants, who has risen to the highest levels of our government on the basis of her substantial personal merit and her abiding commitment to the American ideals that she embodies so fully,’’ McCain said. ‘‘I am proud to know Huma, and to call her my friend.’’

Bachmann, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, made the allegations in a June letter to the State Department as well as in a letter Wednesday to fellow Minnesota lawmaker Representative Keith Ellison, a Democrat. Bachmann said Abedin’s late father, mother, and brother are connected to Muslim Brotherhood operatives. She added that Abedin’s position ‘‘affords her routine access to the secretary and policy-making.’’

McCain pointed out that Abedin’s father died two decades ago and that the congresswoman failed to provide ‘‘one instance of an action, decision, or a public position that Huma has taken while at the State Department that would lend credence to the charge that she is promoting anti-American activities within our government.’’

McCain criticized Bachmann’s actions.

‘‘When anyone, not least a member of Congress, launches specious and degrading attacks against fellow Americans on the basis of nothing more than fear of who they are and ignorance of what they stand for, it defames the spirit of our nation, and we all grow poorer because of it,’’ he said.

In a statement, Bachmann said her intent was ‘‘to outline the serious national security concerns I had . . . ”

Abedin is married to former representative Anthony Weiner.

Romney gains advantage on economy in latest poll

Declining confidence in the nation’s economic prospects appears to be the most powerful force influencing voters as the presidential election gears up, undercutting key areas of support for President Obama and helping give his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, an advantage on the question of who would better handle the nation’s economic challenges, according to a New York Times/CBS News Poll.

Despite months of negative ads from Obama seeking to further define Romney as out of touch with the middle class and representative of wealthy interests, the poll shows little evidence of any substantial nationwide shift in attitudes about Romney.

The poll showed a significant shift in opinion about Obama’s handling of the economy, with 39 percent now saying they approved and 55 percent saying they disapproved.

In the Times/CBS poll in April, when the economy seemed to have momentum, 44 percent approved and 48 percent disapproved.

The poll shows that the race remains essentially tied. Forty-five percent say they would vote for Romney if the election were held now and 43 percent say they would vote for Obama. When undecided voters who lean toward a particular candidate are included, Romney has 47 percent to Obama’s 46 percent.

Both results are within the poll’s margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. But it is the first time Romney has shown a numeric edge in the Times/CBS poll since he emerged as the presumptive nominee.

The poll was conducted between July 11 and 16 and included 982 registered voters .

Casino mogul and GOP donor faces prostitution claims

LAS VEGAS — Las Vegas Sands Corp. chief and leading Republican political donor Sheldon Adelson is firing back at his former Macau casino executive’s claim that Adelson personally approved prostitution at company properties in the Chinese gambling enclave.

In court documents filed in state court in Las Vegas, Adelson and Sands attorneys accuse fired Sands China Ltd. executive Steven Jacobs of ‘‘a new low’’ in what they call an ongoing effort to tarnish Adelson’s reputation and call attention to Jacob’s claim that he was wrongly dismissed.

‘‘Plaintiff’s reckless and irrelevant allegation that Mr. Adelson endorsed a ‘prostitution strategy’ is false,’’ the document states.

A six-page document filed Tuesday appeals to Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez to give no weight to what Sands attorneys call the ‘‘inflammatory and personally derogatory’’ claims.

Adelson is a philanthropist and casino mogul who owns the Venetian and Palazzo casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.

He’s also a big GOP political donor.

Adelson contributed $20 million to an independent group backing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s presidential bid and is now backing a pro-Romney group with at least another $10 million.

A letter dated Monday from an Adelson lawyer also called for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to ‘‘retract and apologize for’’ what it calls defamatory and libelous claims that Adelson encouraged and profited from prostitution and donated ‘‘Chinese prostitution money’’ to GOP leaders.

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