Associated Press reporter Matt Lee called out State Department Press Director Elizabeth Trudeau during Wednesday’s press briefing for repeatedly not answering questions on whether newly released emails show impropriety between the department and the Clinton Foundation.
Conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch released 296 pages of State Department emails on Tuesday that it obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The emails showed cases of top Clinton Foundation officials rewarding their donors with access to the State Department.
"Do you have any response to criticism by some who suggest there was a relationship between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department at the time?" NBC producer Abigail Williams asked Trudeau. "There was an email that came out in this recent set that is between a then-executive at the Clinton Foundation and [top Hillary Clinton aides] Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills, in which he is requesting to set up a meeting between a billionaire donor and the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon. Do you have any response?"
Williams was referring to an April 2009 exchange in which a top associate at the foundation pushed to set up a meeting between the donor and the ambassador to Lebanon because of the former’s activities in the country.
Trudeau said she would not comment on any specific emails. Williams tried to ask her question differently.
"You don’t feel like there was impropriety in the relationship between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department at the time?" Williams asked.
Trudeau repeated her initial response, saying the State Department communicates regularly with a wide range of individuals and organizations. She did not address whether or not it was improper for an executive in the Clinton Foundation to communicate with senior State Department officials on behalf of a wealthy donor.
"That’s not her question," Lee said as another reporter began to ask Trudeau a question.
Lee would later try to ask Williams’ question again.
"Can you at least try to answer Abigail’s question which was, has the department looked into this and determined that there was no impropriety?" Lee asked.
"The Department is regularly in touch with people across the whole spectrum, Matt," Trudeau said.
"That’s not the question. The question is whether or not you’ve looked into this, the building has looked into it and determined that everything was okay, that there was nothing wrong," Lee said.
Trudeau did not answer the question.
"We feel confident in our ability and our past practice of reaching out to a variety of sources and being to responsive to requests," Trudeau said.
Trudeau’s answer upset Lee.
"I’m sorry. Am I not speaking English?" Lee asked before restating the question.
Trudeau then gave Lee an answer to what he was asking her.
"We feel confident that all the rules were followed," Trudeau said.