State Department: 'No Impropriety' in Contacts With Clinton Foundation; 'The Way the Process Works'

Susan Jones | August 23, 2016 | 7:24am EDT
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In this Aug. 15, 2016 file photo, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks in Scranton, Pa. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

( - Judicial Watch on Monday released email exchanges showing that top Clinton aide Huma Abedin provided influential Clinton Foundation donors -- including the crown prince of Bahrain -- special, expedited access to Hillary Clinton when she was serving as Secretary of State.

"In many instances, the preferential treatment provided to donors was at the specific request of Clinton Foundation executive Douglas Band," Judicial Watch noted.

"There was no impropriety," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters on Monday. "This was simply, you know, evidence of the way the process works in that, you know, any secretary of state has aides who are getting e-mails or contacts by a broad range of individuals and organizations."

In more than a dozen of the previously undisclosed email exchanges, Abedin arranged direct access to Clinton for donors who had contributed from $25,000 to $10 million to the Clinton Foundation.

One of the Abedin-Band exchanges shows that when Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain requested a meeting with Secretary of State Clinton, he was forced to go through the Clinton Foundation for an appointment. Abedin advised Band that when she went through “normal channels” at the State Department, Clinton declined to meet with him.

But after Band intervened on behalf of a "good friend of ours," the meeting was set up within 48 hours. According to the Clinton Foundation website, in 2005, Salman committed to establishing the Crown Prince’s International Scholarship Program  for the Clinton Global Initiative. And by 2010, it had contributed $32 million to CGI.

Toner on Monday said Abedin and other State Department officials keep in touch with many outside groups and individuals, and requests for meetings with the Secretary of State come "through different channels, both formal and informal."

"That's to be expected," Toner said. "There was nothing precluding State Department officials from having contact, in this respect, with Clinton Foundation staff. And I would just add to that, the department's actions under Secretary Clinton were always taken with the intent to advance our foreign policy interests set forth by this administration and with no other intent in mind than that."

A reporter asked Toner about the "inference" that "meetings were granted to certain people who were also significant donors to or partners with the Clinton

"I mean, I guess I would just once again emphasize that there wasn't a single channel for access to the secretary of State, then Secretary of State Clinton," Toner responded.

"And for senior aides in the department at that time to have -- sorry -- to have connections with the Clinton Foundation -- which by the way, was working on, for example, Haiti relief, post-earthquake, pretty significant role in that, in fact, only speaks to the fact that, you know, these were important people who had reason to convey information to the secretary.

"There was nothing that we have seen that implied any kind of untoward relationship."

Abedin wasn't the only top Clinton aide at the State Department to have contacts with the Clinton Foundation.

Fox News reported on Monday that Laura Graham, a senior executive at the Clinton Foundation, left almost 150 telephone messages for Clinton's top aide Cheryl Mills within a two-year time frame.

"Can you tell us why Ms. Graham and Ms. Mills were in such close and constant contact?" a reporter asked Toner on Monday.

Toner repeated that "State Department officials are in contact with range of outside individuals and organizations, including non-profits, NGOs and of course think tanks and others. And that's certainly true with Ms. Mills.

"I would also state...Secretary Clinton's ethics agreement at the time did not preclude other State Department officials from engaging with or having contact with the Clinton Foundation."

Toner also noted that the State Department at the time -- "and certainly Cheryl Mills individually, was a coordinating hub for U.S. and international efforts -- to relief efforts -- in the wake of the 2011 Haiti earthquake. And as I said, Cheryl Mills personally led those efforts throughout her tenure here.

"And former President Clinton also played as a role as a coordinator for relief efforts in his role as the U.S. Special Envoy -- or U.N. Special Envoy for Haiti.

"So again, I don't want to speculate, but that could well be the reason why there were these calls, simply coordinating on what was one of the premiere or most significant foreign relations issues of the time."

Republican Donald Trump on Monday said Clinton's "pay-for-play scandals" illustrate how corrupt she is.

"I have become increasingly shocked by the vast scope of Hillary Clinton’s criminality," Trump told a gathering in Akron, Ohio on Monday.

"The Clintons’ made the State Department into the same kind of pay-to-play operations as the Arkansas Government was: pay the Clinton Foundation huge sums of money and throw in some big speaking fees for Bill Clinton and you got to play with the State Department."

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