Donna Brazile, a top official with the Democratic National Committee who also was a CNN analyst, allegedly notified Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in March about a question to be asked at a "town hall" debate during the primaries, according to documents posted by WikiLeaks.
It marks the second purported e-mail indicating Brazile had tipped off the Clinton campaign to questions that were supposed to be kept secret during the Democratic primaries, when the DNC was ostensibly neutral. The alleged e-mail posted today said Clinton would be questioned by a woman from Flint, Michigan, about the town's tainted water. An alleged memo released earlier told the campaign Clinton would be asked about the death penalty at another event that month.
Brazile, who didn't respond to a request for comment, said after WikiLeaks posted the earlier e-mail that she never had access to debate questions and wouldn't have shared them if she did. She suggested the WikiLeaks documents may have been "misinformation". The Clinton campaign has said the Russian Government hacked the e-mails of campaign chairman John Podesta and may have altered or concocted some of the thousands it has been posting.
A day before the March 6 debate sponsored by CNN in Flint, Brazile allegedly wrote to Podesta and Jennifer Palmieri, the Clinton campaign's communications director, that a woman from the town "has lead poison and she will ask what, if anything, will Hillary do as president to help the ppl of Flint".
During the town hall, Lee-Anne Walters, who had a son who had stopped growing and a daughter who lost her hair, asked Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, her primary rival, whether they would "make a personal promise" to make the removal of lead a requirement for public waters in their first 100 days in office, according to transcripts of the debate provided by CNN. Both did.
Brazile resigned from CNN as a contributor on October 14. Her work there had been suspended when she became interim chairman of the Democratic National Committee in July, a CNN spokeswoman said.
She became head of the party organisation after chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was forced to resign by the release of e-mails hacked from the DNC that showed favouritism for Clinton over Sanders during the primaries. US intelligence agencies have concluded those communications were stolen and released by agents of the Russian Government in an effort to interfere in the US elections.
Left unresolved is how Brazile would have received advanced copies of the debate questions that were supposed to be closely guarded, if the e-mails are genuine.
Lauren Pratapas, a CNN spokeswoman, said that the cable news network "never gave Brazile access to any questions, prep material, attendee list, background information or meetings in advance of a town hall or debate".
"We are completely uncomfortable with what we have learned about her interactions with the Clinton campaign while she was a CNN contributor," Pratapas said.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that President Barack Obama considered Brazile a "true professional".
"The President believes that she's done a fine job stepping in in a very difficult position" to lead the Democratic Party, Earnest said.
The question on the death penalty was written by that debate's co-moderator, Roland Martin of the TV One network. Politico quoted Martin as saying he didn't "believe" he had shared it with Brazile. Neither TV One nor Martin were involved in the earlier debate, which was the subject of the alleged e-mail leaked today.