02:34 - Source: CNN
Hillary Clinton finally takes reporter questions
Cedar Falls, Iowa CNN  — 

Hillary Clinton’s nearly month-long stretch of avoiding the press ended Tuesday when she told reporters here that her State Department emails should be released “as soon as they can get out.”

“I have said repeatedly I want those emails out,” Clinton told reporters. “Nobody has a bigger interest in getting them released than I do.”

Clinton is under scrutiny for using private – instead of official – email during her time as Secretary of State. As she returned to this state that helped thwart her White House ambitions in 2008, it was clear that the issue isn’t fading away.

In Washington, the State Department said it might not be able to release Clinton’s emails until January – just weeks before the Iowa caucuses. A U.S. district court judge asked State to consider a ‘rolling’ release of the emails. Clinton herself said she’s unable to demand their release but urged State to do “anything that they might to do expedite that process.”

RELATED: Judge considers ‘rolling release’ of Clinton emails

Relationship to Sidney Blumenthal under scrutiny

Clinton made her comments at a time when it seems the issues facing her campaign are growing. A New York Times story on Tuesday documented emails Clinton exchanged with longtime ally Sidney Blumenthal about Libya. The messages were sent while Clinton was Secretary of State and Blumenthal worked for clients in the country.

Clinton told reporters she won’t distance herself from allies if she’s elected president, even if they might pose political problems.

“I’m going to keep talking to my old friends, whoever they are,” Clinton said.

“He’s been a friend of mine for a long time. He sent me unsolicited emails, which I passed on in some instances, and that’s just part of the give-and-take,” she said. “When you’re in the public eye, when you’re in an official position, I think you do have to work to make sure you’re not caught in a bubble and you only hear from a certain small group of people.”

Clinton’s event at a small bike shop in Cedar Falls was meant to focus on invigorating small businesses and community banks. Clinton called for “cutting unnecessary red tape” for small businesses and rolling back regulations on small banks, not big banks.

RELATED: Hillary talks tough on Wall Street regulation

“We should scrub all of our federal regulations to find responsible ways to make life easier to small businesses,” Clinton said. “I want to be a small business president.”

Clinton called for the roll-back of 2010 Dodd-Frank financial regulations on small banks, which she said are “being squeezed by regulations that don’t make sense for their size.”

“It’s not the big banks that need relief from Washington. It’s small banks and small businesses,” she said.

Clinton speaks out on Trade

During a roundtable, Clinton also signaled some agreement with her liberal critics on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive free trade pact that President Barack Obama is negotiating.

Clinton was asked by Denita Gadson, the owner of an Iowa marketing firm, about her position on the trade pact that liberals, including some outside the event, have implored her to publicly reject.

The Democratic front-runner in the 2016 presidential race said she wants to see rules included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership that would penalize countries for driving down the value of their currencies and a provision that would give “corporations more power to overturn health and environmental and labor rules than consumers have.”

“I think that is a problem,” Clinton said.

“I want to judge the final agreement. I have been for trade agreements; I have been against trade agreements,” she added.

RELATED: Clinton finds problems with Obama’s TPP trade proposal

Clinton grilled on wealth and war

Clinton has been hesitant to answer questions from the press, a fact that has become, at times, as much of a story as what he says.

Before she finished her roundtable on Tuesday, a reporter interrupted her event to ask whether she would take questions.

“Maybe when I finish talking to the people here, how’s that,” she said. “I might. I have to ponder it. I will put it on my list for due consideration.”

Here is more of what she said when she took questions from reporters:

— On criticism of the Clinton Foundation’s acceptance of foreign donations: “I think that just goes to show that people are very supportive of the life-saving and life-changing work it’s done here at home and elsewhere, and I’ll let the American people make their own judgment.”

— On the $30 million in speaking fees she and Bill Clinton have raked in since the beginning of 2014: “Bill and I have been blessed, and we’re very grateful for the opportunities that we’ve had, but we’ve never forgotten where we came from. And we’ve never forgotten the kind of country that we want to see for our granddaughter. … I think that most Americans understand that the deck is stacked for those at the top, and I am running a campaign that is very clearly stating, we want to re-shuffle that deck.”

— On supporting the war in Iraq in 2003: “I’ve made it very clear that I made a mistake, plain and simple. And I have written about it in my book, I’ve talked about it in the past. What we now see is a very different and very dangerous situation. The United States is doing what it can, but ultimately this has to be a struggle that the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people are determined to win for themselves. And we can provide support, but they’re going to have to do it.”

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