Oh Boy: Was A National Security Position Given As Payback To A Clinton Foundation Donor?

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Jun 10, 2016 12:30 PM
Oh Boy: Was A National Security Position Given As Payback To A Clinton Foundation Donor?

It seems as if anything is up for sale if you give enough money to the Clinton Foundation, even positions on a national security intelligence board that has access to top-secret information. Meet Rajiv K. Fernando, a big donor to Clinton, Democrats, and the family foundation, was given a spot on the State Department’s International Security Advisory Board in 2011, even though he had zero experience in the field. He has since resigned from the board after ABC News launched an inquiry into his appointment. The first thing that they asked for from the State Department was his resume. Emails obtained by Citizens United after a 2-year Freedom of Information Act battle with the State Department showed that Clinton’s staffers were instructed to “stall” and “protect the name” of Mrs. Clinton from the news organization’s review of this appointment. One member told ABC, “We had no idea who he was.”

ABC News’ Brian Ross was threatened with arrest for merely asking Fernando about his appointment during the 2012 Democratic National Convention. He added that Clinton promised Foundation donors would not be given special treatment during her confirmation hearings to become secretary of state (via ABC News)

The emails further reveal how, after inquiries from ABC News, the Clinton staff sought to “protect the name” of the Secretary, “stall” the ABC News reporter and ultimately accept the resignation of the donor just two days later.

Copies of dozens of internal emails were provided to ABC News by the conservative political group Citizens United, which obtained them under the Freedom of Information Act after more the two years of litigation with the government.

A prolific fundraiser for Democratic candidates and contributor to the Clinton Foundation, who later traveled with Bill Clinton on a trip to Africa, Rajiv K. Fernando’s only known qualification for a seat on the International Security Advisory Board (ISAB) was his technological know-how. The Chicago securities trader, who specialized in electronic investing, sat alongside an august collection of nuclear scientists, former cabinet secretaries and members of Congress to advise Hillary Clinton on the use of tactical nuclear weapons and on other crucial arms control issues.

[…]

Fernando's expertise appeared to be in the arena of high-frequency trading -- a form of computer-generated stock trading. At the time of his appointment, he headed a firm, Chopper Trading, that was a leader in that field.

Fernando's history of campaign giving dated back at least to 2003 and was prolific -- and almost exclusively to Democrats. He was an early supporter of Hillary Clinton's 2008 bid for president, giving maximum contributions to her campaign, and to HillPAC, in 2007 and 2008. He also served as a fundraising bundler for Clinton, gathering more than $100,000 from others for her White House bid. After Barack Obama bested Clinton for the 2008 nomination, Fernando became a major fundraiser for the Obama campaign. Prior to his State Department appointment, Fernando had given between $100,000 and $250,000 to the William J. Clinton Foundation, and another $30,000 to a political advocacy group, WomenCount, that indirectly helped Hillary Clinton retire her lingering 2008 campaign debts by renting her campaign email list.

The appointment qualified Fernando for one of the highest levels of top secret access, the emails show. Among those with whom Fernando served on the International Security Advisory Board was David A. Kay, the former head of the Iraq Survey Group and United Nations Chief Weapons Inspector; Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, a former National Security Advisor to two presidents; two former congressmen; and former Sen. Chuck Robb. William Perry, the former Secretary of Defense, chaired the panel.

[…]

The newly released emails reveal that after ABC News started asking questions in August 2011, a State Department official who worked with the advisory board couldn’t immediately come up with a justification for Fernando serving on the panel. His and other emails make repeated references to “S”; ABC News has been told this is a common way to refer to the Secretary of State.

“The true answer is simply that S staff (Cheryl Mills) added him,” wrote Wade Boese, who was Chief of Staff for the Office of the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, in an email to Mannina, the press aide. “Raj was not on the list sent to S; he was added at their insistence.”

[…]

As is customary with a new administration, the make-up of the board changed substantially when Clinton took over the State Department, according to Amb. James Woolsey, who served on the panel from 2006 to 2009. But the seriousness of its mission remained the same.

He said the board’s primary purpose was to gather an array of experts on nuclear weapons and arms control to constantly assess and update the nation’s nuclear strategy.

“Most things that involve nuclear weapons and nuclear strategy are dealt with at a pretty ressumingsensitive basis -- top secret,” he said, noting that participants meet in a secure facility and are restricted in what materials they can discuss.

That is not typically the realm of political donors, Woolsey said. Though, he added, it would not be impossible for someone lacking a security background to make a contribution to the panel. “It would depend on how smart and dedicated this person was... I would think you would have to devote some real time to getting up to speed,” he said.

Then, Fernando resigned from ISAB to devote more attention to his company (so he says in his resignation letter). ABC News added that requests for an interview with Mills was denied by the Clinton campaign, with spokesman Nick Merrill deferring the news organization to State. Fernando certainly did not respond to requests for comment. In the meantime, Mr. Fernando is reassuming his role as a bundler for Clinton’s 2016 campaign, he still donates to the Clinton Foundation, giving between $1-5 million, and he’s a superdelegate who intends on casting his vote for the former first lady in Philadelphia.

Over at Hot Air, Ed described the Clinton staff’s response to ABC News’ inquiry as “high comedy,” and that this was nothing more than an act of quid pro quo that was scuttled once State couldn’t really find a reason for his appointment that wouldn’t put then-Secretary Clinton in an awful light:

No one could come up with an explanation for Fernando’s appointment, even after two days of trying. The best that the combined efforts of State’s legal and executive team could do was to hail Fernando’s “relative youth, enthusiasm, a business perspective, and expertise in cyber security,” a description that would apply to thousands if not millions of mid-level executives in the US.

As soon as they realized that the jig was up, Fernando resigned his post. For five years, this has all been left unexplained, and only a FOIA lawsuit from Citizens United has answered this mystery. Hillary sold access to the ISAB as a payback for political and Clinton Foundation donations. It’s just that simple.

You can read the emails here.