ABC: Did Hillary sell access to key national-security board for foundation donor?

Meet Rajiv K. Fernando, a one-time member of the International Security Advisory Board (ISAB), a group which oversees US nuclear and security policies. The members of ISAB have top-secret clearances commensurate with their expertise in these fields, but Fernando appeared to have no such background. “We had no idea who he was,” one board member told ABC News when they first began looking into Fernando’s credentials in 2011 — and when they did, he suddenly resigned from ISAB.

So who is Fernando, and how did he get on the board in the first place? It turns out that he had a special qualification — as a Democratic Party donor and a big benefactor of the Clinton Foundation:

Newly released State Department emails help reveal how a major Clinton Foundation donor was placed on a sensitive government intelligence advisory board even though he had no obvious experience in the field, a decision that appeared to baffle the department’s professional staff.

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. …

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.

Well, lots of people gave money to the Clinton Foundation. Surely Fernando had some specific expertise to qualify for this appointment. Right? Well … let’s ask Cheryl Mills:

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.”

In other words, the State Department had never heard of Fernando before his appointment. Hillary’s office “insisted” on his appointment.

Why the ISAB, though? If Hillary wanted to give Fernando a sinecure, she could have gotten Fernando an ambassadorial appointment, which is the more common way of paying off campaign donors. Nuclear security usually gets more serious consideration, especially since it comes with a very high clearance level as part of the job.

While that’s a serious problem, the internal response to ABC’s initial probe five years ago was high comedy. 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.