Newly released emails say Hillary Clinton appointed a grossly unqualified Clinton Foundation donor to a State Department advisory board that handled top-secret national security information.
When ABC News began probing the qualifications of the new appointee to the International Security Advisory Board (ISAB), which oversees the State Department’s nuclear and arms policies, Clinton’s staff tried to hide the truth from the public.
Internal State Department emails, which Citizens United obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request, show that Clinton apparently hand-picked Rajiv K. Fernando, a major donor to the Clinton Foundation, to sit on ISAB.
Before he was appointed to ISAB, Fernando donated between $100,000 and $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation. He also contributed heavily to Clinton’s failed presidential bid in 2008.
The emails also reveal panic among State Department staffers after ABC News began asking questions about Fernando’s qualifications and financial relationship to Clinton in 2011.
ABC News reports:
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.’
Mills — who is refusing to answer questions about her time serving as Clinton’s chief of staff, citing attorney-client privilege — told another staffer to “stall” the reporters probing the matter. Four days later, the State Department released a statement announcing Fernando’s resignation.
Federalist contributor Gabriel Malor nicely summed up the scandal in a series of tweets.
(1) Appears Clinton sold access to a foundation donor.
(2) Donor bailed two days after getting caught by ABC News.
(3) Donor and Clinton and State have clammed up, won’t discuss situation.
(4) FOIA emails revealed internal panic over situation.
(5) Panicked response included threatening to arrest ABC News reporter.
(6) Only reason we know is Citizen United FOIAed emails about it
(7) Refusal to comment puts the lie to Clinton campaign’s claims to have cooperated in email probe.
Amb. James Woolsey, a former ISAB member who served between 2006-2009, said Fernando’s appointment, given his lack of qualifications, would be highly unusual, since the panel deals with top-secret national security information on a regular basis.
‘Most things that involve nuclear weapons and nuclear strategy are dealt with at a pretty sensitive 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.
Fernando has continued to back the Clintons. On the Clinton Foundation website, he is listed as having donated between $1 million and $5 million to the organization in total.