Clinton donor solicited entrance to security panel

Politics | Emails reveal businessman requested high-level appointment
by Evan Wilt
Posted 6/29/16, 11:04 am

WASHINGTON—A top Clinton Foundation donor with no security experience lobbied to get a seat on a sensitive arms-control panel to advise then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to newly released emails.

Rajiv Fernando, a wealthy Chicago businessman, gave maximum contributions to Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and donated between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation to fund other Democratic campaigns. And new emails, obtained through a Citizens United lawsuit against the State Department, show Fernando personally requested addition to the top-level security panel and promised to flatter Clinton—even after acknowledging his inexperience.

“I promise I will make the Secretary look good,” Fernando wrote in 2009 to Huma Abedin, Clinton’s deputy chief of staff. “[I]f there is any way I can be a part of the list of the final 25, I would be grateful. Please let me know if there is anything you need me to do.”

Clinton appointed Fernando to the International Security Advisory Board (ISAB) in July 2011. The board included top-level security experts, foreign policy advisers, former military generals, and cabinet secretaries and required top-secret security clearance.

The ISAB advised the State Department on tactical nuclear weapons, nonproliferation, and other international arms-control issues. Fernando specialized in computer-generated stock trading. At the time of his appointment to the ISAB, he was the head of Chopper Trading in Chicago. 

Earlier this month, Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, told me Fernando “stuck out like a sore thumb” on a board full of arms control experts.

But according to the new emails released, Fernando believed he could contribute.

“Everybody on that board is a top-level defense expert, yet I feel like I can add a lot to the group,” he wrote to Abedin. “I have two professors from Northwestern and one from University of Chicago who are international security experts and are getting me up to speed on the academics behind the field.”

ABC News questioned the State Department’s reasons for appointing Fernando to the board in August 2011, asking for a copy of his qualifications. Fernando resigned from the ISAB four days after receiving media requests.

The confusion surrounding Fernando’s appointment is one of many question marks surrounding Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.

During a press conference Tuesday announcing the House Select Committee on Benghazi’s final report, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., called Clinton’s leadership as secretary of state “morally reprehensible.”

Last month, the State Department inspector general found Clinton failed to comply with department regulations regarding her private email server.

And yesterday, Judicial Watch obtained 165 pages of State Department documents through a Freedom of Information Act request showing Clinton knew there was a problem with her emails from the beginning.

The documents include emails between Clinton and her State Department staff stating she worried about how her staff kept track of her records. The correspondence suggests she knew there was a problem with her work-related emails as early as two months after taking over the State Department.

“I have just realized I have no idea how my papers are treated at State. Who manages both my personal and official files?” Clinton wrote to Abedin. “I think we need to get on this asap to be sure we know and design the system we want.”

Evan Wilt

Evan is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Washington, D.C.

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