An old pay-for-play scandal is heating up around Hillary Clinton again because a conservative watchdog group handed ABC News documented proof that Clinton’s State Department stonewalled their 2011 investigation.
The story revolves around big-bucks Clinton Foundation donor and Democrat fundraiser Rajiv K. Fernando, a Chicago securities trader who somehow landed on the International Security Advisory Board during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, despite having absolutely zero experience. The position gave Fernando “one of the highest levels of Top Secret access.”
Fernando “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,” as ABC News describes the board.
This was very confusing to the august nuclear scientists, former cabinet secretaries, and members of Congress sitting at the table with Fernando. “We had no idea who he was,” one of them said to ABC.
It was also confusing to everyone working beneath Clinton at the State Department. When ABC asked about the Fernando appointment in 2011, “confusion ensued among the career government officials who work with the advisory panel.”
The State Department crew basically congratulated ABC News for asking a very good question and then refused to answer it. “It appears there is much more to this story that we’re unaware of,” a press aide assured ABC. “We must protect the Secretary’s and Under Secretary’s name, as well as the integrity of the Board. I think it’s important to get down to the bottom of this before there’s any response.”
Fernando himself initially stonewalled ABC’s inquiries, then he got angry at them for daring to confront him at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, whereupon security threatened to arrest ABC’s reporter.
The reason this is all fresh news again is that watchdog group Citizens United — you remember, the crew Clinton wanted to rewrite the Constitution to silence — dug through some recently released State Department emails, found some juicy communiques related to the Fernando appointment, and passed them along to ABC News.
Apparently the news network convinced itself to forget about this scandal after 2012, but now the wound has been reopened because it is painfully clear nobody ever had an answer to ABC’s inquiry better than Hillary Clinton insisted on giving her big donor a seat on the Board.
That’s not really much of a paraphrase, either. Jamie Mannina, the press aide who stressed the importance of “protecting the Secretary’s name,” did ask some questions around the State Department, while attempting to hold ABC News at bay.
“The true answer is simply that S staff (Cheryl Mills) added him. The board’s membership preceded me. Raj was not on the list sent to S; he was added at their insistence,” Mannina was told by Wade Boese, Chief of Staff for the Office of the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. “S” means the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Cheryl Mills was her chief of staff at the time.
Emails began fluttering around the State Department while ABC waited for its answer, calling all hands on deck to head off a potential scandal. Mannina was explicitly instructed to stall by Mills — she used that exact word, according the Undersecretary for State for Arms Control himself, Richard Hartman. Fernando was looped into the discussion, but by an amazing coincidence, the entire text of his email has been redacted.
No serious answer to ABC’s questions about Fernando’s qualifications was ever provided. Instead, it was announced that he had abruptly decided to step down — citing “additional time needed to devote to his business,” according to a public statement authored by Mills.
Elapsed time from ABC News asking how Fernando got on the board to his resignation: four days.
Of course, no one involved was eager to talk to ABC News now that they have seen those emails Citizens United uncovered:
The Clinton campaign declined requests from ABC News to make Mills available for an interview. Campaign spokesman Nick Merrill deferred to the U.S. State Department, which issued a statement saying the board’s charter specifically calls for a membership that reflects “a balance of backgrounds and points of view. Furthermore, it is not unusual for the State Department Chief of Staff to be involved in personnel matters.”
Fernando did not respond to messages left by ABC News at home and mobile numbers listed for Fernando, nor to a letter left at the office of his current business.
No doubt he is busy with other activities, such as being one of the super-delegates Clinton has been relying on to secure the Democrat nomination for president.
His nuclear non-proliferation expertise might have been so nebulous that the State Department could not describe it, even after spending four days at scandal-control battle stations, but ABC News finds his financial contributions easy to describe:
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.
ZeroHedge has no difficulty imagining how Fernando’s seat on the ISAB could produce a handsome return on his Clinton Cash investments, suggesting such political appointments “may explain the unprecedented pull of the HFT [High-Frequency Trading] lobby throughout all ranks of the U.S. political apparatus.”
“Fernando bought a seat to not only have advance knowledge of all US foreign policy, but to directly shape it, something he could then parlay in the forms of massive policy frontrunning profits thanks to his trading company. In other words, the appointment qualified Fernando, a trader in the public markets, for one of the highest levels of top secret access,” ZeroHedge bottom-lines it.