Questions about a possible “quid pro quo” have arisen from the latest batch of Clinton emails, which reveal that a Democratic donor with virtually no relevant experience was appointed to a nuclear intelligence advisory board.
ABC News discovered the conflict of interest in copies of internal emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The emails show baffled board members wondering how the unqualified Rajiv K. Fernando got a seat on the sensitive intelligence board.
They suggest that his only qualification was his association with Bill and Hillary Clinton:
Fernando, a Chicago securities trader, had been a fundraiser for Democratic candidates and a financial contributor to the Clinton Foundation and even traveled with Bill Clinton on a trip to Africa. The board he was appointed to — the International Security Advisory Board — included nuclear scientists, members of Congress and former cabinet secretaries.
The board is a governmental body, overseen by the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, that advises the department on arms control and related issues. According to the group’s charter, members who are not full-time government employees “may receive compensation for the time served at the rate of GS-15 step 10, plus transportation and per diem for overnight travel.” That indicates the highest level of pay for typical federal government employees.
Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, supported Fernando, the emails reportedly show. ABC News reported:
Fernando’s lack of any known background in nuclear security caught the attention of several board members, and when ABC News first contacted the State Department in August 2011 seeking a copy of his resume, the emails show that confusion ensued among the career government officials who work with the advisory panel.
“I have spoken to [State Department official and ISAB Executive Director Richard Hartman] privately, and it appears there is much more to this story that we’re unaware of,” wrote Jamie Mannina, the press aide who fielded the ABC News request. “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.
“As you can see from the attached, it’s natural to ask how he got onto the board when compared to the rest of the esteemed list of members,” Mannina wrote, referring to an attachment that was not included in the recent document release.
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.”
Further, an email posted at ABC shows that Mrs. Mills told staff to “stall” for 24 hours when ABC started questioning them about the suspect appointment in 2011.
Mills sent a public statement announcing Fernando’s “abrupt decision to step down” from the prestigious board the very next day:
“Mr. Fernando chose to resign from the Board earlier this month citing additional time needed to devote to his business,” it reads, noting that membership on the board was required to be “fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented and the functions to be performed by the advisory committee.”
Fernando has given between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation according to ABC News.