Kyle Wingfield

Political commentary and opinion from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's conservative blogger

Report: Hillary donor served on intelligence board for which he wasn't qualified

Oh, what's this? Another story about apparent pay-to-play involving Hillary Clinton and the State Department? From ABC News :

"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.

"Copies of dozens of internal emails were provided to ABC News by the conservative political group Citizens United, which obtained them under the Freedom of Information Act after more the two years of litigation with the government.

"A prolific fundraiser for Democratic candidates and contributor to the Clinton Foundation, who later traveled with Bill Clinton on a trip to Africa, Rajiv K. Fernando's only known qualification for a seat on the International Security Advisory Board (ISAB) was his technological know-how. The Chicago securities trader, who specialized in electronic investing, 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.

"'We had no idea who he was,' one board member told ABC News."

In the very next paragraph, ABC News demonstrates this story isn't the result of an election-year opposition-research dump. Reporters have been after this story for almost half a decade. It took five years of reporting and two years of litigation by a third party -- that's who finally sent the emails to ABC News, not the State Department, despite its legal obligations -- to put together the story.

Remember that investment of time and resources to get a single story the next time (probably on this comment thread) some Clinton sycophant tells you a story is a "nothingburger" if there isn't a conviction within a few days of its being published.

But back to the story itself. If expertise in electronic trading were counter-intuitively relevant to arms control -- to the point Fernando needed to be on the ISAB, rather than merely advising board members -- that should have been easy enough for State Department officials to explain. If that reason were sensitive in nature -- say, because we didn't want arms traders and nuclear proliferators to know we were onto some scheme to finance their operations through high-frequency trading -- that would seem to be a reason not to put Fernando on the board, since the names of the appointees are public knowledge. At the very least, you'd think State could have explained such a scenario in an off-the-record briefing that would have satisfied the curiosity of the ABC News reporters.

Yes, you'd think one of those things would have happened. As opposed to, you know, writing a series of confused emails to one another (read the ABC story for several examples) and stalling with reporters who'd asked a simple question. It's worth noting here that we're not talking about the mere prestige of serving on a federal board: ISAB members, ABC reports, qualify "for one of the highest levels of top secret access." So here's a question worth asking: Did Hillary's high-frequency-trading friend (and fund raiser) make any money off the information he got thanks to that access? A federal government more interested in protecting its own integrity -- rather than "the name of the Secretary" -- would look into that.

Here are some more questions such a federal government would ask: Are there more examples of this out there? Is that the reason Clinton wanted total control over her email to the point she set up an unsecured personal server to host her communications, putting hundreds of classified messages at risk of being stolen by our enemies? How much more overlap is there between a) donors to Clinton's campaigns and/or the Clinton Foundation, and b) special treatment at State? How many times can someone sell the Lincoln Bedroom , anyway?

Unfortunately, the track record of Barack Obama's executive branch (motto: "most transparent administration in history , LOLOLOLOL" ) suggests it isn't the kind of group that asks those kind of questions.

Every time someone who can't stand  Donald Trump considers siding with Hillary, that person should read a story like this -- or, in case of a serious temptation, this excellent piece by Michael Brendan Dougherty. In the race for worst presidential candidate ever, it's really a matter of 1 vs. 1a.

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About the Author

Kyle Wingfield joined the AJC in 2009. He is a native of Dalton and a graduate of the University of Georgia.