Donor promised to make Clinton ‘look good’ on advisory board

Donor promised to make Clinton ‘look good’ on advisory board
© Haiyun Jiang

A top Democratic donor appointed by then-Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrat Katie Porter unseats GOP's Mimi Walters Former Facebook security chief: 'I failed to prepare my employer' on Russian disinformation Rand Paul: Facebook must 'convince conservatives they're not the enemy' MORE to an official advisory board without apparent background in national security promised in an email to a senior aide that he would make Clinton “look good.”

“I know I will be able to hold my own and be valued contributor to this board,” Rajiv Fernando told longtime Clinton deputy Huma Abedin in September of 2009. “I promise I will make the Secretary look good.”


In other emails, Fernando appeared to acknowledge his lack of requisite experience for a slot on the International Security Advisory Board but lobbied Abedin for the position all the same.

“Everybody on that board is a top level defense expert, yet, I feel like I can add a lot to the group,” he told her. “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.”

The emails, provided to McClatchy by conservative organization Citizens United, are likely to increase scrutiny on Fernando’s appointment while Clinton was in office.

The financial trader has been a prolific donor to Democrats, including Clinton’s past Senate and presidential campaigns. He also contributed between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation.

In 2011, Fernando was appointed to the advisory board, which weighs in on arms control and nonproliferation issues. He resigned the following year following an inquiry from ABC News questioning his qualifications.

The issue is becoming a sore spot for the State Department and could turn into a vulnerability for Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.

Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpAvenatti ‘still considering’ presidential run despite domestic violence arrest Mulvaney positioning himself to be Commerce Secretary: report Kasich: Wouldn’t want presidential run to ‘diminish my voice’ MORE, Clinton's Republican counterpart, has hit her on the issue, which he says proves she is “crooked.”

As the news was coming to light, one senior State Department official appeared to mock the selection, asking in an email why Fernando couldn’t “have landed a spot on the President’s Physical Fitness Council.”

The State Department, however, has defended the selection, noting that the board is supposed to be comprised of a broad cross-section of experts.

--This report was updated at 10:54 a.m.