New emails reveal that Terry McAuliffe pressured Homeland Security officials to approve visas for foreigners investing in his electric car company, using friends within the department to urge the head of Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) to hasten the process.
Obtained by Watchdog.org through a Freedom of Information Act request, the emails indicate that the Democratic candidate for governor in Virginia harnessed his political connections to expedite investments for Greentech Automotive, his former company now under federal investigation.
Greentech’s funding came from overseas investors, mostly from China. The company utilized a little-known rule allowing foreigners who lend at least $500,000 to American companies to live and work in the United States.
Known as EB-5 visas, the program has been criticized as a “visas-for-sale” scheme with national security implications. It is currently under investigation by the FBI.
As chairman of Greentech, McAuliffe was concerned with the slow USCIS vetting process for EB-5 visa applications. In November 2012 he reached out to Noah Kroloff, former Chief of Staff for retired Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, to explain those concerns.
Within a few hours, Kroloff was able to put him in touch with USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas. “Just had a good call with Ali [Mayorkas],” McAuliffe told Kroloff.
But the conversation evidently wasn’t enough to push Mayorkas to subvert the vetting process. In February 2013 McAuliffe tried a new tactic, getting a lawyer from Greentech’s fundraising arm to email Assistant Secretary Douglas Smith about the visa “emergency.”
“Obviously, USCIS’s undue delay in issuing a decision . . . is becoming a serious issue for us,” the lawyer wrote, adding that an electric car plant in Mississippi would have to close unless the visas were processed in the next few days.
Smith, in turn, began leaning heavily on both Kroloff and Mayorkas to expedite the applications. “Any way you can kick Ali into gear?” he asked Kroloff on February 1, while simultaneously telling Mayorkas “I know you are hesitant to weigh in, but the plant will be forced to close unless this can be resolved today. Thanks for your immediate attention to this.”
Mayorkas responded, telling Douglas “I cannot weigh in. It is not appropriate for me to do so.” But Douglas refused to give up. “It is not about weighing to tell them which way to decide,” he continued in another email, “it its (sic) weighing in to get it done one way or another. People have a right to expect we can make a decision faster then (sic) a year.”
While agreeing that the EB-5 visa process could move more quickly, Mayorkas held firm. “Please also recognize that, overarching, we have national security and law enforcement responsibilities and those responsibilities will not be compromised by processing time goals,” he wrote back.
Mayorkas, who was picked in July to replace Napolitano as the head of Homeland Security, is now under also investigation by the department’s inspector general for allegedly approving the visa application of a powerful Chinese businessman with suspected ties to Chinese military intelligence. It is unclear whether that visa was included in the list of those McAuliffe wanted expedited in February.
A former Clinton crony, McAuliffe has a long history of using his political connections to get what he wants. In 2010 he met with Greg Nelson, the former White House official responsible for the Solyndra scandal, ostensibly in order to lobby for “green energy” loans then being tossed about by the Energy Department.
And in 2011, a few months after Homeland Security decided that Greentech’s use of EB-5 visas represented a national security risk, McAuliffe managed to schedule a meeting with Mayorkas to beg the USCIS director to change his mind. Two months later, Mayorkas reversed the decision.
McAuliffe’s campaign did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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