ANALYSIS: DHS Official’s Visa Intervention Explanation Just Doesn’t Add Up
One of the claims Department of Homeland Security (DHS) deputy secretary Alejandro Mayorkas made defending himself against recent accusations of improper intervention on behalf of politically-connected Democrats just doesn’t add up.
Last week, DHS’ inspector general (IG), John Roth, released a scathing report detailing Mayorkas’ “unprecedented” intervention during his stint as director of U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) to help companies seeking approval for EB-5 visa applications.
USCIS whistle-blowers said they had never witnessed interventions like Mayorkas’ and felt that they were politically motivated.
When interviewed by IG investigators about his intervention in Sept. 1, 2011, on behalf of a firm called L.A. Films, Mayorkas denied talking to a politically-connected Los Angeles attorney about EB-5 visas. Instead, he said that he talked to the attorney, John Emerson, about an organization whose board he sat on with Emerson’s wife.
Except Mayorkas and Kimberly Marteau Emerson sat on the board for the nonprofit group, United Friends of the Children, more than three years after that 2011 conversation took place.
L.A. Films sought EB-5 visas for investors into Hollywood movie projects. Tom Rosenfeld, L.A. Films’ principal investor, contacted Emerson, who, like Mayorkas, had worked in the Bill Clinton White House.
Emerson has since been appointed by President Obama as ambassador to Germany. This likely stemmed from Emerson’s effort in raising more than $500,000 for Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign.
According to Roth’s report, Emerson, who was described as Mayorkas’ “career advisor,” sent several emails to Mayorkas on Aug. 8, 2011, inquiring about L.A. Films’ EB-5 petition. (RELATED: DHS Official Gave Special Favors To Hillary Clinton’s Brother)
Emerson contacted Mayorkas again on Sept. 1, 2011, forwarding an email from Rosenfeld. Mayorkas replied to Emerson, saying that he was not involved in adjudicating individual cases.
But that was not the end of their conversation that day.
Investigators found a record of three phone calls between Emerson and Mayorkas’ personal cell phone that same evening.
On its face, it would seem likely that Emerson and Mayorkas were discussing the EB-5 petition. But Mayorkas denied that was the case.
Mayorkas said that he and Emerson did not discuss the substance of the EB-5 petition and that he did not recall making a phone call from his personal cell phone that evening. But if he did, he said it could have been because “he was on a board with Emerson’s wife.”
The IG seemed puzzled by that claim, according to the report.
“We were unable to reconcile this statement with our understanding that Mr. Mayorkas had relinquished all his positions outside the Federal Government,” the report reads.
In a footnote, Roth’s report noted that on May 21, 2009, Mayorkas stated that he was no longer a member of any of the boards he sat on before taking the job. In June 13, 2012, he submitted his financial disclosure report, which showed that for 2011 he did not claim any board memberships.
Indeed, Mayorkas and Kimberly Marteau Emerson, were board members with United Friends of the Children. But financial disclosures for that organization show that Mayorkas left that position before June 30, 2008.
This requires believing that Mayorkas was discussing a nonprofit organization he had not worked with in more than three years. And even more unbelievable, that he was discussing that previous position not with his fellow board member, but with her husband — a man Mayorkas had close personal ties to and who had contacted him numerous times about business.
The office of the inspector general did not respond to The Daily Caller’s request for comment.
Mayorkas’ involvement with L.A. Films and Emerson is not the most eye-catching connection in Roth’s report.
It also lays out aid Mayorkas gave to Nevada Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, current Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Hillary Clinton’s brother, Tony Rodham, and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.
USCIS whistle-blowers asserted that Mayorkas took unusual steps to help the politicians navigate the EB-5 process. McAuliffe and Rodham sought help for their company, GreenTech Automotive. Reid sought help for SLS Hotel and Casino, a Las Vegas company with ties to Reid’s son, Rory.
Rendell was involved in the L.A. Films project. In that particular case, Mayorkas created an all-new Deference Review Board which he stacked with hand-picked officials. The board was “intended to give preferential treatment” to L.A. Films’ EB-5 petitions, according to the IG report.
While Mayorkas is now facing heavy criticism for inserting himself in the visa application process for these politically-connected companies, it’s not the first time his lobbying has put him on the hot seat.
In 2001, Mayorkas and Hillary Clinton’s other brother, Hugh Rodham, helped Carlos Vignali, a Los Angeles drug trafficker who was serving a 15 year prison sentence. After speaking with Vignali’s father, Horacio, Mayorkas contacted then-President Clinton, who granted the younger Vignali clemency a mere six years into his sentence. The elder Vignali also paid Rodham $200,000 to help secure the clemency.
However, it was later revealed that federal investigators suspected that Horacio Vignali was also involved in drug trafficking.
When Mayorkas was nominated for the USCIS spot in 2009, he apologized for involving himself in the matter, saying “I made a mistake.”
So far, in the latest imbroglio, he has not done the same.