Tags: Trump Administration | Hillary Clinton | Gov. McAuliffe | Hillary Clinton | visa | homeland security

Hillary's Brother Mum on Visa 'Favoritism' as Gov. McAuliffe Fights Back

Image: Hillary's Brother Mum on Visa 'Favoritism' as Gov. McAuliffe Fights Back
Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe. (Mike Theiler/Reuters/Landov)

Thursday, 26 Mar 2015 08:22 AM

Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has defended himself against accusations he pressured a Homeland Security official to speed up green card visas for foreign investors as Hillary Clinton's brother remained mum on similar allegations.

The Virginia governor spoke out after it was revealed that a congressional committee planned on Thursday to consider a blistering report that four leading Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, used their political influence to ask for favoritism in a federal visa program, Politico reported.

McAuliffe's spokesman Brian Coy admitted that the governor had pressed the agency to accelerate the approval of protracted applications involving green cards for foreigners investing in U.S. businesses.

But in a statement released Wednesday night, Coy said: "This report demonstrates that Governor McAuliffe, along with many other bipartisan individuals and businesses, asked DHS to fulfill its obligation to adjudicate the applications that were before them in a timely fashion."

Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was slammed by the agency's inspector general for personally intervening in EB-5 visa cases involving Reid, McAuliffe, former Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, and Anthony Rodham, brother of possible presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton.

A blistering 97-page report from Inspector General John Roth states that Mayorkas
"created an appearance of favoritism and special access" for certain wealthy immigrants with Democratic political support, triggering complaints from a host of whistleblowers.

The report said that McAuliffe personally contacted Mayorkas, the then-U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director, to demand that he sign off on several cases involving foreign investors of the Gulf Coast Funds Management, which is run by Rodham.

The phone calls occurred before McAuliffe became governor and were apparently aimed at aiding an electric car firm, GreenTech Automotive, with links to a long-established Democratic operative and fundraiser, according to Politico.

Although Mayorkas flatly denied that he had shown McAuliffe any special treatment, he revealed that the governor had used some colorful language on voice mail.

"I recall that over the course of many months I received several voice messages from Mr. McAuliffe complaining about USCIS's handling of the case," Mayorkas said. "The messages were caustic. I remember in particular one voice message that I played for [redacted], as it was laced with expletives at a high volume."

After he was asked about the profane calls, Coy said: "My understanding is that after nearly two years trying to get just a yes or no answer on these applications, [McAuliffe] was understandably frustrated by the lack of progress."

The inspector general report said whistleblowers complained about favoritism in the EB-5 visa process for applicants with political connections. The EB-5 visa program grants permanent resident status to individuals who invest at least $500,000 in a U.S. business venture that employs a sufficient number of people.

While admitting that McAuliffe refused to meet with agency investigators, Coy added, "we were asked after he was inaugurated to do a voluntary interview, his counsel replied that he would be happy to provide any information they needed but would not be available for the voluntary interview."

Rodham, one of former secretary of state Clinton's brothers, did not respond to emails and telephone messages left by Politico at Gulf Coast's Tysons Corner, Virginia office.

However, Rendell also admitted during a conference call that he had contacted Mayorkas "on a number of occasions" to voice his displeasure about the slow responses to visa applications, the political news website reported.

"They were just not getting answers," Rendell said. "I would call Director Mayorkas and say, 'Alejandro, [a USCIS office in] California is being painfully slow. Can they get an answer one way or another?' We never asked Alejandro to do anything other than speed up the decision-making process.

"The program was a mess and disorganized, and one of the problems was they were applying different standards in different regions and the regions made the initial decision."

Rendell revealed that he made the calls on behalf of an investment consortium called CanAm, which was helping to finance the expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. He was hired as a consultant for the company after leaving office, a position he still holds.

Last year it was learned that Harry Reid was the target of an ethics and conflict-of-interest complaint after helping a politically connected casino in Nevada get visas for foreign investors.

The Washington, D.C.-based group Cause of Action, which calls itself an advocate for government accountability, accused the Nevada Democrat of violating the Senate's code of conduct by interceding on behalf of the foreign investors with top immigration officials.

The applicants were law clients of Reid's son, whose law firm is legal counsel to the SLS Hotel & Casino in Nevada, according to the complaint.

The House Homeland Security Committee was due to convene Thursday morning to question Roth about the repeated phone calls and emails from influential Democrats demanding expedited visas.

Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the committee chairman, told The New York Times that the report seemed to contradict the agency's "expressed mission to administer the nation's immigration system fairly, honestly and correctly."

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Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has defended himself against accusations he pressured a Homeland Security official to speed up green card visas for foreign investors - as one of Hillary Clinton's brothers remained mum on similar allegations.
Gov. McAuliffe, Hillary Clinton, visa, homeland security
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2015-22-26
Thursday, 26 Mar 2015 08:22 AM
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