DHS pick denies allegations of helping Clinton’s brother, as GOP boycotts hearing

July 25, 2013
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President Obama’s nominee for the No. 2 spot at the Homeland Security Department ran into a wall of criticism ahead of a planned confirmation hearing late Thursday morning, as Republicans scrambled to try and postpone the hearing amid allegations he may have improperly helped a firm run by Hillary Clinton’s brother. 

Alejandro Mayorkas, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is under investigation by the department’s inspector general. He is so far still set to testify at 11 a.m. ET before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. 

But Republicans, in a letter Wednesday to committee Chairman Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., claimed the news of the investigation took them by surprise. They said neither the White House nor Mayorkas had disclosed the existence of the probe to them before — the investigation was first reported on Tuesday. 

“We believe it is neither appropriate nor fair to consider the nomination of an individual under investigation,” the lawmakers wrote. The letter was signed by Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Rob Portman, R-Ohio; and Ron Johnson, R-Wis. They said lawmakers would be hamstrung in asking about an ongoing investigation during the hearing, yet would need to know those details in order to fairly consider the nomination. 

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, also wrote committee leaders asking for a postponement “until the facts are more fully developed.” 

The White House is doubling down on the pick, who if confirmed could temporarily lead the department. In a brief letter to Carper on Wednesday, White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler assured that the nominee underwent a “thorough” FBI background check before the nomination and “we have no concerns about his suitability for this important position.” 

The Inspector General’s Office, though, has not closed the book on the case. 

The office has confirmed that it is investigating Mayorkas’ role in helping secure a foreign investor visa for Tony Rodham’s Gulf Coast Funds Management even after the application was denied and an appeal rejected. 

In a statement, the office said he was not initially a target of the investigation. But as the probe progressed, “subsequent allegations have been identified involving alleged conflicts of interest, misuse of position, mismanagement of the EB-5 program, and an appearance of impropriety by Mayorkas and other USCIS management officials.” 

The international investor visa program run by USCIS, known as EB-5, allows foreigners to get visas if they invest $500,000 to $1 million in projects or businesses that create jobs for U.S. citizens. The amount of the investment required depends on the type of project. Investors who are approved for the program can become legal permanent residents after two years and can later be eligible to become citizens. 

In an email to lawmakers Monday, the IG’s office said “at this point in our investigation, we do not have any findings of criminal misconduct.” 

Congressional officials briefed on the investigation said the visa was for a Chinese executive. Homeland Security and Citizenship and Immigration Services have not commented on the investigation. 

Rodham’s company said Tuesday it was not aware of the investigation or of any investor visa application being denied. 

In a prepared opening statement, Carper acknowledged questions surrounding “Director Mayorkas’ qualifications.” 

“At this point in time, we do not have all the facts,” Carper said. He also said that it’s “my understanding” that Mayorkas has not yet been interviewed by the IG’s office. He added that despite objections from Republicans, including

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