Homeland Security official probed for helping company run by Hillary Clinton's brother

By Alicia A. Caldwell

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, July 23 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

In this May 11, 2010 file photo, Immigration Services Director (USCIS) Alejandro Mayorkas listens to a question on Capitol Hill in Washington. Mayorkas, President Barack Obama's choice to be the No. 2 official at the Homeland Security Department is under investigation for his role in helping a company secure an international investor visa for a Chinese executive, The Associated Press has learned.

Harry Hamburg, AP

Enlarge photo»

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's choice to be the No. 2 official at the Homeland Security Department is under investigation for his role in helping a company run by a brother of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, The Associated Press has learned.

Alejandro Mayorkas, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is being investigated for his role in helping the company secure an international investor visa for a Chinese executive, according to congressional officials briefed on the investigation. The officials spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details of the investigation.

Mayorkas was named by Homeland Security's Inspector General's Office as a target in an investigation involving the foreign investor program run by USCIS, according to an email sent to lawmakers late Monday. The IG's office said, "At this point in our investigation, we do not have any findings of criminal misconduct." The email did not specify any criminal allegations it might be investigating.

White House press secretary Jay Carney referred questions to the inspector general's office, which said that the probe is in its preliminary stage and that it doesn't comment on the specifics of investigations.

The investigation does not appear to have any direct ties to Clinton's tenure as secretary of state, but the connection to her brother Anthony Rodham's company could provide new fodder for Republican super PACs, which have sought to discredit her record. The former first lady and New York senator, who is considered a possible contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, has recently been maintaining a lower profile of private speeches and work on a new book.

Mayorkas, a former U.S. attorney in California, has previously come under criticism for his involvement in the commutation by President Bill Clinton of the prison sentence of the son of a Democratic Party donor. Another of Hillary Clinton's brothers, Hugh Rodham, had been hired by the donor to lobby for the commutation. Mayorkas told lawmakers during his 2009 confirmation hearing that "it was a mistake" to talk to the White House about the request.

Hillary Clinton stepped down as secretary of state on Feb. 1.

The government program involved in the investigation, 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.

If Mayorkas were confirmed as Homeland Security's deputy secretary, he probably would run the department until a permanent replacement was approved to take over for departing Secretary Janet Napolitano.

The email to lawmakers said the primary complaint against Mayorkas was that he helped a financing company run by Clinton's brother win approval for an investor visa, even after the application was denied and an appeal was rejected.

According to the Inspector General's email, the investigation of the investor visa program also includes allegations that other USCIS Office of General Counsel officials obstructed an audit of the visa program by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The email did not name any specific official from the general counsel's office.

The email says investigators did not know whether Mayorkas was aware of the investigation. The FBI's Washington Field Office was told about the investigation in June after it inquired about Mayorkas as part of the White House background investigation for his nomination as deputy DHS secretary.

The FBI in Washington has been concerned about the investor visa program and the projects funded by foreign sources since at least March, according to emails obtained by The AP.

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