WASHINGTON — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe says he did nothing wrong when he asked a top Homeland Security official to help his former electric car company with visa applications two years ago.
An inspector general’s report, and a response from the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, detail a face-to-face meeting between McAuliffe and Mayorkas and expletive-filled phone calls.
McAuliffe said in an interview Thursday with WRVA-AM in Richmond that even though he is well connected, and was working with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s brother on the electric car project, he was a private citizen at the time.
“This guy took calls from everybody. Let’s be clear, I never knew the guy beforehand. Everybody called him. Senators, governors,” McAuliffe told the station.
McAuliffe was looking to speed up the decision-making process on special investor visas through a program called EB-5, which are usually supposed to be decided within months, not years.
“I was angrier than heck at all these people,” McAuliffe said.
Mayorkas wrote an email at the time that indicated he only met with McAuliffe because he was told to, and was in “listen only mode.”
“I’m a private business man, I’m (not) an elected official. Just as I do as governor … I pick up the phone and I raise heck,” McAuliffe said of his interactions with Mayorkas.
At a House committee hearing Thursday morning on Capitol Hill, Homeland Security Inspector General John Roth said he did not find any evidence that laws were broken in McAuliffe’s case, or two others including one effort tied to powerful democrats Sen. Harry Reid and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.
But Roth stands by his report released earlier this week that found internal policies were broken, and that there was a clear appearance of favoritism.
“Staff perceived that the influence was the result of politically connected people, I don’t think there was a lot of conversation about some sort of party affiliation,” Roth told the committee.
In the case connected to McAuliffe, Mayorkas intervened to change a report rejecting a request in a way that enabled the company to apply again. That second application was accepted.
“Mr. Mayorkas intervened in a way that he had never done before, by asking to see the draft opinion, by commenting on the draft opinion, and having influence into how that draft opinion ultimately was decided,” Roth said.
Roth says all of the steps created an appearance of special access, and the several cases triggered a number of whistleblowers across the country to contact the inspector general’s office with concerns.
Questions about McAuliffe’s involvement in the visa requests were a focus of attacks during his successful campaign for governor.
Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee pressed Roth to see if powerful Republicans had made similar requests, but Roth said he did not have that information.