National security on ‘hold’: Lawmakers press McAuliffe for answers
This article was originally published by watchdog.org.
RICHMOND – With the director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under investigation, a Virginia lawmaker on Monday called for Terry McAuliffe to disclose what happened at his “sit-down” with the agency boss.
State Sen. Tom Garrett, R-Louisa, said he was “very frustrated” by USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas’ “perfunctory” response last month to Garrett’s repeated inquiries about GreenTech Automotive’s funding via the USCIS visa-investor program.
“Who would I send my next request to, when the director is the subject of a federal investigation?” Garrett mused. “Maybe if I had (Homeland Security Secretary Janet) Napolitano’s number, like McAuliffe, I could get a sit-down, too.”
Mayorkas and USCIS did not respond to Watchdog’s repeated requests for comment.
Testifying before the Senate Homeland Security Committee last Thursday, Mayorkas said he took no action after meeting with McAuliffe “about two years ago.”
The director said GreenTech’s foreign-funding arm, Gulf Coast Funds Management, complained then and “continues to complain” about his agency’s processing of $500,000 investment blocks made by applicants, mainly from China.
In the past week, documents provided by U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley’s office linked Gulf Coast with Huawei Technologies.
“I have obtained emails which indicate that one of the investors in Gulf Coast is a vice president of Huawei Technologies, whose connections to Chinese intelligence have been documented by the House Intelligence Committee,” Grassley wrote to FBI Director Robert Mueller this month.
The Iowa Republican quoted a government document that stated the automotive venture “has 21 related pending (visa-investor) cases. There is a Fraud/National Security hold on all 21 of these.”
Virginia state Delegate Israel O’Quinn picked up that tip Monday.
“The Obama administration blocked Huawei from building wind turbines in Oregon, citing national-security concerns. Why would McAuliffe and GreenTech take money from an individual with a sketchy track record? Are they so desperate for cash?” asked O’Quinn, R-Bristol.
O’Quinn noted that former Gov. Tim Kaine’s administration “seemed to anticipate some national security implications” when reviewing GreenTech’s business plans in 2009.
Mayorkas testified Thursday that he referred the Gulf Coast matter to USCIS’ Fraud Detection National Security Directorate “for appropriate action based upon a question of the project’s integrity.” He did not elaborate.
Gulf Coast, which shares a McLean, Va., office with GreenTech, is headed by Anthony Rodham, the younger brother of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Mayorkas’ testimony flatly contradicted McAuliffe’s claims — and those of other GreenTech and Gulf Coast representatives — that they had never met with immigration officials.
Mayorkas’ recollections are supported by documents obtained by Watchdog.org. In email communications and letters, Rodham — as well as Gulf Coast general counselSimone Williams and McAuliffe himself — contacted Mayorkas and other federal officials several times over the past three years to push for applicant approvals.
Yet Williams asserted last week that Gulf Coast “has not sought assistance from USCIS” in resolving cases.
“GCFM is not part of any investigation by Department of Homeland Security,” Williams told NBC-12 News in Richmond.
Williams said the center “has not sought assistance from USCIS to resolve a rejected appeal. In fact, we are not aware of any investor visa applications associated with our Regional Center being denied.”
Watchdog.org has reported that Williams and Rodham emailed Mayorkas on Jan. 23 and Jan. 29 of this year with requests to expedite scores of investor applications.
McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin told the Richmond Times-Dispatch last week that DHS’ Mayorkas investigation “does not involve Terry, and we hope it is completed in a timely manner.”
McAuliffe is in a tight gubernatorial race with Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
“Virginians deserve answers,” said Garrett, who is also Commonwealth attorney for Louisa County.
GreenTech has sued Watchdog for $85 million, alleging that its coverage defamed the company and damaged investor relations.
Kenric Ward is chief of Watchdog.org’s Virginia Bureau. Contact him at [email protected]