President Obama's pick for a key national security post is set to be grilled on Capitol Hill Thursday over allegations of misconduct, specifically that he "personally facilitated and assisted" the approval of a visa application for a politically connected foreign investor.
The president's nominee to be the No. 2 at the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, is expected to launch a vigorous defense to lawmakers denying any wrongdoing. He is one of several officials under internal investigation by the DHS inspector general, according to a letter to Congress from the inspector general's office obtained by ABC News.
The investigation also involves Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat who repeatedly appealed to senior DHS officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in 2010, for assistance in obtaining visas for investors in his electric car manufacturing firm GreenTech. The U.S. visa program, commonly known as EB-5, provides American visas to foreign investors who invest over $500,000 in American companies.
Mayorkas, who currently leads the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, is being investigated for allegedly intervening on behalf of a company run by Hillary Clinton's brother, Anthony Rodham, called Gulf Coast Management LLC, which tried to get visas for investors in GreenTech. McAuliffe, who resigned as GreenTech's chairman last year, often touts his business record on the campaign trail.
A letter from the inspector general pointed out that "we do not have any findings of criminal misconduct" by Mayorkas.
USCIS officials originally rejected the company's application, according to e-mails obtained by the office of Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and shared with ABC News.
In the emails shared with ABC News, Mayorkas promised to "follow up" on complaints that the visa review process was taking too long. The emails do not show Mayorkas applying pressure to officials. However, the letter from the DHS inspector general said its months-long probe has produced allegations of "an appearance of impropriety by Mayorkas and other USCIS management officials."
The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is probing Mayorkas' nomination Thursday, said the EB-5 program raises national security concerns.
"We need to be sure that the EB-5 program is not only creating economic stimulus and jobs, but that the nation's security isn't at risk," Sen. Grassley said in a statement Wednesday.
Today a top White House lawyer wrote a letter to lawmakers, saying Mayorkas has already been investigated and vetted and that the administration has "no concerns about his suitability for this important position."
In one case cited by Grassley, Rodham's firm, Gulf Coast Funds Management, sought a visa for a GreenTech investor who was a vice president of Huawei Technologies, a Chinese telecommunications firm investigated last year by the House Intelligence Committee over alleged ties Chinese intelligence services. Huawei Technologies has previously said those charges were not true. It did not return a phone call or email from ABC News seeking comment.
Throughout the gubernatorial campaign, Republicans have attacked McAuliffe over his attempts to secure a channel for GreenTech investors to legally receive U.S. visas in exchange for their investments. A spokesperson for McAuliffe called the allegations a Republican distraction. The issue is likely to be raised by Republicans Thursday at the congressional hearing on Mayorkas' nomination.