“I have never in my career used undue influence to influence the outcome of a case,” Mayorkas testified Thursday in front of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which held a hearing on his nomination over the objection of Republicans.
The allegations have complicated the administration’s nomination of Mayorkas to be second-in-command at DHS. They could also pose difficulties for Democratic Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, who co-founded the electric-car company involved in the case, and for former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose brother, Anthony Rodham, was involved in lobbying for the visas.
Mayorkas testified that he met with McAuliffe about twoyears ago to hear complaints about the pace of visa approvals for foreign investors at the car company, called GreenTech Automotive. He said such meetings were common and he considered them part of his job.
“I listened to his complaint and went back to my work,” Mayorkas said. “I enforce the law based on the facts. I do not put my finger on the scales of justice.”
The McAuliffe campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday. A McAuliffe spokesman earlier this week said the inspector general’s probe “does not involve Terry” and dismissed attacks by his Republican opponent, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, as a distraction.
Republicans had called on Democrats to delay Thursday’s hearing, but Chairman Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.) refused, saying in a statement that he would not allow “rumor, speculation, and innuendo to rule the day.” Carper said Mayorkas had never been notified that he was the subject of a probe.
“The Office of Inspector General apparently does not have any ‘preliminary findings’ regarding Mr. Mayorkas,” Carper said in prepared remarks prior to the hearing. “In fact . . . the Office of Inspector General has found no wrongdoing by Mr. Mayorkas.”
The donnybrook over Mayorkas is relatively unusual for the homeland security committee, which has a reputation for maintaining traditional Senate comity in era of partisan rancor. Carper, who took over the chairmanship this year, has had relatively cordial relations with the committee’s ranking Republican, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn. Each refers to the other by their shared initials, “T.C.”
GOP members of the committee were not present as the hearing got underway Thursday morning, a signal they may be boycotting the event in protest. Coburn sent a statement objecting to holding a hearing while an investigation is ongoing.