Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Thursday rejected the idea that Deputy DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas should be fired for helping Democrats get visas for their favored companies, and instead argued that DHS should just be allowed to learn from the episode and "move on."
Johnson testified at a House Appropriations subcommittee just one day after the DHS Inspector General said Mayorkas intervened in three decisions on whether to grant visas for certain foreign investors. The report said Mayorkas intervened in cases involving well-known Democrats, and managed to get those visas approved.
Mayorkas intervened in one case at the request of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and another case involved Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and Anthony Rodham, Hillary Clinton's brother.
But while the report said Mayorkas created the appearance of "favoritism and special access," Johnson said the matter would end there, and indicated he opposed any effort to remove Mayorkas.
"I just don't get it," Rep. David Young (R-Iowa) said at committee hearing. "You're not going to do anything with deputy secretary Mayorkas? He's going to stay where he is?"
"Deputy Secretary Mayorkas is a valuable member of our senior leadership team," Johnson answered. "He is working very, very hard in the public interest. He's working very hard to reform the management of our organization, improve morale, manage our management action group."
"He has been a valuable member of the team, definitely value added, and it would be a big loss to the men and women of our department if he were not full-time, fully engaged, occupying his job," he said.
"I believe that. I work with him daily," Johnson concluded. "And I've read the report, I've read it very carefully. I believe he understands the lessons to be learned from it, and we need to move on."
But Republicans are unlikely to accept that answer. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter to Johnson on Thursday demanding that Mayorkas be held accountable somehow.
"The Inspector General's report paints a clear picture of how Mr. Mayorkas, when Director of the agency, used poor judgment and provided preferential treatment to certain petitioners and regional center applicants in the EB-5 immigrant investor program," Grassley wrote. "You have an obligation to ensure there is accountability."
Grassley also noted that Mayorkas himself wrote a memo to DHS employees that called on them to ensure there is no real or perceived preferential treatment.
"This memo explains how 'a government position is a public trust requiring an employee to act impartially in the performance of his or her duties,' " Grassley wrote. "It provided 'guidance to USCIS employees on avoiding and preventing situations that could be, or appear to be, preferential treatment.' "
"This memo was written by and violated by Mr. Mayorkas," Grassley wrote.
Read his letter here: