Two former lead narcotics investigators said they are "disgusted," but not surprised, with the government report finding that Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas inappropriately helped secure visas for foreign investors that benefited his Democrat friends – including Hillary Clinton's youngest brother, Anthony Rodham.
After all, they said, this isn't the first time Mayorkas abused his power to benefit a brother of the likely 2016 presidential candidate.
Back in 2002, Mayorkas, then a Bill Clinton-appointed Los Angeles U.S. Attorney, was found by a congressional committee to have inappropriately pushed for clemency for convicted drug dealer Carlos Vignali, who happened to be the son of big-time Democratic Party donor Horatio Vignali.
Horatio Vignali, an Argentinian immigrant who built a fortune in Los Angeles, stopped at nothing to free his guilty son – paying the then-first lady’s brother, lawyer Hugh Rodham – $200,000 to work on convincing President Bill Clinton to grant him clemency.
Vignali was granted clemency and freed just six years into a 15-year prison sentence in a controversial decision largely made possible by the lobbying of Mayorkas.
Fast-forward 15 years, to a report by the Department of Justice's Inspector General office last Tuesday that concludes that Mayorkas, as head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, created the appearance of favoritism and special access by improperly speeding up the processing of visa requests for foreign investors to benefit other Democrats, including Anthony Rodham and his financing company.
The report of favoritism is no surprise to at least two Minnesota narcotics investigators still outraged by Mayorkas’ role in the release of a drug trafficker they worked so hard to put behind bars.
“It’s disappointing and disgusting,” said Gerry Wehr, a retired lead investigator in the Vignali case told Fox News Latino, adding “there's always something going on with the Clintons.”
The 2001 Vignali commutation stunned detectives and prosecutors involved in the case. Evidence that included wiretapped conversations and police surveillance video proved Vignali, then 30, was the lead financier for a drug ring that trafficked cocaine from Los Angeles to Minneapolis. In fact, the sentencing judge said Vignali was no doubt a “big player” and “deserved what he got.”
“He was convicted and he didn’t serve his time because someone that was politically connected took money and abused their power to get him released,” said Jeff Burchett, another lead investigator in the Vignali case.
Horatio Vignali was deemed untouchable. His money helped Democrats like former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra, and Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, the former Archbishop of Los Angeles, who all pushed for Carlos’ release – and later regretted it.
Burchett said he’s still upset about what happened back then because the end result was so unfair.
“It’s maddening. It’s hard to even describe how pissed the guys were,” recalled Burchett, who spent 18 years as a narcotics investigator in Minnesota. “This guy (Carlos Vignali) was a low-life drug dealer and 31 other kids from Minnesota, who were black, all stayed in custody. It was the injustice of this little punk getting pardoned when the black defendants in this case didn’t get pardoned because they didn’t have the wherewithal to pay some politically connected person.”
Vignali’s commutation was widely criticized in the press: The Clinton’s eventually said they were “deeply disturbed” to find out Hugh Rodham was paid by the drug dealer’s father and forced him to return the money.
Hugh had made calls to the White House, at the behest of the Vignalis, to discuss the case.
The Vignali commutation though could not have happened without the endorsement of Mayorkas, who allegedly made phone calls to the White House and petitioned for Vignali’s clemency — an unusual move, considering the case was outside his own district.
A congressional investigation found Mayorkas provided “critical support” for the Vignali commutation despite the fact that the U.S. Attorney responsible for the case in Minnesota, B. Todd Jones, told him that Vignali was a “major player” in drug trafficking and was “bad news.” Jones told Mayorkas he should not “go there” when it came to clemency for Vignali.
“Mayorkas was the power broker,” Burchett said. “It was an abuse of power. It was absolutely disgusting what happened.”
Mayorkas involvement even prompted Mayorkas’ assistant U.S. attorney at the time, Duncan DeVille, to resign.
In 2009, Mayorkas testified that “it was a mistake” to push for clemency.
Last week, the Inspector General’s office reiterated that while Mayorkas violated ethics policies, he did not break any laws in showing favoritism toward prominent Democrats, like Clinton’s brother.
Mayorkas stopped short of an apology, saying in a press release: "While I disagree with the Inspector General's report, I will certainly learn from it and from this process. I appreciate and embrace [Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh] Johnson's decision to create a new protocol to ensure the EB-5 program is free from the reality or perception of improper outside influence."
Johnson later said he continues to have “full confidence” in Mayorkas as Deputy Secretary.
Across the country, people came to Mayorkas’ defense.
"He was a stellar partner. I trust him absolutely; impeccable integrity," A.B. Culvahouse, former counsel for President Ronald Reagan who worked with Mayorkas at a prestigious Los Angeles-based law firm, told the Washington Post.
Culvahouse called the allegations "much ado about nothing. Having served in government — people finding appearance issues where they have found no bad conduct is always a cheap shot that can be taken."
Burchett and Wehr said they are not surprised how this is playing out.
“If he worked in Wall Street, it would be some kind of white collar crime, fraud,” Wehr said, “but he's a politician and they figure out a way to keep their jobs. It's disappointing.”