APRIL 28, 2009
A Clinton federal prosecutor who resigned in shame after orchestrating the pardon of a major league drug trafficker will head the Homeland Security agency responsible for overseeing lawful immigration to the United States.
President Barack Obama has proudly crowned Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California from 1998 to 2001, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Boasting Mayorkas’ credentials as a prosecutor of public corruption, organized crime and civil rights violations, the White House announcement conveniently omits the scandalous accolade he’s best known for.
As U.S. Attorney Mayorkas was largely responsible for freeing a drug dealer serving a 15-year prison sentence for operating a cocaine ring that stretched from California to Minnesota. The convicted drug dealer, Carlos Vignali, is the son of a wealthy political donor (Horacio Vignali) who convinced influential community leaders—mostly recipients of his generous contributions—to advocate for his son’s pardon. He also gave Hillary Clinton’s brother, Hugh Rodham, a couple hundred thousand dollars to lobby the president for a pardon.
Mayorkas’ intervention was the most crucial and by far carried the most weight, Clinton officials later revealed. Vignali was one of 140 pardons and 36 commutations that Clinton granted during his last hours as president. Outraged federal prosecutors in Minneapolis, where Vignali was convicted for trying to sell 800 pounds of cocaine, said Mayorkas called them several times inquiring about the case. The Minneapolis federal prosecutors subsequently wrote the Justice Department strongly opposing the commutation but they were ignored.
A congressional investigation into Clinton’s last-minute pardons blasts Mayorkas for intervening on behalf of Vignali, pointing out that senior law enforcement and political officials should have been precluded from supporting a commutation for such a criminal. Mayorkas resigned in disgrace and went into private practice at a big Los Angeles law firm. Now he’ll run a major government agency that ensures foreigners who present a safety threat don’t get admitted into the country.
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