Capitol Alert

Jones made inaccurate claims about mass killer

Scott Jones
Scott Jones Sacramento Bee

Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, running for Congress against Democratic U.S. Rep. Ami Bera of Elk Grove, is making immigration and national security the center of his campaign.

Jones, a Republican, said in a recent meeting with reporters for The Sacramento Bee and McClatchy that Americans were afraid and the Obama administration’s statements and actions weren’t helping. He gave as an example San Bernardino shooter Tashfeen Malik, a Pakistani national allowed into the United States on a K-1 fiancée visa.

The statement: “You have someone that came in on a fiancée visa that killed people in the name of Islam, that never had an interview with anyone in the federal government and gave a false Pakistani address that was never verified.”

Analysis: Jones’ statement that Malik “never had an interview with anyone in the federal government” is untrue. A U.S. consular official interviewed Malik in Pakistan as part of the fiancée visa process, according to the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security.

It’s not clear how extensive an interview it was: A senior State Department official, speaking anonymously, told CNN that Malik was not asked about jihadist leanings in the interview because no red flags had been found in her DHS application.

A primary focus of the fiancée visa process is to prove the applicant has a real relationship with the U.S. citizen he or she claims to be marrying, although there are security checks involved.

“The existing process for K-1 visa security vetting relies on a combination of security and background checks against law enforcement and national security databases, as well as interviews in certain cases – including Malik’s,” Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesman Joseph Holstead said.

Citizenship and Immigration Services spokeswoman Carolyn Gwathmey said Jones’ assertion that Malik “gave a false Pakistani address” on her application for a fiancée visa also was untrue.

There has been confusion, though, starting with an ABC News report that Malik had given a nonexistent address. ABC subsequently ran a correction, saying that “local residents say the version of the address provided is not precise, but the family does own a house in the neighborhood.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said at a hearing Dec. 9 that Malik had used a false address. Grassley’s statement, though, was based on news reports that appear to have originated with the erroneous ABC report, according to a Senate Judiciary Committee aide.

Sean Cockerham: 202-383-6016, @seancockerham