Top congressional Republicans want the Obama administration to turn over background-check records on the Department of Homeland Security’s new chief of staff, Christian Marrone, citing ethics questions tied to a Pennsylvania political scandal.
The Republican lawmakers — in a letter sent Tuesday to Homeland Security Department Secretary Jeh Johnson — questioned whether the administration had properly vetted Mr. Marrone, who served as a Pentagon political appointee in the Bush and Obama administrations but previously worked as aide to Pennsylvania state Sen. Vince Fumo.
Mr. Marrone testified in 2008 as a star witness in the trial of Mr. Fumo, his estranged father-in-law, admitting under oath that he spent much of his time on a government salary overseeing the opulent renovation of Mr. Fumo’s Philadelphia mansion. He also testified that he and other aides did political work for Mr. Fumo while drawing a state paycheck.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley and Reps. Darrell E. Issa and Jason Chaffetz said they wanted to see what steps Homeland Security officials took to check out Mr. Marrone’s history.
“Given the department’s vital mission to keep our nation secure, it is absolutely essential that appointees to senior positions receive a thorough vetting,” the three lawmakers said.
“In this instance, it appears that the department was either unaware or willfully disregarded 2008 testimony revealing ethical questions about Mr. Marrone’s prior conduct,” they said.
The Washington Times reported on Mr. Marrone’s courtroom admissions last week. Mr. Marrone worked for Mr. Fumo from 1997 to 2002.
In the court case, Mr. Marrone testified that after leaving Mr. Fumo’s staff, he held onto emails from his time in the office that he kept locked in a safe for his own “protection,” fearing he could one day end up in court.
Mr. Marrone, who did not require immunity to testify, blamed the culture of Mr. Fumo’s office and said he was just doing what he was told while on the stand.
“That was the culture of the office,” Mr. Marrone testified. “You did what Vince told you to do. There were no boundaries.”
Homeland Security officials have defended Mr. Marrone, citing his years working in the Pentagon in a variety of high-level jobs. He was one of only a few political appointees asked to remain after the changeover from the Bush to the Obama administrations. An adviser to former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, he took a job at defense contractor 3M in 2011 and later joined the aerospace industry trade group AIA. He started at the Homeland Security Department this month.
Department spokesman Peter Boogaard said Mr. Marrone had won the confidence of both Mr. Gates and Mr. Johnson, who served as the Pentagon’s top lawyer.
“During their time together at the Department of Defense, Secretary Johnson was impressed with Mr. Marrone’s integrity and management abilities, and he will be a strong addition to the management team at Homeland Security Department,” Mr. Boogaard said in a statement earlier this month to The Times.
In their request to Mr. Johnson in a letter Tuesday, the Republican lawmakers called for the Homeland Security Department to provide all documents relating to any background check of Mr. Marrone and Mr. Johnson’s involvement in vetting his chief of staff.
The lawmakers also seek emails and other documents concerning Mr. Marrone’s vetting and any concerns about his security profile.
“Given the public reports that call Mr. Marrone’s background into question, the public deserves to know whether the department has been diligent and thorough in its review of his candidacy,” the lawmakers wrote. The lawmakers also said the Homeland Security Department had “refused to answer even the most basic questions about the testimony and role of Mr. Marrone” in connection with the charges against Mr. Fumo.
Mr. Issa, California Republican, chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Mr. Chaffetz, Utah Republican, chairs the panel’s subcommittee on national security. Mr. Grassley, of Iowa, is the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
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