Washington Republicans question new appointment of one of their own

Posted: February 14, 2014

CONGRESSIONAL leaders suspicious of the appointment of Vince Fumo's son-in-law as top aide to the Secretary of Homeland Security are calling for proof that he's worthy of the post.

In a letter sent Tuesday to Jeh Johnson, President Obama's newly appointed secretary of Homeland Security, three Republican congressmen asked for quality assurance that Christian Marrone was the right person cherry-picked as chief of staff to the secretary last week.

"The Department has refused to answer even the most basic questions about the testimony and role of Mr. Marrone, a former aide in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, in connection with corruption charges against state Sen. Vince Fumo in 2008," the letter reads.

It is signed by Darrell Issa, chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in the House of Representatives; Charles E. Grassley, ranking member of the Committee on the Judiciary in the Senate; and Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security.

Chaffetz is probing the ethics of Johnson's appointment of Marrone to such a delicate position.

In October 2008, many considered Marrone a turncoat for testifying against his father-in-law as the prosecution's star witness in the state senator's federal corruption trial.

Marrone portrayed Fumo as a cavalier abuser of his office, delegating his staffers to spend taxpayer time on opulent renovations to the senator's 33-room Spring Garden mansion rather than doing the people's work.

In 2004, Marrone was axed from the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office, a year after he married Fumo's eldest daughter, Nicole.

The letter from Washington requests all emails, documents and communications relating to any FBI background checks on Marrone, and the same for Marrone's security profile and Johnson's involvement - or lack thereof - of Marrone's vetting.

"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 letter reads.

"In this instance, it appears the Department was either unaware of or willfully disregarded 2008 testimony revealing ethical questions about Mr. Marrone's prior conduct."

I.C. Smith, a former FBI counterintelligence agent, warned that "from a security standpoint," Marrone's involvement with Fumo "would be a problem for me."

Meanwhile, White House press secretary Jay Carney expressed "complete confidence" in Marrone as the choice for chief of staff. Marrone had also served as a Pentagon political appointee in the Bush and Obama administrations.

"As chief of staff, Mr. Marrone will play an integral role in overseeing billions of taxpayer dollars and handling sensitive intelligence about terrorist threats," the letter reads.

"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."

Issa, Grassley and Chaffetz have given a deadline of Feb. 26 at 5 p.m. to provide the information.

Calls placed to Marrone, Johnson, Pennsylvania U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey and Bob Casey, and local U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan were not returned at press time.

But Department of Homeland Security spokesman Pete Boogaard spoke to Marrone's character.

"During his time in government, Mr. Marrone has won the confidence of two Secretaries – Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson – under two administrations," Boogaard said.

"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 DHS."

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