GOP senators want to see Obama administration’s Aponte background check

Gautham Nagesh Contributor
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Republicans are upping the pressure on Obama diplomatic nominee Mari Carmen Aponte, demanding to see details of her background investigation conducted by the Administration.

All seven minority members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent a letter to chairman John Kerry this week requesting that Aponte’s nomination hearing, which is slated for Wednesday morning, be delayed until after the Easter recess. Ranking member Dick Lugar of Indiana also sent a personal letter to Kerry on behalf of South Carolina’s Jim DeMint, who first raised the issue last week.

The Puerto Rican-born Aponte, who is nominated to be ambassador to El Salvador, has practiced law in Washington for more than 20 years in addition to working on behalf of several Hispanic-American organizations. She was first nominated for an ambassadorship under Bill Clinton after helping with his Hispanic outreach efforts during the 1996 campaign. However, she withdrew her name from consideration after reports surfaced of her eight-year, live-in relationship with alleged Cuban intelligence asset Roberto Tamayo.

The FBI approved Aponte for a top security clearance despite some objections from senior officials in 1999 and the White House noted recently that she underwent a thorough background examination by diplomatic security as part of her nomination process.

The results of that background check are what DeMint and the other minority members of the committee are after. Normal procedure is for one senator from each party to be briefed, so of the Republicans only John Barrasso of Wyoming was allowed to view a summary of the investigation. His spokesman declined to comment on the contents or Aponte’s nomination in general. DeMint’s office requested to see the summary but was denied by the White House even though exceptions have been made in the past. The White House did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

The requested delay is an attempt to buy staff members time to secure the documents and determine whether there is a credible case to be made against Aponte’s nomination. Republicans are not confident their bid will succeed. A source close to the situation said the Democrats could choose to vote on her nomination Wednesday morning without allowing any questioning by minority members to avoid any embarrassing exchanges.

“I believe Senator DeMint’s request for some additional time is reasonable, particularly given that Ms. Aponte’s 1998 nomination to be ambassador to the Dominican Republic was withdrawn before this committee acted on it,” wrote Lugar.