Trump’s top picks for Homeland Security chief are ineligible for job: reports

The White House personnel office has told President Trump his rumored top picks to fill the Homeland Security secretary position are ineligible by federal law, according to reports in Politico and The Wall Street Journal.

Immigration officials Ken Cuccinelli and Mark Morgan are widely perceived as the president’s favorite candidates to become head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), but neither has been confirmed by the Senate in their current DHS positions.

Cuccinelli is the acting director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, while Morgan is the chief operating officer of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), but has been performing the duties of commissioner.

But neither Morgan nor Cuccinelli would be eligible to take over as DHS head after acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan leaves at the end of the month, White House Director of Personnel Sean Doocey told Trump, according to the reports in Politico as well as the Journal.

The White House declined to comment.

Doocey gave Trump a list of alternative candidates who could fill the role of DHS head without running afoul of federal employee regulations, including DHS Assistant Secretary Chad Wolf and Transportation Security Administration chief David Pekoske, according to Politico. 

In order to take over as acting secretary, an official must have been confirmed by the Senate to their position, or served 90 days of the prior year under the current secretary, according to the reports.

Trump has yet to announce McAleenan’s successor.

Cuccinelli is a long shot for any Senate confirmation, amid expectations Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could oppose the former Virginia attorney general.

Still, supporters and opponents alike expect Trump to nominate a loyalist who shares the administration views on immigration, even if that means having the incumbent indefinitely performing their duties in an acting capacity.

Cuccinelli himself told reporters last week that he finds few practical limitations to having “acting” in his title.

If the administration does strictly adhere to succession rules, Wolf could receive the nomination, according to the reports.

Some immigration hard-liners are concerned, however, because Wolf, who served as chief of staff to former Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, has lobbied for employment visas.

Brett Samuels contributed to this report.

Tags Department of Homeland Security Donald Trump Kirstjen Nielsen Mitch McConnell

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