Trump to nominate acting DHS Secretary Wolf for Senate confirmation
President Trump on Tuesday said he plans to nominate acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf to take on the role in a full-time capacity after the agency has gone more than a year without a Senate-confirmed leader.
“I am pleased to inform the American Public that Acting Secretary Chad Wolf will be nominated to be the Secretary of Homeland Security,” Trump tweeted. “Chad has done an outstanding job and we greatly appreciate his service!”
The announcement comes two weeks after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that Wolf was improperly appointed as acting secretary and was therefore ineligible for the position. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) dismissed the agency’s findings as “baseless and baffling” and accused the body of partisan motivations.
“I am honored to be nominated by President Trump to lead the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security in safeguarding the American people,” Wolf said in a statement on Monday. “As the Homeland faces evolving threats from natural disasters, violent opportunists, malign cyber actors, and transnational criminal organizations, the mission of DHS is as critical as ever.”
DHS has been experiencing a lack of Senate-confirmed leaders for much of the Trump administration. Of the leadership positions listed on the DHS website, 19 of them are either vacant or performed by acting officials.
The president has instead relied on acting officials to carry out his agenda, transforming a sprawling agency formed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to enforce immigration policy and, more recently, quell protests in U.S. cities.
The department has faced intense scrutiny from Democrats in particular for its aggressive tactics toward demonstrators in Portland, Ore. Protesters reported being detained by unidentified officers and placed in unmarked vehicles, and local officials decried agents as an “occupying force.”
“I think given his past action he’s an awful choice,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters on a press call shortly after Trump sent the tweet about Wolf.
House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) argued Trump’s plan to nominate Wolf was meant to cover any legal liabilities that may arise from the GAO report. He further panned Wolf’s handling of the role in an acting capacity.
“In the over nine months that Mr. Wolf has been illegitimately serving as Acting Secretary, instead of focusing on the top threats to the nation and the ongoing pandemic that has killed over 175,000, his number one focus has been to please the President and carry out his radical political agenda,” Thompson said in a statement. “I have seen no indication that he understands the Department’s non-partisan national security mission or is willing to carry it out. It’s quite clear he is simply not up to the job and his nomination should not move forward.”
Wolf has overseen DHS in an acting capacity since November 2019. He replaced former acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan, who held the job for roughly six months after former Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s resignation.
He previously served as under secretary of the DHS Office of Strategy, Policy and Plans. He was confirmed to that role in a 54-41 vote in the Senate. Prior to joining the administration, Wolf worked as a lobbyist advocating for companies that used H-1B visas to employ foreign workers.
Trump must still formally send Wolf’s nomination to the Senate, and it’s unclear when he would receive a confirmation hearing. The chamber is out of session until after Labor Day and must deal with coronavirus relief negotiations, government funding talks and the looming 2020 election.
–Rachel Frazin contributed to this report, which was updated at 2:45 p.m.