Top Democrats question legal basis for appointing Cuccinelli as temporary immigration chief

Top Democrats question legal basis for appointing Cuccinelli as temporary immigration chief

The chairmen of the House Oversight and Reform, Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees wrote a letter Tuesday expressing their "deep concern" regarding former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's appointment to serve as Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

Chairmen Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsLawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens House poised to hold Barr, Ross in contempt Trump's family separation policy has taken US to 'lowest depth possible,' says former immigration lawyer MORE (D-Md.), Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerTrump knocks Mueller after deal struck for him to testify House Democrats request briefing on Epstein, Acosta Nadler apologized after repeatedly calling Hope Hicks 'Ms. Lewandowski' at hearing MORE (D-N.Y.) and Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonCapitol Police chief says threats against lawmakers increasing Pro-impeachment Democrats wary of Al Green's floor vote push Hillicon Valley: FTC reportedly settles with Facebook for B fine | Trump calls to regulate Facebook's crypto project | Court rules Pentagon can award B 'war cloud' contract | Study shows automation will hit rural areas hardest MORE (D-Miss.) said in the letter to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan that they believe Cuccinelli's appointment "circumvents the Federal Vacancies Reform Act after Republican Senators told President TrumpDonald John TrumpPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report House unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist MORE that the Senate would not confirm Mr. Cuccinelli as Director."


The Federal Vacancies Reform act stipulates that an acting official must be the agency’s top deputy, another Senate-confirmed official or a senior agency official who had been in their job for at least 90 days prior to a vacancy.

Nadler, Thompson and Cummings requested that the Department of Homeland Security provide "a detailed explanation of the legal basis for his appointment" as well as certain documents and a briefing on the matter. 

"It appears the Administration was aware that Mr. Cuccinelli could not be appointed Acting Director of USCIS consistent with the Federal Vacancies Reform Act," they wrote. 

The Hill has reached out to the White House, Department of Homeland Security and USCIS for comment.

At the time of Cuccinelli's appointment earlier this month, A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said “Mr. Cuccinelli’s appointment is in accordance with the Federal Vacancies Reform Act,” but did not elaborate. 

Cuccinelli, who shares many of Trump's views on immigration, is replacing Lee Francis Cissna, who left his role amid a DHS leadership shakeup reportedly orchestrated by White House policy adviser Stephen MillerStephen MillerHere are the top paid White House staffers Top Democrats question legal basis for appointing Cuccinelli as temporary immigration chief Five memorable moments from Sarah Sanders at the White House MORE.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment White House, Congress inch toward debt, budget deal Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout MORE (Ky.) and other GOP senators had earlier warned Trump against selecting Cuccinelli for DHS chief or other positions that require Senate confirmation.

The full text of the letter can be read below. 


—Updated at 2:26 p.m.