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 CummingsPence extends olive branch to Cummings after Trump's Baltimore attacks Infrastructure needed to treat addiction as chronic disease doesn't exist GOP retreat creates WiFi password blasting socialism MORE (D-Md.), Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerWords matter, except to Democrats, when it involves impeaching Trump Nadler: Impeachment inquiry a 'made-up term' but it's essentially 'what we are doing' DOJ files brief arguing against House impeachment probe MORE (D-N.Y.) and Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonHillicon Valley: 8chan owner defends platform before Congress | Facebook launches dating feature | New York City sues T-Mobile | Top NSA cyber official names ransomware as 2020 threat | Blue Dog Dems urge action on election security 8chan owner defends platform in testimony before Congress The Hill's Morning Report - US coastline readies for Hurricane Dorian to make landfall 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 TrumpSupreme Court comes to Trump's aid on immigration Trump is failing on trade policy Trump holds call with Netanyahu to discuss possible US-Israel defense treaty MORE that the Senate would not confirm Mr. Cuccinelli as Director."

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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 MillerTrump court pick sparks frustration for refusing to answer questions Democrats, advocates blast reported White House plan to cut refugee cap to zero Unconfirmed by Senate, Cuccinelli sees power, influence grow on immigration MORE.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSupreme Court comes to Trump's aid on immigration GOP group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' Harris keeps up 'little dude' attack on Trump after debate 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.