Chad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary

Chad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Trump administration planning to crack down on 'birth tourism': report George Conway on Trump adding Dershowitz, Starr to legal team: 'Hard to see how either could help' MORE’s fifth Homeland Security secretary took over in an acting capacity Wednesday, following a Senate vote to formally appoint him to a lower position within the department.

Chad WolfChad WolfTrump administration installs plaque marking finish of 100 miles of border wall Hillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' Acting DHS secretary says he expects Russia to attempt to interfere in 2020 elections MORE, a former chief of staff to former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenActing DHS secretary says he expects Russia to attempt to interfere in 2020 elections House Homeland Security rip DHS's 'unacceptable' failure to comply with subpoena Trump puts Kushner in charge of overseeing border wall construction: report MORE, was promoted to acting secretary shortly after receiving Senate confirmation as Department of Homeland Security (DHS) undersecretary for strategy, plans and policy, a DHS spokesman confirmed to The Hill.

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The promotion was necessary for the Trump administration to clear the department's statutory line of succession, which has been decimated by vacancies in virtually all high, Senate-confirmed positions.

Wolf emerged as a leading candidate for the job after Senate Republicans signaled to the White House that Trump's top pick, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) acting Director Ken Cuccinelli, would not receive Senate confirmation.

Cuccinelli, an immigration hardliner, is expected to be promoted to deputy secretary of DHS, according to a Wednesday report on CNN.

Succession at DHS has been a headache for the Trump administration since Nielsen resigned in April after nearly a year of butting heads with the president and others in the administration, particularly on immigration policy.

She'd been preceded by Deputy Secretary Elaine DukeElaine Costanzo DukeChad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary Senate paves way for Trump's next DHS chief Five things to watch at Supreme Court's DACA hearings MORE, who by statute was in position to be named acting secretary when John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE resigned from the post to become White House chief of staff.

Nielsen was followed by Kevin McAleenan, a Senate-confirmed Customs and Border Patrol commissioner appointed as secretary in an acting capacity.

Wolf on Wednesday became the first acting secretary to succeed another non-Senate-confirmed secretary in the role.

Trump has said he likes having Cabinet members serving in an acting capacity because it gives him "more flexibility."

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonHillicon Valley: Trump turns up heat on Apple over gunman's phone | Mnuchin says Huawei won't be 'chess piece' in trade talks | Dems seek briefing on Iranian cyber threats | Buttigieg loses cyber chief House Democrats request briefings on Iranian cyber threats from DHS, FCC Democrats sound election security alarm after Russia's Burisma hack MORE (D-Miss.) said in a statement Wednesday that Wolf "lacks the necessary experience" for the role and "when the job requirements include being a yes-man to the President and having [presidential adviser] Stephen MillerStephen MillerConservatives slam Warren's call to put transgender women in women's prisons Immigrants are an economic boon to America Giuliani's unofficial role allowed him to avoid White House disclosure rules: report MORE’s stamp of approval, no one qualified wants the job."

"The seven months the Homeland Security Secretary position has remained vacant, and without a nominee, is far too long for a Department charged with keeping the country secure. DHS needs well-qualified, permanent, Senate-confirmed leadership as soon as possible,” added Thompson.

Wolf faced some resistance in the Senate but was confirmed to the undersecretary job on a 54-41 vote, clearing the way for Trump to appoint him as acting secretary, which Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump administration installs plaque marking finish of 100 miles of border wall Sanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change Schumer votes against USMCA, citing climate implications MORE (D-N.Y.) said the Senate had, in effect, voted to allow to happen.

"Senate Republicans have subverted the Senate’s constitutional duty to advise and consent and potentially robbed the Senate from ever voting on a permanent secretary of the Department of Homeland Security," said Schumer.

Beyond Wolf's unorthodox path to the top job at DHS, he had received criticism from both right and left on his substantive qualifications.

His appointment angered Democrats and immigration activists because of his role as Nielsen's chief of staff during the implementation of the “zero tolerance” policy, which resulted in more than 2,000 children being forcibly separated from their parents at the border.

Immigration hardliners on the right were also suspicious of Wolf, as he once lobbied in favor of work visas for foreign companies.

Still, Wolf won Miller's seal of approval, and his appointment with Cuccinelli as deputy ensures the department's main focus will remain immigration, despite its ample national security portfolio.

—Updated 5:11 p.m.