Top House Democrats ask for review of DHS appointments

Top House Democrats ask for review of DHS appointments
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The heads of the House Oversight and Reform and House Homeland Security committees called Friday for an official review on the legality of two top appointments this week at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Reps. Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonJudge temporarily halts construction of a private border wall in Texas Hillicon Valley: FCC moves against Huawei, ZTE | Dem groups ask Google to reconsider ads policy | Bill introduced to increase data access during probes House GOP criticizes impeachment drive as distracting from national security issues MORE (D-Miss.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyDemocrats could introduce articles of impeachment next week Two budget staffers resigned after voicing concerns about halted Ukraine aid, official says On The Money: Dems say Ukraine aid documents from OMB show 'pattern of abuse' | Blue states file appeal over GOP tax law deduction cap | Dems sue Barr, Ross over census documents MORE (D-N.Y.), acting chairwoman of the Oversight panel, are seeking a review of the Trump administration's appointment of Chad WolfChad WolfWhite House backs Stephen Miller amid white nationalist allegations Top House Democrats ask for review of DHS appointments Chad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary MORE as acting secretary and Ken Cuccinelli as acting deputy secretary at DHS.

Wolf was named to the post Wednesday, immediately following his Senate confirmation as undersecretary for strategy, plans and policy, a prior step that was necessary for him to be in line for promotion to acting secretary under the department's internal succession rules.

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Shortly thereafter, Wolf named Cuccinelli as acting deputy secretary.

But Thompson and Maloney, in a letter to U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, have cast doubt about the legitimacy of those appointments, which were conducted under amendments to succession rules at the DHS implemented by former acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan before his departure last week and previously by former Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump puts Kushner in charge of overseeing border wall construction: report Hillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills Minority lawmakers call out Google for hiring former Trump DHS official MORE.

According to the letter, McAleenan's change to succession rules could be in question as McAleenan's own appointment may not have been legal.

McAleenan became acting DHS secretary after Nielsen had herself amended the rules of succession.

"Recently released documents suggest that the installation of Mr. Wolf as the Acting Secretary may violate the law, as Mr. McAleenan may not have been lawfully serving as Acting Secretary," wrote Thompson and Maloney.

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Thompson and Maloney contend that Nielsen's last-minute changes to DHS succession rules did not allow McAleenan to succeed her.

McAleenan was previously serving as the Senate-confirmed Customs and Border Protection commissioner.

The two chairpersons also wrote that regardless of the legality of McAleenan's appointment, his amendment that allowed the appointment of Wolf could still be invalid, as he issued it after exceeding the statutory federal 210-day limit for acting officials.

Thompson and Maloney therefore argued that McAleenan's appointment had expired by the time he made the changes.

The letter is the latest chapter in a fight that's pitted the White House against not only congressional Democrats but also Senate Republicans, who've opposed the appointment of Cuccinelli to any Senate-confirmed office.

Cuccinelli, an immigration hard-liner and Trump ally, was the White House's top choice to succeed McAleenan as head of DHS, but ran into headwinds as Senate Republicans indicated he would not be confirmed if nominated.

Cuccinelli, until Wednesday the acting director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, ran afoul of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills GOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties MORE (R-Ky.) after helping fund a primary opponent of McConnell's in the 2014 election.

Wolf is a former chief of staff to Nielsen who's rankled both the left and right in the immigration debate.