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Acting DHS chief Chad Wolf stepping down

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfSunday shows preview: All eyes on Biden administration to tackle coronavirus ICE acting director resigns weeks after assuming post Ex-DHS chief says Trump bears some responsibility for Capitol riots: 'What he says matters' MORE is stepping down from his position, just nine days before President TrumpDonald TrumpMore than two-thirds of Americans approve of Biden's coronavirus response: poll Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor Mexico's president tests positive for COVID-19 MORE leaves office.

He is the latest Cabinet official to leave the Trump administration following deadly riots at the U.S. Capitol last week. Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine ChaoSchumer becomes new Senate majority leader FDA chief says he was 'disgusted' by Capitol riots, considered resigning McMaster: Trump running again would be 'terribly divisive' MORE and Education Secretary Betsy DeVosBetsy DeVosPardon talk intensifies as Trump approaches final 24 hours in office Azar in exit letter to Trump says Capitol riot could 'tarnish' legacy READ: Departure letter from HHS Secretary Azar to Trump MORE both announced plans to step down last week. 

Wolf’s exit comes amid growing concerns about potential security threats surrounding President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenFive examples of media's sycophancy for Biden on inauguration week Drastic measures for drastic times — caregiver need mobile health apps Boycott sham impeachment MORE’s inauguration.

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Wolf’s resignation will be effective at the end of the day on Monday, a senior Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official confirmed to The Hill. Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Pete Gaynor will step in as acting DHS secretary for the remainder of Trump's presidency, the official said. 

Wolf has been serving in the position in an acting capacity for more than a year.

Trump nominated him officially for DHS secretary last August, but he was never confirmed by the Senate. Trump’s decision to nominate Wolf to serve in the position permanently came after a government watchdog concluded that he and Ken Cuccinelli, performing the duties of deputy secretary, were not legally qualified to hold the posts. The White House withdrew the nomination last week.

Wolf had pledged in a statement issued following the riots that he would remain in his position until the end of the Trump administration “to ensure the Department’s focus remains on the serious threats facing our country and an orderly transition” to Biden’s team. 

In a letter to DHS colleagues that was obtained by The Hill, Wolf cited ongoing litigation challenging the validity of his position as the reason for his sooner-than-planned departure.

“I am saddened to take this step, as it was my intention to serve the Department until the end of this Administration. Unfortunately, this action is warranted by recent events, including the ongoing and meritless court rulings regarding the validity of my authority as Acting Secretary,” Wolf wrote. “These events and concerns increasingly serve to divert attention and resources away from the important work of the Department in this critical time of a transition of power.”

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Federal judges in Maryland and New York had ruled in months prior that Wolf was serving illegally in his position.

Wolf touted the department’s work on border security, cybersecurity and other issues in his statement to colleagues. It did not make mention of the pro-Trump mob attack at the U.S. Capitol last week, nor did it mention Trump at all.

“Serving the Department and leading the finest public servants in the federal government has been the honor of a lifetime. I did not seek this responsibility but answered the call to service as each of you have during your careers,” Wolf wrote.

He wrote that he leaves knowing the department “has positioned itself for an orderly and smooth transition” and urged officials to welcome, educate and learn from Biden’s incoming team.

House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonCapitol insurrection fallout: A PATRIOT Act 2.0? New coalition aims to combat growing wave of ransomware attacks Acting DHS chief Chad Wolf stepping down MORE (D-Miss.) questioned the timing of Wolf’s departure.

“For months we have known Chad Wolf has been serving illegally in his position, so the timing of his resignation from the Department today is questionable,” Thompson said. “He has chosen to resign during a time of national crisis and when domestic terrorists may be planning additional attacks on our government. Unlike others, he is apparently not leaving the Trump Administration on principle.”

“If it is true he is resigning because of recent Federal court decisions, then it is an admission that his policy decisions are indeed invalid. Under this scenario, Ken Cuccinelli must also resign,” he continued.

Wolf called the riots at the Capitol “unconscionable” and implored Trump to strongly condemn the violence in a statement last Thursday. The White House publicized the withdrawal of his nomination shortly thereafter, though a White House official said that withdrawal occurred the day prior and was independent of his comments or the riots. 

The House on Monday formally introduced an article of impeachment charging Trump with inciting the attack, and lawmakers are poised to vote on it on Wednesday

News of Wolf’s resignation came roughly an hour after he announced that the Secret Service would begin implementing security measures tied to the inauguration on Wednesday, six days earlier than planned. The FBI is said to have warned of the potential for armed protests across the country beginning on Jan. 16. 

The shake-up at DHS is likely to spur concerns about its effect on the department’s ability to address potential threats related to the inauguration.

As the head of DHS, Wolf presided over some of the Trump administration’s most controversial priorities, particularly the president’s aggressive immigration enforcement agenda and rush to build a wall at the southern border. He was considered one of the president’s most loyal Cabinet members.

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Wolf is the fifth person to head DHS under Trump, making Gaynor the sixth. The agency went without a confirmed secretary for almost two years; Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenRosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' House Republican condemns anti-Trump celebrities during impeachment hearing Acting DHS chief Chad Wolf stepping down MORE, who resigned in April 2019, was the last official to be confirmed to serve as DHS secretary in the current administration.

Trump is expected to travel to Alamo, Texas, on Tuesday to tout the completion of more than 400 miles of the wall and his administration’s broader immigration reform agenda. Wolf had accompanied Trump for previous trips when he toured border wall construction.

Updated at 6:32 p.m.