President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he will nominate acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf to assume the same role on a permanent basis.
Wolf has served as the acting head of DHS since November of last year. The department has been without a Senate-confirmed secretary since Kirstjen Nielsen resigned in April of 2019.
“Chad has done an outstanding job and we greatly appreciate his service!” the president wrote on Twitter.
“Honored to be nominated by @POTUS to lead the men & women of DHS in safeguarding the American people. As the Homeland faces evolving threats from natural disasters, violent opportunists, malign cyber actors & transnational criminal orgs, the mission of DHS is as critical as ever,” Wolf tweeted shortly after.
Wolf’s planned elevation to the permanent top spot at DHS comes days after a Congressional watchdog found that he had been illegally installed atop the department in an acting role. The Government Accountability office found earlier this month that Wolf was invalidly appointed to the role of acting secretary, the result of an illegally altered line of succession.
The GAO asserted that Nielsen’s replacement, Kevin McAleenan, altered the department’s rules of succession without the authority to do so. Wolf succeeded McAleenan in an acting capacity in November. DHS rejected the report’s findings when it came out, calling it “baseless.”
The Congressional investigative arm referred the issue to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, noting that the department’s watchdog should consider the impact of illegally appointed officials.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) first prodded the GAO to look into Wolf’s appointment just days after his promotion. The also asked to investigate Wolf’s choice of Ken Cuccinelli as his deputy — a choice the GAO also found broke succession law.
Thompson and Maloney called on Wolf to resign as acting secretary and for Cuccinelli to resign from the department all together.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, told POLITICO he plans to hold a hearing on Wolf’s nomination, though a date has not yet been scheduled.
Wolf’s nomination, however, could be hard to get through the Senate, particularly so close to the November election. The Senate returns to Washington in September and is only scheduled to remain in session for a few weeks before members go back home to campaign.
Speaking to reporters on a press call, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said of Wolf: “given his past actions, he’s an awful choice.”
A former lobbyist turned DHS staffer, Wolf’s time in DHS has been marked with a number of controversies. He was an early architect of the policies that separated migrant families at the nation’s southern border, NBC News reported last fall. He has also publicly clashed with reporters, at times openly questioning their journalistic integrity.
During his tenure as acting secretary, Wolf faced further criticism as federal agents marched on a number of U.S. cities amid mass protests against racist violence. The agents, often clad in military-style equipment, prompted criticism even from within the administration. Defense Secretary Mark Esper voiced his concern in July about using officers dressed like troops on American cities.
Wolf has confirmed by the Senate to serve as under secretary for strategy, policy and plans at DHS last year with votes falling largely on party lines. He served as Nielsen’s chief of staff before moving into his Senate-confirmed role.