President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced the nomination of Chad Wolf to be the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, a nod of approval two weeks after a congressional watchdog determined that Wolf had not been legally appointed as acting DHS secretary.
Trump announced the move in typical fashion, with a tweet, setting Wolf up for a grueling Senate confirmation process.
I am pleased to inform the American Public that Acting Secretary Chad Wolf will be nominated to be the Secretary of Homeland Security. Chad has done an outstanding job and we greatly appreciate his service!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 25, 2020
“I think given his past actions, he’s an awful choice,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement.
Wolf is just the latest in a long line of “acting” DHS officials. In all, the secretary position hasn’t been filled by someone confirmed by the Senate for that role in more than 500 days — a record for any Cabinet post. Trump has said he likes “acting” officials because they’re easier to fire and shuffle around.
But the musical chairs at DHS — Wolf was Senate-confirmed for another post on the same day he became the acting secretary — has had its consequences.
On Aug. 14, the Government Accountability Office determined that Wolf and another Homeland Security official, Ken Cuccinelli, were illegitimately occupying those roles because Wolf’s predecessor, acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan, was himself appointed to that role in contradiction of a written “succession” document.
In response, DHS’ top lawyer — who himself is only filling in — mocked one of the purported authors of the GAO opinion. DHS’ press team, in an accompanying release, tried to smear the non-partisan congressional watchdog by noting, among other things, that “GAO employees are represented by a public sector union that has overwhelmingly backed Democrat candidates.” (The unions representing Border Patrol and ICE employees both endorsed Donald Trump in 2016.)
Wolf, a former lobbyist, has pleased Trump with his muscular displays of federal force in Portland, Oregon, the Washington Post reported earlier this month. Per the Post, Trump frequently called Wolf during the clashes between federal agents and protesters in the Pacific Northwest city.
Wolf, unlike some of his predecessors, had no experience in the military, law enforcement or executive leadership when he was elevated to become acting secretary. Rather, he’s a former lobbyist who, earlier in his career, worked with the then-future-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen at the TSA. When Nielsen climbed the Trump administration ladder, ultimately becoming the department’s last leader to be Senate-confirmed for the position, she brought Wolf with her as chief of staff.
Wolf’s DHS history puts him at the center of much of the department’s controversy under the Trump administration: He was intricately involved in the administration’s family separation policy, for example.
And in light of the recent federal charges levied against Steve Bannon and others involved in the private border wall project known as “We Build The Wall,” reporters have noted that Wolf appeared at an event hyping the project, and stood by a Border Patrol official as she praised the construction project. The group considered it an endorsement and quoted Wolf calling it a “game-changer.”
Recently, after the federal indictment against the project’s leaders was unveiled, Wolf denied endorsing the project. In documents recently leaked to The Nation, DHS officials are described as discussing the process by which We Build The Wall would donate their wall to the federal government.
This post has been updated.