President Trump said Tuesday that he will nominate acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf to the permanent post leading the agency.
“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!” Mr. Trump tweeted.
Mr. Wolf has taken on a prominent role in the administration’s crackdown on violent protests in Portland, Oregon. He has been serving in an acting capacity at DHS since last November.
Mr. Wolf said he is honored by the president’s decision.
“As the Homeland faces evolving threats from natural disasters, violent opportunists, malign cyber actors, and transnational criminal organizations, the mission of DHS is as critical as ever,” he said in a statement.
Democrats and civil-liberties groups called on the Senate to reject the nomination, saying Mr. Wolf isn’t up to the job and that he was illegally appointed to the position of acting secretary. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson, Mississippi Democrat, said it’s taken Mr. Trump more than 500 days to nominate someone to permanently run the department.
“Because the president has mismanaged the department so badly, there are many legal questions about whether Mr. Wolf can be nominated while he is ostensibly running the department,” Mr. Thompson said.
The Government Accountability Office earlier this month deemed invalid Mr. Wolf’s appointment to the acting post, saying that Mr. Trump ignored the correct order of succession within the department when he replaced Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in April 2019.
“The president had no intention of nominating anyone until GAO released its legal decision concluding that Chad Wolf was illegally appointed as acting secretary,” Mr. Thompson said. “This nomination is a clear admission that the administration installed Mr. Wolf as acting secretary unlawfully. Since every policy decision Mr. Wolf made since November may be challenged because he lacked proper authority, this is also an attempt to limit the administration’s exposure to legal challenges.”
The American Civil Liberties Union called Mr. Wolf “a danger to our democracy.”
“Chad Wolf thinks ‘protecting the homeland’ means wreaking havoc on immigrant communities, abducting protesters, and unleashing militarized agents on anyone who disagrees with this administration,” said Andrea Flores, the ACLU’s deputy director of immigration policy. “As acting secretary of DHS, Wolf championed family separation, designed policies that would make children suffer in detention longer, and militarized the streets of cities around this country under the guise of protecting property.”
Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, said Mr. Wolf “will provide much needed stability to the department’s leadership. He has led the Department well, and I urge the Senate to quickly confirm him.”
Mr. Wolf was sworn in for the job as acting secretary on Nov. 13, hours after the Senate confirmed him as the first undersecretary for policy. He never served in that post, which was a necessary legal hurdle for him to take the department’s top job temporarily.
He replaced Kevin McAleenan, who took over from Ms. Nielsen in April 2019 and resigned last October. The GAO said Mr. Wolf and acting deputy Kenneth Cuccinelli, “were named by reference to an invalid order of succession.” The agency said the department’s director of Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency should have taken over after Ms. Nielsen resigned. But Mr. Trump appointed Mr. McAleenan, who was head of the Customs and Border Protection at the time.