Homeland Security announced a series of new directives Tuesday intended to reaffirm acting Secretary Chad Wolf’s authority amid court challenges arguing he was never properly installed in the top job, so every move he’s made is illegal.
While insisting Mr. Wolf has always been legally in place, the department said Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Peter Gaynor, who also has a claim to be acting secretary, signed a memo over the weekend conferring whatever authority he might have had over to Mr. Wolf in a new chain of succession.
Homeland Security said the move “provides an alternative basis for acting Secretary Wolf’s authority.”
Mr. Wolf then reaffirmed all of his actions he’s taken since Nov. 13, 2019, when he was first designated acting secretary.
“The department continues to evaluate its legal options in these cases and is working to ensure the administration’s challenged policies and regulations remain in effect,” Homeland Security said in a memo explaining its actions.
Over the weekend a federal judge ruled Mr. Wolf wasn’t legally holding the top job. The judge said that invalidates Mr. Wolf’s summertime attempt to rewrite the DACA program.
Other courts have also shot down other moves by Mr. Wolf and acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinnelli, who judges have also said isn’t legally installed.
The issue dates back to spring 2019, when President Trump wanted to oust Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and install then-Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan.
But under the order of succession in place at the time, the job shouldn’t have gone to Mr. McAleenan, according to Mr. Trump’s critics.
When Mr. McAleenan left last November he issued a new order of succession that made it possible for Mr. Wolf, the president’s next pick, to become acting secretary. But according to the critics, since Mr. McAleenan wasn’t legally installed, his new order of succession was illegal — thus Mr. Wolf is illegally in the job.
A number of major Trump policies are riding on the question of Mr. Wolf’s and Mr. McAleenan’s status.