Senior DHS Officials Improperly Appointed
- By Ralph C. Jensen
- Aug 18, 2020
The Government Accounting Office (GAO) is now saying that acting DHS Chad Wolf and his active deputy, Ken Cuccinelli are ineligible to govern the agency to which they were appointed by the Trump administration. The non-partisan watchdog agency cited the Vacancy Reform Act.
Both men are acting officials, neither has senate approval. Presently, it is not clear how this presidential appointment might affect their ability to run the agency. DHS is clearing part of the administration's team on key issue, such as immigrations and law enforcement.
Because GAO is only a watchdog agency, its report does not carry the force of law, though it might be a factor in lawsuits in challenging the administration policies or influence of Congress.
DHS has rejected GAO findings.
“We wholeheartedly disagree with the GAO’s baseless report and plan to issue a formal response to this shortly," the agency said in a written response to questions.
White House spokesman Judd Deere said DHS is authorized by the Homeland Security Act to designate acting secretaries. “GAO is not,” he said. “And GAO’s opinion substituting its views for that of the agency’s is not only wrong, but laughable."
The Government Accountability Office said it has asked the DHS inspector general, a Trump appointee, to review the situation and determine if the violation affects decisions they have taken.
Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security suggested that Wolf step down, and return to his previous position. He also said Cuccinelli should resign. His opinion was echoed by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
Wolf should step down and return to the position he previously held in the department and Cuccinelli should resign, according to Reps. Bennie G. Thompson, chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, and Carolyn Maloney, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
“GAO’s damning opinion paints a disturbing picture of the Trump Administration playing fast and loose by bypassing the Senate confirmation process to install ideologues," the two Democrats said in a joint statement.
DHS, which was already under intense criticism for carrying out administration policies aimed at curbing legal and illegal immigration, found itself embroiled in more controversy this summer as it dispatched federal agents in tactical gear to Portland to confront protesters outside federal buildings without the cooperation of local authorities.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), said the two officials should step down and DHS should conduct a legal review of all decisions made under their leadership. “President Trump's efforts to install political sycophants to implement his extreme policies in an end run around the law and Senate have finally caught up with him,” Schumer said.
Ralph C. Jensen is editor-in-chief of Security Today magazine.