Eleven days ago, the GAO ruled that Wolf had been named acting secretary illegally.
President Donald Trump announced in a tweet on Tuesday afternoon that he intends to nominate current Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf to hold the post permanently, 11 days after the U.S. Government Accountability Office ruled that Wolf had been named acting secretary illegally.
“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!” Trump tweeted.
The Department of Homeland Security has been without a Senate-confirmed secretary since Kirstjen Nielsen resigned in April 2019 — the longest cabinet vacancy in American history. Wolf has served as acting secretary since November, putatively under the Homeland Security Act — which theoretically allows him to continue to serve in the acting position while undergoing the confirmation process.
The GAO earlier in August ruled that Nielsen’s immediate replacement, Kevin McAleenan, improperly altered the rules of succession, invalidating Wolf’s appointment.
“Because the incorrect official assumed the title of Acting Secretary at that time, subsequent amendments to the order of succession made by that official were invalid and officials who assumed their positions under such amendments, including Chad Wolf and Kenneth Cuccinelli, were named by reference to an invalid order of succession,” the GAO said.
The GAO did not review “the legality of other actions taken by these officials,” but referred the matter to the DHS Inspector General, it said.
The DHS rejected the government watchdog’s finding, calling it “baseless.” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., the chairman of the committee that would be responsible for shepherding his nomination, told Politico that he intended to hold a hearing.
"Honored to be nominated by @POTUS to lead the men & women of DHS in safeguarding the American people,” Wolf tweeted shortly after Trump’s announcement. “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.”
House Homeland Security Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., whose panel initially referred the matter to the GAO, in a statement called the move an effort “to limit the Administration’s exposure to legal challenges.”
Wolf’s tenure at the head of DHS has been deeply controversial, particularly related to his use of militarized federal forces to confront protesters in violent confrontations in Portland, Ore.