▶ Watch Video: Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf on federal agents surge, criticism of Portland response

President Trump said Tuesday he intends to nominate Chad Wolf to be the permanent, Senate-confirmed secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), elevating an official who has forcefully defended the administration’s controversial immigration policies and oversaw an aggressive response to recent riots and anti-racism demonstrations in his role as acting secretary.

The president made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday afternoon. “Chad has done an outstanding job and we greatly appreciate his service!” he wrote. Wolf said in a statement the is “honored to be nominated” and that “the mission of DHS is as critical as ever.”

Wolf’s nomination comes as the administration continues to face questions over the legality of his appointment as acting secretary of the DHS. Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress’ investigative arm, concluded that Wolf and his deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, who is also serving in an acting capacity, were improperly appointed to their current roles at the helm of the department.

DHS has vocally rebuffed GAO’s legal finding, with the department’s top lawyer, Chad Mizelle, recently accusing the federal watchdog of engaging in political gamesmanship months before November’s presidential election. Mizelle also has not been formally nominated to his current role and remains, on paper, the senior official performing the duties of the DHS general counsel.

Wolf’s appointment is also being questioned in federal court by advocates for immigrants hoping to invalidate asylum restrictions he has approved as acting secretary. 

A former lobbyist, Wolf joined DHS in 2017, serving as former Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s chief of staff before leading the department’s policy office, where he participated in the drafting of controversial immigration proposals and policies designed to deter border-crossings, including the “zero tolerance” crackdown that led to the separation of more than 2,800 migrant families in the spring of 2018.

Wolf became acting secretary in November 2019 after the departure of Kevin McAleenan, who led the department on an acting basis for months and was never nominated to be confirmed by the Senate. After maintaining a relatively low profile as the department’s leader, Wolf has embraced the spotlight in recent months, using television appearances to defend the decision to send federal agents to Portland during a wave of anti-racism protests that occasionally turned violent.

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