Under the Trump administration, the department, which is often at the center of the president’s policies and political initiatives, has been plagued by leadership turmoil. Many senior internal security posts have been left vacant or filled on an interim basis.
Trump has repeatedly praised Wolf in recent press conferences.
“I am happy to inform the American public that Acting Secretary Chad Wolf will be appointed Secretary of Homeland Security. Chad has done an outstanding job and we greatly appreciate his service!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.
“This appointment is a clear admission that the Administration has installed Mr. Wolf as interim secretary illegally,” said House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi. “Since every political decision taken by Mr Wolf since November can be challenged because he lacked the proper authority, this is also an attempt to limit the administration’s exposure to challenges. judicial. “
Wolf will remain the acting secretary under the Homeland Security Act, according to a DHS official.
“The president has the right to appoint anyone he wants to be secretary of DHS, including Wolf – whether or not he is currently acting secretary legally or not. Indeed, that’s how the system is supposed to work – to the 503rd straight day without a secretary confirmed by the Senate, ”said Steve Vladeck, CNN analyst and professor at the University of Texas Law School.
“The better question is why now – why is the president appointing Wolf, who has served as interim secretary for over nine months? The recent GAO notice concluding that Wolf does not legally hold the post of acting secretary may have a lot to do with it. “
Wolf told CNN on Sunday that he had always believed the department should have a confirmed secretary.
“I firmly believe the department needs a senior secretary. I will continue to say that. I do not make personnel decisions from the White House. The White House Personnel Office does,” he said. he declared on the State of the Union.
A few days after the indictments, he told CNN: “I wanted to understand how a private organization, if it did – if it was going to build it on its own, using its own funds, how it would fit in. what (Customs and border protection) was doing at the border ”, adding that he“ clearly ”does not support fraud.
Wolf said in a statement Tuesday that he was “honored to be appointed by President Trump to lead the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security in the protection of the American people.”
“As the Homeland faces evolving threats from natural disasters, violent opportunists, malicious cyber actors and transnational criminal organizations, DHS’s mission is more crucial than ever,” he added. .
Tensions escalated in Portland last month after federal agents arrived in the city, which has seen protracted and sometimes violent protests against police demands for racial justice and accountability. Wolf disputed that the department had inflamed tensions, but said DHS must “do a better job communicating” its intentions following a deployment of federal law enforcement officials.
“The lesson learned is better to communicate exactly who we are targeting. We are not targeting peaceful protesters, individuals exercising their First Amendment rights,” he told Axios on HBO in a recent interview.
It’s unclear how fast the nomination will go, if at all, given the short lead time before the election.
Responding to the President’s announcement regarding Wolf, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted: “Considering his past actions, that would be a horrible choice.”
The Senate has yet to receive the official White House appointment, according to a Senate aide.
Former DHS Acting General Counsel John Sandweg told CNN there was “no valid argument” that Wolf’s use of the title “Acting Secretary” is legal. “Not only did GAO ruled him illegal from the start, but he’s now surpassing the 210-day limit of the Act on Job Reform for Acting Civil Servants. His appointment as Acting Secretary only sows seeds. confusion and reinforces arguments that his assertion of the acting secretary’s authorities are illegitimate, ”Sandweg said.
This story has been updated with additional background information and feedback.
CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez contributed to this story.