FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor is moving into the acting leadership role atop the Department of Homeland Security in the face of mounting domestic threats as Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf resigned.
“I am saddened to take this step, as it was my intention to serve the Department until the end of this Administration,” Wolf wrote in a letter to colleagues today. “Unfortunately, this action was warranted by recent events, including the ongoing and meritless court rulings regarding the validity of my authority as Acting Secretary. These events and concerns increasingly serve to divert attention and resources away from the important work of the Department in this critical time of a transition of power.”
Wolf said today is his last day. President Trump is visiting Texas’ Rio Grande Valley on Tuesday to view border wall construction.
“I leave knowing that the Department has positioned itself for an orderly and smooth transition to President-elect Biden’s DHS team. Welcome them, educate them, and learn from them,” Wolf wrote. “They are your leaders for the next four years — a time which undoubtedly will be full of challenges and opportunities to show the American public the value of DHS and why it is worth the investment.”
The White House announced Thursday that it withdrew Wolf’s nomination to serve in the full-time role leading DHS.
That announcement came shortly after Wolf issued a statement decrying the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday and declaring that “we now see some supporters of the President using violence as a means to achieve political end.”
“I will remain in my position until the end of the Administration to ensure the Department’s focus remains on the serious threats facing our country and an orderly transition to President-elect Biden’s DHS team,” Wolf added then.
In August, after more than 500 days without a Senate-confirmed DHS secretary, Trump tweeted that he intended to nominate Wolf. That announcement came days after the Government Accountability Office refused a DHS request to rescind their report that found the appointments of Wolf and Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli invalid.
Wolf, former chief of staff at the Transportation Security Administration and later at the Department of Homeland Security under former Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, served as Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Strategy, Plans, Analysis & Risk and as Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Strategy, Policy, and Plans when he was named to the acting secretary role after Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan’s departure from DHS in November 2019.
Wolf had his nomination hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in late September, and his nomination had not advanced.
The White House said the nomination withdrawal was sent to the Senate on Jan. 3, the first day of the 117th Congress.
“What transpired yesterday was tragic and sickening,” Wolf said in his statement about the Capitol riot. “While I have consistently condemned political violence on both sides of the aisle, specifically violence directed at law enforcement, we now see some supporters of the President using violence as a means to achieve political ends. This is unacceptable. These violent actions are unconscionable, and I implore the President and all elected officials to strongly condemn the violence that took place yesterday.”
However, Wolf did not delve into the riot in his resignation letter.
Since Wednesday’s riot at the Capitol, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have also resigned.
In a statement to the DoT, Chao said the country had “experienced a traumatic and entirely avoidable event as supporters of the President stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed.”
“As I’m sure is the case with many of you, it has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside,” Chao said, adding that she is “tremendously proud” of the DoT’s accomplishments.
“That behavior was unconscionable for our country,” DeVos said in her resignation statement. “There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me.”