The White House said this evening that Chad Wolf would be assuming leadership of the Department of Homeland Security on an “interim” basis, after a comment from President Trump that DHS quickly dialed back.
Speaking to reporters outside the White House en route to a Mississippi campaign rally, Trump was asked if Wolf, acting under secretary of the DHS Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans, would be the next DHS secretary.
“Well, he’s right now acting and we’ll see what happens,” Trump replied. “We have great people in there.”
Those comments were countered by a DHS spokesperson, who told the White House pool reporter that Kevin McAleenan is still acting secretary and Wolf is the acting undersecretary for policy.
White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley later told reporters flying aboard Air Force One: “As the president has said, Kevin McAleenan has done a tremendous job. He’ll be leaving after Veterans Day and, after he departs, Chad Wolf will serve as acting secretary in the interim.”
Gidley declined to divulge information about Trump’s eventual nomination or subsequent acting secretary pick. White House staff have advised Trump that Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli as well as Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan were ineligible for appointment to the acting secretary role under federal agency succession law. There are reportedly too many GOP senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), opposed to Cuccinelli to allow him to make it through confirmation.
Submitting his resignation letter earlier this month, McAleenan said Halloween would be his last day at the department. He tweeted at the time that he “will work with the White House and DHS leadership teams on a smooth transition.”
McAleenan told lawmakers on Capitol Hill this week that, without another acting secretary ready to take his place, he’d stay on at DHS past his planned departure date if necessary.
Wolf, who is a former chief of staff to former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, was nominated by Trump to his current policy role in February. He is also a former chief of staff for the Transportation Security Administration, a former Senate staffer and former vice president and senior director at Wexler & Walker.
UPDATE 11/2: “I’ve had the privilege of working with Chad for more than two years and know his experience in multiple roles at DHS will be invaluable when confronting the homeland security challenges the department will face. Chad understands what it takes to run a vast enterprise such as the department. He is a proven, thoughtful, and principled executive and I am confident he will serve the president and the American people well as Acting Secretary,” McAleenan said in a statement released by DHS.
“I am committed to working with the White House and DHS leadership on a smooth transition and remain forever grateful to the men and women of the department for their steadfast efforts to secure our country,” he continued. “Over the past six months we were able to make tremendous progress mitigating the border security and humanitarian crisis, developing a bold approach to counter terrorist threats and targeted violence, and supporting our state and local partners to secure the 2020 election. I am confident Chad will carry on the important progress we have made.”