Trump pulls Homeland Security nomination after criticism

Chad Wolf, acting DHS chief, called the attack on the Capitol 'tragic and sickening'

Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Homeland Security Department, on his way to a Senate hearing in August.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Homeland Security Department, on his way to a Senate hearing in August. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted January 7, 2021 at 2:07pm

President Donald Trump withdrew Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf's permanent nomination to the post Thursday, hours after Wolf called on him to condemn the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Wolf, who was out of the country during Wednesday’s events, issued a statement Thursday morning calling the storming of the Capitol "tragic and sickening." He also said he intends to remain in his acting role for the two weeks remaining in Trump’s term.

Wolf has been an ally of the president, defending his hard-line immigration policies and efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for people brought unlawfully to the U.S. as children.

"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," Wolf’s statement said. "Any appearance of inciting violence by an elected official goes against who we are as Americans. Every American is guaranteed the right to peacefully protest, but once those protests become violent, we should enforce our laws and bring those responsible to justice — regardless of political motivations."

Hours later, the White House withdrew the nomination. Deputy White House Press Secretary Judd Deere said the "withdrawal occurred yesterday and was not related at all to Wednesday’s events or the Acting Secretary’s comments this morning."

Deere also said Wolf remains acting secretary and "continues to perform the duties of his office."

Wolf was sworn in as acting secretary in November 2019, the fifth person to head Homeland Security under the Trump administration. He was not formally nominated by the president until nearly a year later.

His nomination was recommended Sept. 30 on a party-line vote by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. It never brought to the floor before the 116th Congress ended, however, so it was returned to the White House. Trump then renominated Wolf on Jan. 3.

[Wolf nomination for Homeland Security secretary advances]

On Wednesday, hundreds of the president's supporters fought through Capitol police barricades and security during the counting of electoral college votes, causing a lockdown and hours of delay to the process certifying President-elect Joe Biden's victory in November. According to police, at least four people died during Wednesday's events, including one woman fatally shot by U.S. Capitol Police while attempting to climb into the Speaker's Lobby.

Officials have provided few details about the agency's response to the storming of the Capitol. A DHS official said Wednesday that Federal Protective Service and Secret Service responded to a request for assistance.

The department stood up its "virtual situation room," the spokesperson said, meant to facilitate intergovernmental communication during large-scale events. However the agency has not answered questions about when agents arrived or what responsibilities they had in overseeing security for Congress.

[Capitol riot: What our Hill reporters and photographers saw]

DHS has gone without a permanent secretary since Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned in April 2019. Wolf took over the role of acting secretary from Kevin McAleenan, who resigned in October 2019.

Wolf's appointment has been ruled unlawful by several federal judges as part of litigation over the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Most recently, a New York federal judge ruled that Wolf's orders to pause the program could not stand, and ordered applications to continue.

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.