This is Chad Wolf. He is the Acting Director of The Department of Homeland Security, a huge and powerful federal agency created after 9/11 and designed to consolidate all of the different domestic security agencies under a single banner. It includes the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the US Coast Guard (USCG), the US Secret Service (USSS), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and many other advisory groups and domestic intelligence programs. That means he’s responsible for protecting the US’s leaders and their families, for securing the longest national borders in the world, for enforcing all immigration laws, for patrolling the national waterways, for stopping drug smuggling and human trafficking at the borders, for responding to natural disasters and terrorist attacks, and making sure the airlines and other lines of shipping is safe. Sufficed to say, he’s one of the most powerful people in the world, employing almost 250,000 people and operating one of the largest and most powerful security apparatuses on earth.
Chad worked for the TSA for three years starting in 2002. He then became a lobbyist for TSA government contracts at a private firm for 11 years. He returned to the TSA in 2017 and within a year became the Chief of Staff to then-Secretary of DHS Kirstjen Nielsen. He was an early architect of Trump’s family separation policy. By 2019, he had moved further up the ranks — then upon the resignation of Nielsen, he was appointed as Acting Head of DHS on November 13, 2019 after a long series of bureaucratic maneuvers.
Under federal law, in order to become the DHS Director (not acting) a person must be nominated by the president and confirmed by the US Senate. An “acting” official assumes that role upon a vacancy — an established line of succession elevates them to prevent power vacuums pending confirmation of a new director by the Senate. Acting directors, by law, are only allowed to “act” in those roles for a limited time — 210 days at most. That time period is designed to give the president time to nominate a replacement and get them confirmed. Allowing them to remain there permanently would defeat the purpose of needing Senate confirmation. It is a mechanism designed by the Founders in the Constitution (the Appointments Clause) to prevent against Presidential cronyism of unqualified or corrupt candidates. In other words, this.
Chad served as Acting Director for a total of 503 days. It is the longest cabinet vacancy in US history. After those 503 days, on August 25th, he was officially nominated for the post. His confirmation is pending. It is important to mention that shortly before he was nominated, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a watchdog office that is part of the Legislative Branch (ie Congress), determined that he succeeded to his role as Acting Secretary improperly. According to the GAO, on Nielsen’s way out, DHS illegally changed the line of succession to get Chad into the acting role. Under the GAO’s findings, Wolf’s Deputy Ken Cuccinelli is also in his post illegally. He also continues to serve in that role. Until Wolf was formally nominated to the post, it is entirely possible that — according to the correct DHS succession law — Ken Gaynor, the current head of FEMA, was Acting DHS head all along without knowing it.
The US Senate, led by the majority GOP, has said essentially nothing about the president usurping their constitutional duty to confirm important officials. They’re complicit. Wolf is just one example, too. He is probably the best case study (though maybe not the most abusive example), but this is a pervasive tactic used by the Trump Administration to consolidate power in the executive branch and usurp congressional oversight. Altogether, Trump has appointed dozens of high-level officials (many of whom he knows would not get confirmed if formally nominated) to Acting jobs to exert power beyond their mandate. And the Senate lets him do it.
Rule of law is dying under this president. This is how it happens.
During those 503 days that Chad was Acting Director at DHS, he coordinated the national security response to COVID; he directed the response to BLM protests and concurrent riots; he pioneered operation LeGend (the invasion of American Cities by unaccountable Federal officers); and he (pathetically) tried to defend blatantly unconstitutional “kidnappings” in unmarked vans of protesters in Portland and other places. All of this power and more wielded though DHS by Chad Wolf — a TSA lobbyist who was appointed illegally.