President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump singles in on ‘Sleepy Joe Biden’ at campaign rally Trump at rally says impeachment an ‘attack on democracy itself’ GOP lawmaker says House impeachment rules vote ‘doesn’t change anything for me’ MORE on Friday announced Chad Wolf as the new acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), elevating him from his undersecretary position within the agency.
“I put in a very good man who’s highly respected, and he’s acting right now and we’ll see where that goes,” Trump said when asked about Wolf before leaving for a campaign rally in Mississippi.
The announcement came three weeks after Trump said that the agency’s current acting secretary, Kevin McAleenan, would step down, though it was unclear when the change would become official.
Shortly after Trump told reporters Wolf was heading up the department, a DHS spokesperson clarified that McAleenan was still the acting secretary.
McAleenan was supposed to leave at the end of this week, but he told lawmakers he would remain on the job as needed to ensure a smooth transition.
The search for McAleenan’s replacement was complicated by legal limits on who was eligible to take the role given the abundance of officials serving in key positions in a temporary basis throughout DHS.
Wolf would become Trump’s fifth acting or Senate-confirmed DHS secretary in less than three years, following McAleenan, Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump taps Chad Wolf as new acting DHS secretary FBI chief warns of possible 2020 interference from Russia, China Trump faces serious crunch in search for new Homeland Security leader MORE, Elaine DukeElaine Costanzo DukeTSA head rules himself out for top DHS job DOJ to Supreme Court: Trump decision to end DACA was lawful Supreme Court to hear cases on Trump efforts to end DACA MORE and John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE.
Even though the prevalence of acting officials in DHS created a bind for Trump in choosing McAleenan’s replacement, he reiterated on Friday that he likes the part-time tag because “it gives you great flexibility.”
Wolf has served as undersecretary of the DHS Office of Strategy, Policy and Plans since February. He has been part of the administration’s efforts to crack down on the flow of migrants at the southern border.
Prior to joining the administration, Wolf worked as a lobbyist advocating for companies that used H-1B visas to employ foreign workers.
Immigration groups that support restricting the number of illegal and legal immigrants entering the country panned the choice, citing Wolf’s work prior to joining the administration.
One ally of the administration’s agenda likened the pick to having “the fox guarding the hen house.”
Advocates for a more hardline immigration agenda inside and outside the administration had lobbied for acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Ken Cuccinelli to get the secretary job.
But Cuccinelli was ineligible for the position under the Vacancies Act, and he is viewed as unconfirmable in the Senate due to his time spent supporting primary challengers against top GOP senators.
Updated: 7:10 p.m.