Chad Wolf, the acting homeland security secretary, who helped enact key pieces of the Trump administration’s hardline immigration agenda, resigned on Monday, 11 January, as the nation confronts heightened security threats after an attack on the US capitol by supporters of the president.
Wolf said in a letter to the department of homeland security that he had intended to remain in office until the inauguration of Joe Biden but would instead step down before then.
His departure, he said, was compelled in part by recent events and by court rulings invalidating some of the Trump administration’s immigration policies, citing findings that Wolf was illegally serving in the role.
“I am saddened to take this step, as it was my intention to serve the department until the end of this Administration, said Wolf, who had been serving in an acting capacity since November 2019 and was never confirmed by the senate.
A report by the government accountability office determined that Wolf’s appointment to the role violated the rules of succession and as such he had been serving unlawfully in the role. Judges cited that finding in court rulings to invalidate some of the policy changes enacted by the Trump administration during his tenure.
“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, he wrote.
The letter does not explicitly mention last week’s assault on the Capitol, which Wolf described as ‘tragic and sickening’ in a statement on 7 January. In that statement, he also called on Trump to strongly condemn the violence that had been carried out in his name and committed to staying in his position to ensure an orderly transition to a Biden administration.
Pete Gaynor, the head of the federal emergency management agency, will take over as acting homeland security secretary, less than two weeks before the department will help coordinate security for Biden’s inauguration amid heightened threats of violence and protests.
As the last act, Wolf announced that he had authorized the US secret service to begin enhanced security operations on 13 January, nearly a full week before the inauguration ceremony.
During his time in office, Wolf was among the president’s most loyal lieutenants, eagerly stepping into the spotlight to defend the administration’s actions before congress and on cable news.
This summer, he became the public face of the administration’s crackdown on protesters in the wake of nationwide demonstrations against police brutality and racism. His decision to deploy tactical agents to detain protesters in Portland sparked national backlash and criticism that he was bending the department to Trump’s political agenda.