WASHINGTON — Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf on Thursday defied a subpoena to testify before a House committee.
After trying for months to pin down a date for Wolf to appear, the Homeland Security Committee subpoenaed him last week, but he was no-show Thursday.
Acting DHS Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said Wolf would not appear because his nomination to his position permanently is pending. Cuccinelli offered to testify in Wolf’s place, but the Democratic-led committee declined, drawing criticism from Cucinelli.
“I had testimony prepared and had my schedule clear to show up at this morning’s hearing,” Cuccinelli said in a statement Wednesday. “Instead, the committee majority decided that they would rather put on a show for the media.”
During Thursday’s hearing, committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said there is nothing in the law that prevents a pending nominee from testifying.
“As the person running the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. Wolf should be here to testify, as secretaries of Homeland Security have done before,” Thompson said. “Instead, we have an empty chair — an appropriate metaphor for the Trump administration’s dereliction on so many of these critical homeland security issues.
“Regrettably, he [Wolf] has chosen to defy the subpoena and refuses to come before the committee after committing to do so should appall every member of this committee,” Thompson added. “Insisting Mr. Wolf keeps his commitment to testifying before Congress isn’t playing politics; it’s doing our job.”
The top Republican on the committee, Rep. Mike Rogers of Indiana, said he, too, was “disappointed” Wolf was not present at the hearing but added that rejecting Cuccinelli’s testimony was a “political stunt.”
The hearing is dedicated to worldwide threats against the United States, including foreign interference in the upcoming elections. FBI Director Christopher Wray and National Counterterrorism Center Director Christopher Miller are testifying.
Wolf has come under fire in recent weeks.
Last week, the House Intelligence Committee released a whistleblower complaint from an intelligence official at Homeland Security alleging that Wolf and Cuccinelli ordered him to modify reports to align with President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and interests. A DHS spokesman has said the accusations have no merit.
And last week a federal judge ruled that Wolf is likely serving in his position unlawfully and lacks the authority to impose new rules on asylum seekers. Judge Paula Xinis said it’s likely the states and cities suing to stop the restrictions from being enforced will prove that an improper line of succession was followed when Wolf’s predecessor, Kevin McAleenan, was installed as acting secretary and that McAleenan illegally altered the line of succession that later led to Wolf being elevated to the position.
The Government Accountability Office said in August that Wolf and Cuccinelli are both ineligible to serve in their current acting positions.