Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli speaks about immigration policy at the White House during a briefing August 12, 2019 in Washington, D.C.

Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli speaks about immigration policy at the White House during a briefing August 12, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

'Big News': GAO Says Top Trump DHS Officials Wolf and Cuccinelli Appointed Illegally

Democratic lawmakers said the GAO decision "paints a disturbing picture of the Trump administration playing fast and loose by bypassing the Senate confirmation process to install ideologues."

Andrea Germanos

This is a breaking story... Check back for possible updates...

The Trump administration's top officials at the Department of Homeland Security—Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli—were illegally appointed to their positions, the Government Accountability Office said Friday.

The decision from the internation government watchdog states that the appointments were not in compliance with the Federal Vacancies Reform Act or Homeland Security Act.

From the GAO decision:

Upon Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen's resignation on April 10, 2019, the official who assumed the title of Acting Secretary had not been designated in the order of succession to serve upon the Secretary's resignation. Because the incorrect official assumed the title of Acting Secretary at that time, subsequent amendments to the order of succession made by that official were invalid and officials who assumed their positions under such amendments, including Chad Wolf and Kenneth Cuccinelli, were named by reference to an invalid order of succession. We have not reviewed the legality of other actions taken by these officials; we are referring the matter to the Inspector General of DHS for review.

The Democratic lawmakers who demanded the review of the appointments seized upon the GAO determination as evidence that both Wolf and Cuccinelli should step down.

The decision "paints a disturbing picture of the Trump administration playing fast and loose by bypassing the Senate confirmation process to install ideologues," Reps. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.

"At a time when DHS should be marshaling the resources of the federal government to respond to the pandemic that has killed over 165,000 Americans, the department's illegally appointed leaders are instead focused on continuing the administration's attack on immigrants and intimidating peaceful protesters in a show of force for the president's reelection campaign," the lawmakers said.

Advocacy groups weighed in on the development as well, with immigrant rights groups calling it "BIG news as it'll effect a variety of pending lawsuits raising similar challenges."

According to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the GAO decision "raises serious legal questions."

"There must be accountability," the group said.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Scientists to BlackRock Vice Chairman: New Fossil Fuel Development 'Incompatible' With 1.5°C

"The only responsible course of action is to do everything in our power to stop fossil fuel expansion and further emissions."

Jessica Corbett ·


Goldman Prize Awarded to Activists Who Showed Nature's 'Amazing Capability to Regenerate'

"While the many challenges before us can feel daunting, and at times make us lose faith, these seven leaders give us a reason for hope and remind us what can be accomplished in the face of adversity."

Julia Conley ·


Faith Leaders Call for Federal Election Monitors in Georgia to Protect Black Voters

"It is imperative that our election this November is monitored to preserve ballot integrity and ensure ballot security."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Inaction Is Bought': Here Are the Receipts on NRA's Purchase of GOP

"The issue is money in politics," said Nina Turner after the nation's latest mass killing of students and teachers. Right-wing lawmakers are "allowing children to die because of the gun lobby."

Kenny Stancil ·


'This Is on You!' Beto Interrupts Abbott Press Conference on Texas Massacre

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke accused Texas' GOP leaders of "doing nothing and offering us nothing" in the wake of the massacre at Robb Elementary School.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo