Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

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."

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 need your help.

Support progressive journalism.

Common Dreams is not your average news site. We don't survive on clicks or advertising dollars. We rely entirely on your support. And without it, our independent progressive journalism simply wouldn’t exist. Every gift of every amount matters.

Join the fight and support our common dreams today.

Share of Fossil Fuels in Global Energy Mix 'Has Not Moved by an Inch' in a Decade

"We are waking up to the bitter reality that the climate policy promises over the past 10 years have mostly been empty words," said the executive director of REN21, which released the new report.

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·


Latest Nina Turner Ad in Ohio Highlights Working-Class Need for Medicare for All

"Wealth should never dictate whether you are able to see a doctor or live a healthy life."

Jenna McGuire, staff writer ·


Biden Admin Urged to 'Prevent a Historic Wave of Evictions' by Extending CDC Moratorium, Speeding Up Aid

"Far too many renters are struggling to access emergency rental assistance programs and are at risk of losing their homes when the moratorium expires," said the president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Kenny Stancil, staff writer ·


Democrats Unveil Decriminalization Plan to End 'Mass Devastation' of Failed US Drug War

"50 years. That's how long our government has waged a war—not on drugs, but on people."

Julia Conley, staff writer ·


Norwegian 'People vs. Arctic Oil' Case Heads to European Human Rights Court

"We have to take action now to limit irreversible damage to our climate and ecosystems to ensure livelihoods for the coming generations," said one activist.

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·