Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf resigns after the Capitol siege

Chad Wolf. Greg Nash/Pool via Associated Press

  • Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security, has resigned, multiple outlets reported Monday.
  • He is the third Cabinet secretary to leave the Trump administration after the president incited a deadly insurrection at the US Capitol last week that resulted in five deaths.
  • Wolf condemned the violence in a statement last week, and President Donald Trump subsequently pulled his nomination for a permanent role overseeing the Department of Homeland Security.
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Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security, announced in a letter to employees Monday that he is resigning, Fox News and NBC News reported.

“I am saddened to take this step, as it was my intention to serve the Department until the end of this Administration,” Wolf wrote in the letter.

He is the third Cabinet secretary to depart the Trump administration in the wake of a deadly riot at the Capitol that the president incited on January 6.

Transportation secretary Elaine Chao and education secretary Betsy DeVos also announced their resignations in the days following the insurrection.

Wolf condemned the violence, saying in a statement last week: “We now see some supporters of the President using violence as a means to achieve political ends. These violent actions are unconscionable, and I implore the President and all elected officials to strongly condemn the violence that took place yesterday.”

Wolf also pledged to stay on at the department until President-elect Joe Biden was inaugurated, saying, “I will remain in my position until the end of the Administration to ensure the Department’s focus remains on the serious threats facing our country and an orderly transition to President-elect Biden’s DHS team.”

Shortly after his statement was released, the White House announced that Trump had withdrawn Wolf’s nomination to be the permanent Department of Homeland Security secretary.

Other officials who resigned after Wednesday’s chaos include the former White House press secretary and first lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff, Stephanie Grisham; deputy White House press secretary Sarah Matthews; deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger; White House social secretary Rickie Niceta; the US’s special envoy to Northern Ireland and former White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney; and other officials from the Commerce Department and National Security Council.

CNN reported that former national security officials called senior Trump administration officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, and national security advisor Robert O’Brien, to urge them not to resign. The former officials reportedly said that the departures could pose serious risks to US national security during an already rocky transition period.

Last week’s insurrection at the Capitol sent shockwaves through the world and left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer who Trump supporters beat with a fire extinguisher as they swarmed the US Capitol. Vice President Mike Pence and senior lawmakers were immediately evacuated as security officials discovered the seriousness of the breach, while other members of Congress, Hill staffers, and reporters sheltered in place or hid behind makeshift barricades for safety.

Additional footage and media reports that have come out since the siege indicated that many of the rioters were active law enforcement personnel and ex-military members with tactical training, some of whom were seen carrying zip ties that could be used to take hostages. A Reuters photojournalist said he heard three insurrectionists saying they wanted to hang Pence “from a Capitol tree,” and Trump supporters also set up a gallows with a noose on Capitol grounds.

Dozens of pro-Trump mob members have been arrested on federal charges since the attempted coup, including:

  • Cleveland Grover Meredith Jr., a Georgia man who threatened to “put a bullet” in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
  • Eric Gavelek Munchel, a Tennessee man who was photographed roaming the Senate chamber wearing military gear and carrying zip ties.
  • Larry Rendell Brock, a US Air Force veteran who was also seen on the Senate floor in a helmet and bulletproof vest, and carrying zip ties.
  • Richard “Bigo” Barnett, a self-described white nationalist who was photographed with his feet up on Pelosi’s desk after her office was broken into.
  • Derrick Evans, a newly-elected West Virginia state lawmaker who filmed himself swarming the Capitol with other pro-Trump rioters. He has since resigned.
  • Adam Johnson, a Florida man who was photographed carrying Pelosi’s lectern out of the Capitol.
  • Jacob Angeli, a popular QAnon influencer known as QShaman who was seen on the Senate floor with red, white, and blue face paint, a fur hat, and a spear.

In the wake of the deadly riot, the US law enforcement and intelligence apparatus came under considerable scrutiny as lawmakers, security experts, and media outlets investigate how thousands of the president’s supporters were able to break into the Capitol with relative ease.

The New York Times reported that “poor planning and communication” played a significant part in hamstringing the response from local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, including the DHS.

The report also said that the Capitol Police reached out to DHS for additional backup but not until well after the siege was underway.

Wolf’s departure, meanwhile, is particularly notable given his allegiance to the president throughout his tenure. The Government Accountability Office, an independent government watchdog, said in August that Wolf was illegitimately appointed and was not eligible to serve in his current role under a 1998 law known as the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.

After former Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen resigned in 2019, Trump bypassed a senior homeland security official who was legally designated to temporarily lead the agency by tapping Kevin McAleenan to be the department’s acting head. Wolf’s subsequent appointment to be acting chief represented an apparent continuation of the violation of the order of succession, GAO determined.

Federal judges also backed up the GAO’s conclusion, but the Trump administration dismissed the GAO report and the president nominated Wolf to be the permanent head of DHS in August.

Beyond questions over Wolf’s eligibility to lead DHS, he also generated controversy over the deployment of federal agents to Portland, Oregon, amid ongoing anti-racism protests over the summer stemming from the police killing of George Floyd.

At the time, Wolf said he had the authority to deploy federal agents to US cities “whether they like us there or not.”

With Wolf stepping down, FEMA administrator Pete Gaynor is set to take over as acting head of Homeland Security.

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