The Government Accountability Office accused that the acting leaders of the Department of Homeland Security, who have been serving in their roles without Senate confirmation, were not appointed through a proper process. Chad Wolf has been acting secretary of DHS and Ken Cuccinelli the senior official performing the duties of deputy secretary, since November. The GAO found that Neither of those appointments is legitimate.
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“We are referring the question as to who should be serving as the Acting Secretary and the Senior Official Performing the Duties of Deputy Secretary to the DHS Office of Inspector General for its review, We wholeheartedly disagree with the GAO’s baseless report and plan to issue a formal response to this shortly.” Thomas H. Armstrong, general counsel for the GAO, wrote.
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The Trump administration has relied heavily on temporary appointments rather than permanently filling the pillar posts. President Trump has said he prefers acting appointments for the speed and flexibility of the candidate. Because they do not require Senate confirmation, such postings bypass a layer of legislative oversight over the executive branch of the government.
The GAO also said the acting assignments have been invalid since Nielsen’s departure. Under the leadership of Wolf and Cuccinelli, the Department of Homeland Security has attracted intense scrutiny for such actions as deploying federal agents to protests in Portland over the opposition of local and state leaders. And new restrictions on asylum-seekers and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, applicants have prompted lawsuits from immigration advocates.
Few of those lawsuits seek to throw out DHS actions because the department’s leadership is not legitimately in power. As a result, some of Wolf’s and Cuccinelli’s actions could be undone in court rulings. The GAO said its review only focused on the legality of the appointments — and not on what it means for actions taken by DHS officials.