DHS Acting Secretary Wolf Subpoenaed by House Democrats

Move follows department declining to have Wolf appear at public hearing on Sept. 17
September 12, 2020 Updated: September 13, 2020

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, on Sept. 11 subpoenaed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) acting Secretary Chad Wolf to testify at a public hearing on Sept. 17, titled “Worldwide Threats to the Homeland.”

The subpoena was announced the same day that DHS stated that Wolf wouldn’t be available to testify that day and offered to find a later date for his testimony.

In a statement, the Homeland Security panel stated that the DHS had “committed to Mr. Wolf testifying” on Sept. 17, but Wolf “reneged on the commitment” on Sept. 8, which prompted the subpoena. Thompson, in the statement, accused Wolf of “evading congressional oversight.”

In a Sept. 10 letter (pdf) to Wolf, Thompson accused him of “reneging” on his commitment to appear at the hearing. Thompson also wrote that “there is no legal prohibition” that would bar Wolf from testifying on Sept. 17. Thompson noted that the DHS informed the committee on July 23 that Wolf would be available to testify on Sept. 17, with formal invitations sent out on Aug. 25 once other federal agencies had agreed on the mutual date.

Beth Spivey, the assistant secretary of the DHS Office of Legislative Affairs, in a letter on Sept. 11, responded to Thompson’s letter, saying it would be inappropriate for Wolf to testify on Sept. 17 due to his pending nomination to be the permanent secretary of Homeland Security. Wolf was formally nominated to the post by President Donald Trump on Sept. 10.

She told Thompson that his arguments are “without merit.” She wrote that from the time of the formal nomination, Wolf “became unavailable to testify before Congress on matters unrelated to his nomination and will regain the ability to do so when the Senate completes the confirmation process.”

“The right of a president’s nominee to abstain from testifying on matters unrelated to his or her nomination while such a nomination is pending is an unwritten rule honored by chairmen from both sides of the aisle for many decades,” she noted, adding that it is “standard practice” and has been the “prevailing practice” of past administrations.

“This Presidential nomination obviates any concern that the Acting Secretary’s declining to testify at the [hearing on Sept. 17] was premature, conjectural or speculative,” she added.

The DHS had on Sept. 8 offered that the senior official performing the duties of Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli could testify instead, because he is, “from the DHS’s point of view,” well-positioned to discuss matters related to the topics of the hearing, Spivey noted. If that didn’t suffice, the DHS committed to help find a later date for Wolf to testify once the Senate completes the confirmation process, Spivey told Thompson.

Epoch Times Photo
Ken Cuccinelli, acting Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, in Washington on Aug. 18, 2020. (Brendon Fallon/The Epoch Times)

In the Sept. 8 letter to Thompson (pdf), the DHS stated that it had also informed the Senate of Wolf’s unavailability. In that letter, Spivey wrote: “It is important to note that, Acting Secretary Wolf offered to testify before the Committee in July on Worldwide Threats to the Homeland and in August on Civil Unrest. Unfortunately, the Committee was unable to schedule those hearings.”

In a Twitter post on Sept. 11, a DHS spokesperson claimed: “If this hearing was legitimately about threats to the homeland, @HomelandDems would immediately accept our offer to have [Kenneth Cuccinelli] testify. Instead, this is just another example of DC swampland putting politics above public safety.”

In response, the House Homeland Security Committee wrote on Twitter hours later: “This is yet another example of the Trump administration trying to evade congressional oversight of its failed policies. What is Chad hiding?”

Officials at DHS didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.

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