Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf abruptly stepped down from his position, becoming the third Cabinet-level official to resign on the heels of last week’s riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Wolf sent a letter to staff at the Department of Homeland Security informing them of his decision.
“Effective at 11:59 p.m. today, I am stepping down as your Acting Secretary. 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. “I am saddened to take this step, as it was my intention to serve the Department until the end of this Administration.”
“Be proud of what we have accomplished,” Wolf added. “The Homeland is safer and more secure because of your efforts.”
It’s a reversal from the last four days when Wolf issued a statement pledged to stay at his post in the DHS until the end of President Trump’s term and to ensure an orderly transition to President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.
Wolf also referenced a federal judge ruling last November that invalidated his suspension of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on the basis that Wolf has not been serving as DHS Secretary lawfully.
“Unfortunately this action is warranted by recent events, including the ongoing and meritless court rulings regarding the validity of my authority as Acting Secretary,” Wolf said.
In the letter, Wolf stated that he is confident in the DHS team whom he said, “has positioned itself for an orderly and smooth transition.”
“I leave knowing the Department has positioned itself for an orderly and smooth transition to President-elect Biden’s DHS team. Welcome them, educate them, and learn from them. They are your leaders for the next four years – a time which undoubtedly will be full of challenges and opportunities to show the American people the value of DHS and why it is worth the investment.”
Wolf’s resignation comes after Trump withdrew his nomination from the Senate to become DHS secretary last Thursday following his statement. After pro-Trump supporters breached the Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s win, Wolf who was in the Middle East when the events occurred last Wednesday urged Trump the following day to condemn the attack, which he called the storming of the complex “tragic and sickening.”
“This is unacceptable. These violent actions are unconscionable, and I implore the President and all elected officials to strongly condemn the violence that took place yesterday,” Wolf said in a statement Thursday morning. “Any appearance of inciting violence by an elected official goes against who we are as Americans. Every American is guaranteed the right to peacefully protest, but once those protests become violent, we should enforce our laws and bring those responsible to justice — regardless of political motivations.”
Deputy White House Press Secretary Judd Deere said the “withdrawal occurred yesterday and was not related at all to Wednesday’s events or the Acting Secretary’s comments this morning.”
Earlier on Monday, Wolf sent the letter shortly after announcing that the National Special Security Event operations for the inauguration would be moved up to Jan. 13 from its previously planned Jan. 19 date.
“In light of events of the past week and the evolving security landscape leading up to the inauguration and at the recommendation of Secret Service Director James Murray, I have instructed the U.S. Secret Service to begin the National Special Security Event operations for the 2021 Inauguration effective Wednesday, January 13th instead of January 19th,” Wolf said in a statement announcing the decision that special precautions will begin six days earlier than originally planned in order to secure the nation’s capital as well as in light of recent events and the “evolving security landscape.”
DHS has gone without a permanent secretary since Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned in April 2019. Wolf took over the role of acting secretary and was sworn in as acting secretary in November 2019, the fifth person to head Homeland Security in the Trump administration. His nomination was recommended at the end of September in a party-line vote by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee but was never brought up before Congress ended its 116th term for a vote.
According to Wolf in the letter, FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor will take over as Acting DHS Secretary for the remaining time.