House Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie G. Thompson issued a subpoena Friday to try to compel acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf to testify at a hearing next week, setting up a major clash of two branches of government.
Mr. Thompson has called a hearing on terrorist threats and has the FBI chief and the leader of the National Counterterrorism Center slated to testify. He has also demanded Mr. Wolf appear, but the acting secretary said he wouldn’t, citing his recent nomination to the secretary’s post.
Homeland Security says it’s tradition for someone who’s facing Senate confirmation not to testify.
Mr. Thompson said the times are so uncertain that the acting secretary must appear, and he accused Mr. Wolf of “evading” the hearing.
“From the coronavirus pandemic to the rise of right-wing extremism to ongoing election interference, there are urgent threats requiring our attention,” the Mississippi Democrat said.
The subpoena, issued 19 years to the day after the terrorist attacks that spurred creation of the department, pits tradition and courtesy against Democrats’ demands for answers.
They are eager to try to pin Mr. Wolf down on a series of matters, including ongoing immigration matters, a new whistleblower complaint that accuses him and other top department officials of shaping intelligence reports to benefit President Trump, and Homeland Security’s response to riots in Portland, Oregon.
Republicans complained that Mr. Thompson had previously promised not to issue unilateral subpoenas.
Rep. Mike Rogers, the ranking Republican, said the committee could have heard from Ken Cuccinelli, the No. 2 man at the department.
Instead, he said, Mr. Thompson is picking a procedural fight.
“We need to get our priorities straight,” Mr. Rogers said. “It’s of the utmost importance to hear from the Department on the threats facing our nation.”