House panel chairman issues subpoena to compel acting DHS secretary to testify

Thompson said that although DHS committed to Wolf testifying Sept. 17, he “reneged on the commitment on September 8,” forcing him to issue a subpoena.

“Nineteen years after the attacks of 9/11, we continue to face grave threats to the homeland. From the coronavirus pandemic to the rise of right-wing extremism to ongoing election interference, there are urgent threats requiring our attention,” Thompson said. “Mr. Wolf’s refusal to testify — thereby evading congressional oversight at this critical time — is especially troubling given the serious matters facing the department and the nation.”

In a Sept. 8 letter to Thompson, the department’s assistant secretary for legislative affairs, Beth Spivey, said Wolf’s appearance before the committee would be inappropriate as officials formally nominated typically do not testify to Congress before they have been confirmed by the Senate.

Wolf was installed to run the department about 10 months ago on an interim basis, a move that a government watchdog has called unlawful. Trump formally nominated Wolf Thursday.

Spivey said Ken Cuccinelli, who is filling the role of deputy secretary, could testify in place of Wolf.

The department had no immediate comment Friday about the subpoena.

The hearing will be held days after a senior department official alleged that he was told to stop providing intelligence reports on the threat of Russian interference in the 2020 election, in part because it “made the President look bad,” an instruction he believed would jeopardize national security.

The official, Brian Murphy, who until recently was in charge of intelligence and analysis at DHS, said in a whistleblower complaint that on two occasions he was told to stand down on reporting about the Russian threat and alleged that senior officials told him to modify other intelligence reports, including about white supremacists, to bring them in line with Trump’s public comments, directions he said he refused.

On July 8, Murphy said in the complaint, Wolf told him that an “intelligence notification” regarding Russian disinformation efforts should be “held” because it was unflattering to Trump, who has long derided the Kremlin’s interference as a “hoax” that was concocted by his opponents to delegitimize his victory in 2016.

Shane Harris contributed to this report.

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