Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf Defies House Subpoena to Testify Before Congress | National News

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf did not show up to testify in front of a House committee Thursday, defying a subpoena lawmakers issued last week compelling him to appear.

Wolf skipped Thursday’s House Homeland Security Committee hearing on threats to national security, an anticipated move that punctuated days of back-and-forth between committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat, and the Department of Homeland Security over Wolf’s appearance.

President Donald Trump in late August announced his intention to nominate Wolf, who has served as the acting DHS secretary for 10 months, to the permanent secretary position, and formally did so on Sept. 10. DHS last week told the House Homeland Security Committee that Wolf would be unavailable to testify as previously scheduled because it would be “contrary to standard practice” for a nominee to testify while his nomination was pending. Thompson then issued a subpoena for Wolf to appear Thursday.

Wolf was supposed to appear alongside FBI Director Christopher Wray, who did testify before the committee.

DHS, which called the subpoena “brazenly partisan,” says officials offered to instead send the department’s No. 2, Ken Cuccinelli, to testify at the hearing.

Thompson criticized Wolf’s decision not to appear Thursday during his opening statement at the hearing, noting that there is no legal prohibition barring Wolf from testifying.

“Mr. Wolf has run the Department of Homeland Security for the last 10 months and has been responsible for numerous decisions directly relevant to the subjects the Committee intends to explore,” Thompson said. “Regrettably, he has chosen to defy the subpoena. That he would refuse to come before the committee after committing to do so should appall every member of this committee. Insisting Mr. Wolf keeps his commitment to testifying before Congress isn’t playing politics – it’s doing our job.”

Political Cartoons on Congress

Thompson also noted that Wolf has made numerous media appearances since his nomination to the permanent secretary position, “including no fewer than four appearances on Fox News.”

During the hearing, Cuccinelli and the committee got into a spat on Twitter about the matter.

The brouhaha comes amid increased scrutiny of Wolf’s position and actions. Last week, an explosive whistleblower report alleged that Wolf and Cuccinelli pressured analysts to alter reports on Russian election interference, downplay the threat of violent white supremacists and make other changes to intelligence reports.

In August, the agency that serves as Congress’ independent investigative watchdog concluded that both Wolf and Cuccinelli were ineligible for their current positions – a finding DHS has dismissed as incorrect.

Source Article

Read more

Azar to testify before House coronavirus subcommittee

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar will appear in front of the House Oversight and Reform Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis as his agency faces a whirlwind of controversies.

The panel’s chairman, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) announced Thursday that Azar will appear in front of the committee on Oct. 2 to testify on the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Clyburn said the hearing will “examine the Trump Administration’s unprecedented political interference in the work of scientists and public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration, the Administration’s refusal to provide accurate and clear public health information, and the failure of the Administration to develop and implement a comprehensive national plan to contain the coronavirus, more than eight months into this public health emergency.” 

Next month’s hearing will mark the first time Azar has testified before Congress since February, according to Clyburn. 

Democrats have torn into the administration’s handling of the pandemic, which has now killed more than 197,000 people in America and infected over 6.6 million. 

The announcement of Azar’s testimony comes as the Department of Health and Human Services faces a flood of criticism from Democrats that it has worked to politicize the government’s response to the pandemic, accusations Azar has so far not addressed in depth. 

Reports have surfaced in recent weeks that Michael Caputo, the agency’s top communications official who announced Wednesday he was taking medical leave, tried to pressure scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to edit their weekly reports on the pandemic and accused the CDC in a video of harboring a “resistance unit” opposing President TrumpDonald John TrumpBarr criticizes DOJ in speech declaring all agency power ‘is invested in the attorney general’ Military leaders asked about using heat ray on protesters outside White House: report Powell warns failure to reach COVID-19 deal could ‘scar and damage’ economy MORE.

In the same video, Caputo urged Trump’s followers to prepare for an armed insurrection if Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Memo: Warning signs flash for Trump on debates Senate Republicans signal openness to working with Biden National postal mail handlers union endorses Biden MORE loses the election and refuses to concede.

Democrats have also voiced concerns over remarks Trump has made about a “deep state” at the Food and Drug Administration as he pressures the agency to move faster on approvals of COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.

Lawmakers have said Azar has not done enough to blunt the White House’s efforts to politicize the pandemic response, and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats scramble on COVID-19 relief amid division, Trump surprise Pelosi, Schumer ‘encouraged’ by Trump call for bigger coronavirus relief package Schumer, Sanders call for Senate panel to address election security MORE (D-N.Y.) this week called on him to resign. 

“It has become abundantly clear that the leadership of the Department of Health and Human Services has allowed perhaps the most important federal agency right

Read more

Overnight Defense: Dems divided on length of stopgap spending measure | Afghan envoy agrees to testify before House panel

Happy Monday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I’m Rebecca Kheel, and here’s your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.



Chuck Schumer wearing a suit and tie: Overnight Defense: Dems divided on length of stopgap spending measure | Afghan envoy agrees to testify before House panel | Trump leans into foreign policy in campaign's final stretch


© UPI Photo
Overnight Defense: Dems divided on length of stopgap spending measure | Afghan envoy agrees to testify before House panel | Trump leans into foreign policy in campaign’s final stretch

THE TOPLINE: The House is back in session this week, joining the Senate, and funding the government before money runs out in a couple weeks is a top to-do item.

Congress is expected to pass a stopgap spending measure. But over the weekend, The Hill’s Jordain Carney looked at how Democrats are divided over how long the continuing resolution (CR) should last.

The November election is complicating the Democratic strategy in the looming government shutdown fight.

Feeling momentum as they aim to win back the Senate and the White House, Democrats are divided over whether to agree to the GOP-favored stopgap bill that lasts into December or push for a longer deal to fund the government into early 2021.

A shorter bill, supporters hope, would force Congress to reach a larger funding deal before the end of the year. But a bill that lasts into next year would take a lame duck shutdown fight off the table and give Democrats more leverage if Democratic nominee Joe Biden is elected president.

“We’ve gone back and forth, it’s a split decision in the caucus. If you can tell us what happens Nov. 3 it is a lot easier. … The uncertainty about the presidential election is an element,” Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) said when asked about the length of a bill.

Neither Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) nor Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) have publicly endorsed a timeline. A House Democratic aide noted that behind-the-scenes negotiations about what the strategy should be are ongoing.

Why it matters to defense: The Pentagon is no fan of CRs or shutdowns, warning that readiness is harmed by unpredictable funding.

Defense officials also often warn that the longer CRs go on the more damage is done to the military because the stopgap measures generally prohibit starting new programs or adjusting existing ones.

You’ll recall we reported last week that the administration asked for several exceptions to that rule, including flexibility to fund the Space Force, new submarines and a new nuclear warhead.

AFGHANISTAN DEVELOPMENTS: Much-delayed talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban started this weekend in Doha, Qatar, a historic development that is raising hope, however little, of ending two decades of war.

Back in the United States, a House panel said Monday it has secured an agreement for the Trump administration’s envoy to Afghan peace talks to testify before the committee after it issued a subpoena threat.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, will testify before the House Oversight and Reform National Security Subcommittee when he returns from his trip to Qatar, the

Read more

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.

Source Article

Read more

DHS rejects House Democrats’ call for Wolf to testify

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Friday said it was rejecting Democrats’ call for acting agency Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfMicrosoft warns Russia, China and Iran targeting US election Hillicon Valley: Whistleblower alleges top DHS officials sought to alter intelligence products to fit Trump’s comments | House panel details ‘serious’ concerns around elections in four states | Irish agency investigates Facebook’s EU-US data transfer Former DHS chiefs call for stepped-up response to election threats MORE to appear before the panel, arguing it’s unprecedented for a nominee to testify during the confirmation process on unrelated matters.

In a letter sent to House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonDemocrats divided over 1998 embassy bombing settlement Russia ‘amplifying’ concerns around mail-in voting to undermine election: report Hillicon Valley: Democrats demand answers over Russian interference bulletin | Google Cloud wins defense contract for cancer research | Cyberattack disrupts virtual classes MORE (D-Miss.) on Friday — which comes in response to Thompson’s letter requesting Wolf’s presence at a hearing titled “Worldwide Threats to the Homeland” slated to take place on Sept. 17 — Assistant DHS Secretary Beth Spivey slammed the assertion that Wolf’s appearance is necessary, noting the agency offered to allow senior official Ken Cuccinelli to appear before the committee to testify on threats instead.

“I had written to you on September 8, 2020 that it would be contrary to standard practice for  the Acting Secretary, as the President’s selection (and announced at the time as the President’s future  nominee) to be Secretary of Homeland Security, to testify before the Committee on Homeland  Security on a subject matter unrelated to his nomination while that nomination was pending,” Spivey wrote, arguing the “arguments in your [Thompson’s] letter are without merit.”

Spivey noted that Trump formally nominated Wolf to officially serve as secretary Sept. 10, asserting that Wolf will not testify until he is officially confirmed. She added that it is a standard that has long been practiced by both parties. 

“From that moment onward, the Acting Secretary 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 letter says.  

“This Presidential nomination obviates any concern that the Acting Secretary’s declining to testify at the Worldwide Threats hearing was premature, conjectural or speculative. 

“Second, 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.”

Spivey went on to argue that the agency has cooperated with the panel’s calls to supply information pertaining to the topic of the hearing, questioning why the alternatives offered by DHS to testify are not considered adequate.  

She said other witnesses who are being called before the committee are not at the Cabinet level, arguing Wolf’s presence would be “inappropriate.” She noted that Wolf had previously “volunteered to testify before

Read more

House Democrats ask appeals court to review ruling that McGahn doesn’t have to testify

House Democrats asked a larger panel of judges on a powerful Washington, DC-based appeals court on Tuesday to review whether former White House counsel Donald McGahn must appear before a congressional committee and testify about President Donald Trump.



Don McGahn looking at the camera: White House counsel Donald McGahn at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday, September 27, 2018 on Capitol Hill.


© Melina Mara-Pool/Getty Images
White House counsel Donald McGahn at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday, September 27, 2018 on Capitol Hill.

The filing is the latest chapter in a significant separation of powers dispute concerning whether federal courts can enforce legislative subpoenas against executive-branch officials.

Late last month, a three judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the House’s lawsuit against McGahn must be dismissed. The court reasoned that Congress had to enact law expressly authorizing such a suit before it can go forward.

Now the House wants the full court to review the opinion.

In the new filing, House general counsel Douglas Letter argued that the opinion by the three judge panel “hamstrung the House’s constitutional right to obtain information.”

Letter said it was time for the full court “to resolve this matter so that the House can finally act upon its subpoena and obtain the information it requires to carry out its constitutional responsibilities.”

The House Judiciary Committee has been trying to interview McGahn under oath since spring 2019, and Democrats say they want to question him about potentially obstructive behavior from the President during the Russia investigation, which McGahn witnessed and had disclosed to special counsel Robert Mueller.

But the case has ping ponged between a three judge panel of the court, and the full panel of judges. Previously, the same split panel of three judges said the House didn’t have the ability to take the executive branch to court over a subpoena. But then the full appeals court disagreed, sending the case back to the same three judges.

The Justice Department, representing Trump and his Cabinet, had argued the courts should stay out of the disputes, letting Congress use politics and legislation to force the administration into compliance if it must.



Don McGahn wearing a suit and tie


© Drew Angerer/Getty Images


Continue Reading

Source Article

Read more