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.”
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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.