President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he would nominate acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf to the role permanently.
"I am pleased to inform the American Public that Acting Secretary Chad Wolf will be nominated to be the Secretary of Homeland Security," Trump tweeted Tuesday. "Chad has done an outstanding job and we greatly appreciate his service!"
Wolf said in a statement that he was honored to be nominated. "As the homeland faces evolving threats from natural disasters, violent opportunists, malign cyber actors, and transnational criminal organizations, the mission of DHS is as critical as ever," he said.
Trump's announcement comes after a government watchdog concluded that Wolf and Ken Cuccinelli, the senior official performing the duties of deputy secretary, are not legally qualified to hold their positions.
The Government Accountability Office said earlier this month that Wolf and Cuccinelli assumed their jobs under an order of succession issued by an acting secretary who himself had no authority to hold his job; that former acting head was Kevin McAleenan, who took over after Nielsen resigned.
After the report was released, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called for Wolf's and Cuccinelli's resignations and asserted that the agency's determination invalidated their actions. Asked for his reaction to Wolf's nomination on Tuesday, Schumer said, "I think given his past action, he's an awful choice."
The Department of Homeland Security has dismissed the GAO's findings as mistaken. "We wholeheartedly disagree with the GAO’s baseless report," a spokesman said.
Acting DHS general counsel Chad Mizelle said the finding appeared to be politically motivated. “The GAO should rescind its erroneous report immediately,” Mizelle wrote in a letter to the general counsel of the congressional watchdog agency.
While the GAO's conclusion has no force of law, it could be cited in lawsuits challenging DHS policies, including stricter immigration controls.
Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants' Rights Project, said the GAO's findings would bolster claims that DHS illegally imposed restrictions on asylum seekers. Lawyers for protesters in Portland said it would also aid their lawsuit against the deployment of DHS agents in response to violence at the city's federal courthouse.