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Chad Wolf appears ready to defy House subpoena to testify, DHS official says

Updated 9:23 PM ET, Wed September 16, 2020

(CNN) - Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf appears ready to defy a House subpoena issued last week for him to testify Thursday on threats to the US homeland, as he is not planning to attend the hearing, according to a department official.

The move marks the latest volley in the back-and-forth between the House Committee on Homeland Security, chaired by Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, and the Department of Homeland Security over the committee's requested date for Wolf to testify.

The anticipated move by Wolf comes as his tenure as acting secretary has increasingly come under scrutiny. A federal judge in Maryland ruled last week that Wolf is likely unlawfully serving as acting secretary of the department, and subsequently lacked the authority to impose specific asylum rules concerning employment that are being challenged. CNN has previously reported that the Government Accountability Office found that Wolf and Ken Cuccinelli, the senior official performing the duties of the deputy Homeland Security secretary, had been appointed as part of an invalid order of succession.

CNN has reached out to the committee for comment. The committee sent reporters a news release on the hearing just before 3 p.m. Wednesday that listed Wolf as a witness who would be in attendance.

Cuccinelli criticized the House panel for not budging in its request to have Wolf, whose nomination is pending, testify Thursday.

"Chairman Thompson can complain all he wants, but the facts are clear, and they are not on his side," Cuccinelli said Wednesday in a statement. "Longstanding precedent says that pending nominees don't testify to other committees as their nomination is pending."

Cuccinelli referenced DHS' offer for him to testify in Wolf's stead, which was included in a letter to Thompson last week, prior to the subpoena, stating that Wolf was "unable to accommodate" testifying.

"I had testimony prepared and had my schedule clear to show up at this morning's hearing," Cuccinelli said. "Instead, the committee majority decided that they would rather put on a show for the media."

The committee issued the subpoena to Wolf last week amid whistleblower allegations that he urged department officials to alter intelligence.

"From the coronavirus pandemic to the rise of right-wing extremism to ongoing election interference, there are urgent threats requiring our attention," Thompson said in a statement Friday. "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."

Thompson's committee previously issued subpoenas to Wolf's predecessor Kevin McAleenan for a terrorism hearing. McAleenan ultimately appeared before the panel.


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