President Donald Trump told reporters Friday that he will select Chad Wolf to head the Department of Homeland Security.
Wolf is the fifth person to lead an agency that has seen an unprecedented level of turnover during the last year and has a stable of acting leaders in key positions.
Trump announced the selection of Wolf — who is currently the acting undersecretary for the DHS's Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans — to reporters outside the White House. Wolf will be in an acting appointment as DHS secretary.
“Well, he’s right now acting, and we’ll see what happens,” Trump said. “We have great people in there.”
A DHS spokesperson said that Kevin McAleenan, who resigned from the role in October, is still the current acting secretary. McAleenan had planned to leave on Halloween, but was expected to stay in the role until early next week as the administration transitions to another leader.
Later in the day, a White House spokesperson told reporters McAleenan would be leaving after Veterans Day "and after he departs, Chad Wolf will serve as acting secretary in the interim."
He declined to say who the president will nominate to lead the department on a permanent basis.
The apparent ascension of Wolf, who was chief of staff for former DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, is a blow to those who favored a hardliner in the position, like Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
For months, since his appointment at USCIS, Cuccinelli has been viewed as auditioning for the role of DHS secretary, often appearing on Fox News praising the president and weighing in on Twitter on immigration policy beyond the scope of his agency, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement operations.
But a senior administration official told BuzzFeed News the choice of Wolf "means a leader who can advocate for the entire DHS mission."
"From securing the border to emergency management, his track record and experience positions the department for success," the official said.
Wolf held his position as chief of staff for Nielsen during the bulk of her time as secretary. In his role, Wolf was integral to the then-secretary as she navigated controversial policy decisions, such as the one to separate parents charged with crossing into the country illegally from their children. Wolf coordinated Nielsen’s schedule, wrote and edited speeches, briefed her for meetings on immigration policy and other matters, and traveled with her for appearances on the border and elsewhere. In February, Wolf was nominated to be undersecretary of the DHS Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans.
During his time at DHS under the Trump administration, Wolf has been a part of an agency in turmoil. In the past year alone, ICE has had three leadership changes and shifts in directors at USCIS and US Customs and Border Protection. At DHS alone, the directors of ICE, USCIS, CBP, and FEMA are all in acting roles.
Wolf has had his own nomination for undersecretary stalled by Sen. Jacky Rosen, a Democrat from Nevada, because of his connection to the separations of families at the border.
“Chad Wolf played a direct role in the zero-tolerance policy that led to the humanitarian crisis at our border,” Rosen tweeted last week. “His failure to take responsibility for his role is disappointing and disingenuous. I’ve had a hold on his pending nomination since June & will until conditions improve.”
Prior to his position with Nielsen, Wolf worked in the Senate as a legislative assistant to Chuck Hagel, as an administrator at the Transportation Security Administration, and subsequently was vice president of Wexler & Walker, a lobbying firm that later shut down.