Politics

Goodbye, Chad Wolf

Chad Wolf holds some papers as he walks toward the camera in a hearing room.
Chad Wolf in Washington on Feb. 25. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Goodbye, Chad Wolf! This guy, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, is one of the most dangerous types of Trump administration official: a former bottom-of-the-barrel functionary, who’s worked his way up through his willingness to echo Trump’s rhetoric and do Trump’s bidding. Wolf is exactly the kind of person who would have become even scarier in a second Trump term—which is why it’s so great that he’s not going to get a chance.

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Wolf worked as a bureaucrat in the Transportation Security Administration during the Bush years, then spent a decade as a lobbyist, swimming happily in the infamous Swamp. When he started working for the Trump administration, he began again at the TSA, working there for four months before moving to DHS. He was an aide to the acting Secretary Elaine Duke, then chief of staff to Kirstjen Nielsen; he then became an undersecretary and moved to the acting secretary job last year.

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Wolf was not Trump’s choice for the acting secretary job, Abigail Tracy wrote in a recent assessment of Wolf’s rise for Vanity Fair. But due to a lack of other choices, and a perception that Wolf might be willing to toe the line, he got the nod. Senior adviser Stephen Miller, in particular, saw Wolf as a willing tool for his policies. “Stephen really tried to be the shadow secretary of Homeland Security, and his vessel for doing that was Chad,” a former DHS official told Tracy.

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Tracy also interviewed several former colleagues of Wolf’s, who said that when they worked with him, he was “an effective but milquetoast bureaucrat.” But after getting onto the ladder at Trump’s DHS, Wolf became something else—something Trumpier. In public statements, he has been quite willing to advance Trumpian arguments: This past summer, he told ABC’s This Week that there was no “systemic racism” problem in law enforcement; in early September, he used the occasion of a “State of the Homeland” address to blame China and the World Health Organization for the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Behind the scenes, Wolf has also been willing to use the department to advance sinister policies on Trump’s and Miller’s behalf. It was Wolf who, in December 2017, drafted the memo of policy recommendations that proposed the separation of “family units” (how cold that sounds) at the border. He then lied to Congress, during his confirmation for his undersecretary job, about his knowledge of the family separation policy. More recently, under his leadership, expedited deportation programs have been hustling migrant asylum-seekers out of the country without benefit of legal counsel, using COVID-19 as cover.

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And it was Wolf who decided to send federal agents to Portland, Oregon, this summer, to quell protests there, though the governor and mayor of the state and city in question informed him they’d rather not have his “help.” Those terrifying unmarked agents hustling protesters into vans were acting on his behest. Summing up Wolf’s recent actions in July, my colleague Jeremy Stahl wrote that Wolf had “graduated from advocating kidnapping children from their parents at the border to kidnapping grown adults on American streets.”

Lately, there have been more garden-variety—at least for this Administration—whispers of rule-bending and corruption. The Government Accountability Office found in August that Wolf and fellow DHS official Ken Cuccinelli may not have been serving in their roles lawfully. Also in August, CNBC reported that several former lobbying clients of Wolf’s had won DHS contracts during his tenure. Then, news broke that a consulting firm where Wolf’s wife works had been awarded more than $6 million in DHS contracts in the past two years. Then, a whistleblower filed a complaint alleging that the Trump administration had tried to “censor or manipulate” intelligence, including intelligence about possible election interference. At a Senate hearing, Wolf called this allegation “patently false.”

Despite everything, Wolf’s nomination to become secretary for real advanced in late September, after a Senate Homeland Security Committee vote split along party lines. But with a Trump loss, it looks like this jumped-up swamp creature, whose fingerprints are on some of the worst offenses against humanity and civil rights that this administration has concocted, may finally be out of luck. To which we say: Too bad, so sad! Goodbye!

This is part of a series of goodbyes to Trumpworld figures. Read the rest here.

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