WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s acting head of the Department of Homeland Security abruptly resigned Monday, leaving the post ahead of schedule as the nation faces a heightened terrorism threat from extremists seeking to reverse the election.
The announcement by acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf was perplexing. It came less than a week after he pledged to remain in office and just 10 days before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. Wolf cited a legal challenge to his leadership as a reason for his resignation, but that had surfaced months ago.
"For months we have known Chad Wolf has been serving illegally in his position, so the timing of his resignation from the Department today is questionable,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "He has chosen to resign during a time of national crisis and when domestic terrorists may be planning additional attacks on our government.”
Wolf, who had been serving in an acting capacity since November 2019 and was never confirmed by the Senate, said he was compelled to leave by "recent events,” including court rulings that found he could not legally hold the position. He did not specify the other events or cite other factors.
The resignation came a day before Trump was set to visit the U.S.-Mexico border wall, Trump’s signature political project and one overseen by DHS.
Wolf’s departure followed the abrupt resignation of other Cabinet officials angered by Trump’s role in encouraging the mob to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6 over his false claims of election fraud.
Wolf condemned the violent attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters, calling it "tragic and sickening.” He also said then he would stay on at DHS until the end of the administration to ensure a smooth transition and to help the department stay focused on the threats facing the nation.
It was unclear what prompted him to change course with the nation braced for the potential for more violence ahead of the Jan. 20 inauguration. The FBI has warned of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington, D.C
Wolf led DHS as it carried out Trump administration priorities on immigration and law enforcement, prompting criticism that he politicized a department that was created to better protect the nation in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.