The Government Accountability Office said the appointments of two controversial Trump officials were against the law.
The Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan congressional watchdog, released a report on Friday saying two of Donald Trump's top officials were illegally appointed to their roles, as Trump did not properly follow laws guiding the order of succession.
The report determined that both Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, and Ken Cuccinelli, who currently serves as both senior official performing the duties of the deputy secretary for DHS as well as acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, were not correctly appointed to their roles and are thus serving illegally.
The GAO said it did not "review the consequences" of the fact that both Wolf and Cuccinelli were illegally appointed. Instead, it said it recommends the DHS inspector general look into that.
However, it raises questions about the legality of both men's actions in leading the department.
"To be clear, a GAO opinion doesn't automatically invalidate Wolf's and Cuccinelli's appointments," Steve Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law who specializes in presidential appointments, tweeted. "But there are a number of pending lawsuits raising similar challenges to the appointments (and actions taken under them), which the GAO opinion notes, that just got a *major* boost."
The report came after Reps. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), chair of the Homeland Security Committee, and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, asked the GAO in November 2019 to review both Wolf and Cuccinelli's appointments.
"GAO's damning opinion paints a disturbing picture of the Trump Administration playing fast and loose by bypassing the Senate confirmation process to install ideologues," Thompson and Maloney said in a joint statement Friday morning.
"In its haste to circumvent Congress’s constitutional role in confirming the government's top officials to deliver on the President’s radical agenda, the Administration violated the Department’s order of succession, as required by law," they added.
The GAO report comes after a federal judge ruled in March that Cuccinelli was illegally appointed to head USCIS and that his attempts to restrict asylum in the United States were also illegal.
DHS did not immediately respond to request for comment on whether any action will be taken given the GAO report.
Both Wolf and Cuccinelli have made controversial decisions in their roles.
Cuccinelli attempted to change asylum policy to cut the amount of time asylum seekers have to make their claim that they face persecution if they are sent back to the countries they came from.
Wolf tried to block New York residents from applying for the Global Entry program, which cuts wait times in customs for U.S. citizens, as a ransom of sorts to demand that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo turn over access to the state's motor vehicle database after New York passed a law allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses.
Wolf also ordered federal agents into Portland, Oregon, to infiltrate racial justice protests. Those federal agents beat, tear-gassed, and even abducted peaceful protesters, leading to even bigger protests and accusations from Oregon officials that Wolf was trying to score political points for Trump.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.