Chad Wolf is the acting Secretary of Homeland Security. The department’s recent handling of the protests in Portland, Oregon has drawn criticism and put Wolf in the media spotlight.
Representative Veronica Escobar called out Wolf on Twitter on July 17 after he defended the Department of Homeland Security in an interview with Fox News. Escobar said Wolf’s interview showed “extraordinary vanity and arrogance” and asked him to resign.
Extraordinary vanity and arrogance.
It's one thing to "protect" federal buildings, quite another to for @DHSgov to behave like a secret police force in the shocking way we have seen on video.
"Acting" @DHS_Wolf needs to resign.
The megalomania of this poseur needs to end. https://t.co/tmSK85dkTe
— Rep. Veronica Escobar (@RepEscobar) July 17, 2020
This came after the Department of Homeland Security was questioned about the legitimacy of its deployment of federal agents to Portland. Viral videos show federal officers arresting protestors in unmarked vehicles, which prompted the U.S. Attorney for the Oregon District Billy J. Williams to call for an investigation into the arrests, according to CNN.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Wolf Is Being Criticized for The Deployment of Federal Agents to Portland
People in Portland have been protesting against police brutality and racial injustice for at least 50 nights since the killing of George Floyd at the end of May, CNN reported. After President Trump signed an executive order to protect monuments on June 26, the Department of Homeland Security formed “rapid deployment teams,” according to the New York Times.
However, the arrival of federal agents and their handling of the protests have sparked criticism. The Hill reported that federal officers without insignia used unmarked vehicles to arrest protestors abruptly, while an internal memo prepared for Wolf warned that the officers deployed to Portland lacked proper training, according to the New York Times.
The Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security on July 17, accusing the department of violating constitutional rights by conducting unlawful detainment of Black Lives Matter protestors, NBC News reported.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler condemned the actions of federal officers and demanded the removal of them, while Oregon Governor Kate Brown said the federal law enforcement was “adding gasoline to a fire,” according to NPR.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Twitter that the actions of the Department of Homeland Security in Portland “undermine its mission.” She also described the federal agents in Portland as “unidentified stormtroopers” and said they “kidnapped protestors.”
2. Wolf Described Protestors as a ‘Violent Mob’
Portland police declared the protest on the night of July 18 a riot after protestors broke into the police union building and set a fire, according to CBS News. Police deployed tear gas again and was seen striking a protestor with a baton, according to KOIN 6 News.
Federal police strike protester with baton, use pepper spray and tear gas outside courthouse in Portland pic.twitter.com/VX2xTVaaYq
— Zane Sparling (@PDXzane) July 19, 2020
Amid growing tensions between protestors and federal law enforcement, Wolf took to Twitter to voice support for federal agents. “Our men and women in uniform are patriots. We will never surrender to violent extremists on my watch,” he tweeted.
In a statement, Wolf blamed local leaders on the escalating violence and condemned the protestors and called them a “violent mob:”
The city of Portland has been under siege for 47 straight days by a violent mob while local political leaders refuse to restore order to protect their city. Each night, lawless anarchists destroy and desecrate property, including the federal courthouse, and attack the brave law enforcement officers protecting it.
A snapshot of the violence we are seeing nightly in Portland for 47 days now:
-violent anarchists have repeatedly shot explosive fireworks into a courthouse
-violent anarchists have repeatedly broken windows and doors while attempting to take over courthouses pic.twitter.com/uGxkablXuP
— Acting Secretary Chad Wolf (@DHS_Wolf) July 16, 2020
He refused to remove federal law enforcement from Portland, according to Newsweek. Previously, he also denied that there were systemic racism problems within law enforcement in the country, ABC News reported.
3. Wolf Was Confirmed as The Undersecretary of DHS Policy & The Acting Secretary of The Entire Agency on The Same Day
Wolf was designated as the Acting Secretary of Homeland security by President Trump in November 2019 as the successor of Kevin McAleenan. He is also the first Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans, according to the department’s website.
Before that, Wolf served as the Acting Undersecretary for the Office of Strategy, Policy and Plans, and was nominated to serve permanently in that role in February 2019, according to the Washington Post. However, his nomination was blocked by Democratic Senator Jacky Rosen, in protest of the “inhumane and substandard” conditions for children at DHS facilities, CNN reported.
According to NBC News, Wolf had to be confirmed in the aforementioned position to earn legitimacy in the Acting Secretary role at the Department of Homeland Security. He was finally approved to become the Undersecretary for the Office of Strategy, Policy and Plans on November 13, 2019, and on the same day sworn in as the Acting Secretary of the entire department, Politico reported.
Wolf’s LinkedIn profile shows that he worked at the lobbying and consulting firm Wexler & Walker from 2005 to 2017, and worked briefly as the Chief of Staff of the Transportation Security Administration in March 2017 before joining the Department of Homeland Security.
4. Wolf Was ‘an Early Architect’ of The Family Separation Policy
Having lobbied for the National Association of Software and Service Companies, a group in favor of the H1-B visa, Wolf was considered by some to be less hard-line on immigration than the president, according to Politico. However, NBC News reported that Wolf was behind the migrant family separation policy.
While he was working as the Chief of Staff under then-secretary Kirsten Nielsen in December 2017, he outlined 16 options to crack down on undocumented immigrants and sent them to a counselor of then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, according to emails obtained by NBC News.
Announce that DHS is considering separating family units, placing the adults in detention and placing minors under the age of 18 in the custody of HHS as unaccompanied alien children.
One of the options, Wolf wrote, was to “separate family units,” whose details were later put into practice in May and June in 2018, according to NBC News.
Restore Public Trust, a watchdog group, said that Wolf’s schedule suggested that he participated in meetings and phone calls that discussed the family separation policy. The group also asked a Senate committee to refer Wolf to be investigated for making false claims about his role in this policy in November 2019.
5. Wolf Went to College on a Tennis Scholarship
Wolf graduated from Plano East Senior High School in Plano, Texas, and went to Collin College on a tennis scholarship. He spent two years there, and said the experience “laid the foundation to build upon,” according to Connection, the community newsletter for Collin College.
He went on to study at Southern Methodist University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history and political science in 1998, his LinkedIn profile shows.
After graduation, he walked around Capitol Hill with a stack of his resumes during his first week in Washington D.C., meeting with staff members of the Texas delegation, he told Connection. He eventually landed a job in the office of then-Senator Phil Gramm and started his career in public service.
Wolf also holds a Master’s Certificate in Government Contract Management from Villanova University.
READ MORE: Learn More About The Protests in Portland