Confirmation gets trickier for Trump Homeland Security pick

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Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf speaks during an event at DHS headquarters in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON – A whistleblower's complaint and a tight timeline are making it increasingly unlikely that the Senate will confirm Chad Wolf as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security before the election.

President Donald Trump formally sent the nomination late Thursday to the Senate after announcing his intention to appoint Wolf in a tweet last month. But Republican senators, who are fighting to keep their majority in November, appear in no rush to launch a heated confirmation that will force uncomfortable questions about whether agency actions were driven by Trump’s political agenda.

The Senate’s Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, headed by Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, may still pursue a hearing to consider Wolf’s nomination in the weeks ahead. But the full Senate is unlikely to hold a confirmation vote before the election, said two Republican aides granted anonymity to discuss private deliberations. Senators could recess by the end of the month.

On Friday, Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, announced his panel was expanding its probe into politicization at DHS following the whistleblower's complaints over the department's handling of intelligence information on election interference by the Russians, the threat posed by white supremacists and other matters.

Schiff wrote to DHS officials that based on the new information the committee's investigation will now encompass “a wider range of reported abuses, deficiencies, and problems, including allegations of improper politicization of intelligence and political interference.”

It was already going to be hard to secure a confirmation vote ahead of the Senate's October recess even before the new allegations that Wolf and other DHS officials sought to influence intelligence.

The president said it will be up to Wolf to answer questions raised in the complaint from Brian Murphy, who said he was demoted from his DHS intelligence post after a series of clashes with agency leaders over reports on threats to the homeland.

Trump told reporters Thursday that he hadn't seen the whistleblower complaint. “But ask Chad Wolf," he said before heading to a campaign rally in Michigan. “He’s the one that would know something about it."