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DHS tries to self-correct succession order amid challenges to acting secretary's authority

November 18, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

US President Donald Trump delivers remarks on immigration and border security to members of the border patrol as Acting secretary of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf (L) looks on at the international airport in Yuma, Arizona on August 18, 2020. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

The Department of Homeland Security tried to self-correct its line of succession for the second time in the last three months over concerns about acting Secretary Chad Wolf's authority.

(CNN)The Department of Homeland Security tried to self-correct its line of succession for the second time in the last three months over concerns about acting Secretary Chad Wolf's authority.

Over the weekend, a federal judge ruled Wolf was not legally serving as acting secretary when he signed rules limiting applications and renewals for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Wolf's legitimacy has been an ongoing struggle for the department and has threatened to derail policies and other actions put in place during his tenure.

CNN reported Friday that there has been a renewed push to get Wolf confirmed as Homeland Security secretary before Inauguration Day, which if successful, could help alleviate legal challenges.

In August, the Government Accountability Office concluded that the appointments of Wolf and Ken Cuccinelli were named in an "invalid order of succession" and their appointments have been challenged in federal court.

On Saturday, DHS had Pete Gaynor, who is the Senate-confirmed FEMA administrator, temporarily exercise the authority of Homeland Security secretary to try to alleviate concerns over Wolf's legitimacy as acting chief of the department.

Under one interpretation, Gaynor would be the lawfully serving acting secretary based on the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.

Several federal judges have raised concerns that Wolf was not lawfully appointed, a point not missed by Judge Nicholas Garaufis, who ruled in the DACA case.

House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, called Gaynor's move "legal gymnastics" that won't change the fact that department leadership made a "massive error over a year ago in improperly designating an Acting Secretary. "

"I hope Federal courts continue to rule as they have been: that Chad Wolf's appointment was illegal and his policies are invalid," Thompson wrote in a statement.

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