Sep 23, 2020
Chad Wolf DHS Secretary Senate Nomination Hearing Transcript September 23
The Senate held a confirmation hearing for acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf on September 23. Read the full transcript of the hearing here.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
Chariman Johnson: (00:50)
[inaudible 00:00:50] … tested positive. That individual is doing very well, very mild symptoms. I’ve had no symptoms and quite honestly tested negative just this Monday as well. But I’m here in Oshkosh and having to do this remotely. So I apologize for that. Today we are meeting to consider the nomination of acting secretary of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, to be the confirmed Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, which is an enormous task. And I’ve stated this in the past. I truly appreciate anybody who’s willing to undertake such an enormous responsibility.
Chariman Johnson: (01:32)
I would ask that my written opening remarks be entered into the record. Without objection, we will do that. I’ll just keep it short because I know we’ve got time constraints here. But a quick description of what an enormous challenge this is. The Secretary of Homeland Security manages 240,000 people in the department. The responsibilities for Homeland Security are vast. Start with the Federal Emergency Management Agency that has to deal with hurricanes and wildfires and now COVID amongst many other responsibilities. Border security is a huge issue. We’ve not fixed that problem, not by a long stretch. But this administration’s done a pretty good job of stopping the out of control illegal entry that we were experiencing over a year ago.
Chariman Johnson: (02:23)
[inaudible 00:02:25]. This department is concerned about cybersecurity, election security, security of our critical infrastructure. And as we just witnessed with some of the protests that have sprung into riots, also protecting our federal buildings. And of course, we tragically lost David Patrick Underwood in Oakland, California member of the Federal Protection Services. So again, the responsibilities are enormous. I don’t envy any Secretary of Homeland Security’s task. I truly appreciate anybody willing to serve in this capacity.
Chariman Johnson: (02:58)
One quick word. I do want to talk about, from my standpoint, what an extraordinary job DHS and quite honestly, this administration, has done in dealing with COVID. I know that’s not the narrative in the mainstream media and from many of my colleagues. But the fact of the matter is I come from manufacturing background. I understand a difficult situation. COVID is an act of God. And if you think back to the beginning of this, when we were concerned about running out of ventilators, we didn’t. The president invoked the War Production Act, and we’ve produced ventilators at a record pace and nobody ran out. Personal protective equipment, PPE. I know it wasn’t perfect. I know people didn’t get everything they wanted. But again, nobody ran out and that was dealing with a very difficult situation where demand outstripped supply by two to three times. We heard that in testimony before this committee. So I know the acting secretary, I know Pete Gaynor, I know the men and women throughout the federal agencies that are dealing with COVID. They’ve been working 24/ 7. And from my standpoint, they’ve done a pretty extraordinary job do with a very difficult situation.
Chariman Johnson: (04:08)
What’s unfortunate of someone like Acting Secretary Wolf, I said these exact same thing with the Louis DeJoy hearing with the postmaster general. Not only is it a thankless task, but it’s a task that unfortunately opens you up to character assassination as well. So I find that very unfortunate. Personally, I want to thank you and the men and women that serve with you in the department for working tirelessly to try and keep our homeland secure, keep this nation safe and dealing with all these enormous issues that you’re dealing with day in and day out, like I said, 24/7. So again, Acting Secretary Wolf, thank you for your past service. Thank you for your willingness to serve in this capacity as well. And I welcome you and any guests that you may have brought to the hearing room. If you did, I hope you can introduce some of your family members. With that, I’ll turn it over to Senator Peters.
Senator Peters: (05:04)
Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you Acting Secretary Wolf for being here and for your willingness to serve. Today, we’re considering the nomination of Chad Wolf to be the Secretary of Homeland Security. And under this administration, we have seen, unfortunately, an unprecedented willingness to abandon the norms of Senate confirmed cabinet officials. This has been a particular problem at the Department of Homeland Security, the country’s third largest agency, and a absolute critical part of safeguarding our national security.
Senator Peters: (05:37)
Vacancies and acting officials are part of every administration, but they should be rare. This administration has abused vacancies to the detriment of this department. The president refused to formally nominate a leader for the DHS for more than 500 days, a move that was not only legally questionable, but created chaos and confusion at the agency charged with addressing numerous threats to our national security. The department cannot successfully tackle the serious challenges it faces without strong, steady, and independent leadership.
Senator Peters: (06:18)
While Mr. Wolf has experience at the department, primarily as the chief of staff, but also as an under secretary and now acting secretary, he has been involved in some of the most controversial and concerning decisions the department has made. These decisions warrant a critical review of Mr. Wolf’s record and call into question whether he is the right person for this critical role.
Senator Peters: (06:41)
Under Mr. Wolf’s leadership, the department has faced daunting challenges, asylum seekers at our Southern border, the pandemic, civil unrest, and deadly wildfires and hurricanes. While these challenges would strain even the most prepared staff, I’m concerned by reports of slow decision-making and the sidelining of experts, reports that raise serious questions about the judgment and independence of agency leaders.
Senator Peters: (07:10)
I’m also concerned by how the department has failed to adequately address the rise of domestic terrorism and white supremacist violence. So as you can see, I have a graph here behind me. As you can see from this graph, the data shows that extremism based in white nationalism, anti-Semitism and other things ideologies account for more than 77% of domestic terror murders in the United States. You had recent reports and statements from former DHS employees have indicated that the White House, in cooperation with Mr. Wolf, have downplayed this threat in public risk assessments. Rhetoric and political ideology cannot drive intelligence reports, and it should not predetermine the actions of any federal department.
Senator Peters: (08:04)
While the threat of domestic terror is not new, the department’s necessary shift from focusing mainly on the foreign threats that have dominated the department’s origins or since the department’s origins. It has been 18 years since Congress passed legislation to establish this massive agency and so much has certainly changed since then. Our country faces persistent threats, both longstanding and new, including foreign and domestic terrorism, election security, natural disasters, cyber attacks, and now a pandemic. It is this committee’s responsibility to ensure that any nominee to lead this colossal department has the experience, temperament and leadership to address these threats head-on to protect the American people.
Senator Peters: (08:56)
Before I wrap up my remarks, I want to just take a moment to acknowledge the severe toll that the pandemic has had taken on the Department of Homeland Security. Hundreds of frontline personnel have been infected while working every day to keep us safe. We have also tragically lost six TSA officials to the pandemic. Our hearts go out to all of those who have suffered because of this terrible disease. I would also like to recognize a border patrol agent who is fighting for his life now after being attacked in Arizona while on duty Monday night. I wish him a speedy recovery. And I thank him and his fellow border patrol agents for the work that they do each and every day to keep us safe.
Senator Peters: (09:41)
Again, Mr. Wolf, thank you for your willingness to serve and for being here today to answer our questions. I look forward to having a thorough discussion about the many pressing issues that face the department and our country. So welcome. And Mr. Chairman, I would also like to ask unanimous consent to enter a letter received a yesterday from House Homeland Security Committee, Chairman Bennie Thompson, outlining his concerns with Acting Secretary Wolf’s lack of compliance with requests for information.
Chariman Johnson: (10:14)
Senator Peters: (10:17)
Chariman Johnson: (10:19)
Thank you, Senator Peters. Now it’s our pleasure to have Senator Ted Cruz, who’s going to introduce Mr. Wolf. Senator Cruz.
Senator Ted Cruz: (10:29)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to the committee for welcoming me here. I have to say, Mr. Chairman, as you self-isolate from home, this may actually be a historic moment in that this may be the first Senate committee hearing ever with a pool table in the background, as I can see you have a lovely pool table in your living room. And I will say at this time of deep and contentious division, perhaps if the Senate gathered around a pool table with a beer, we might be able to get more done than sitting in hearing rooms yelling at each other. But that may not be happening today.
Senator Ted Cruz: (11:07)
With that, it is a real pleasure to introduce Chad Wolf, who is a fellow Texan and a dedicated public service. He is an individual that I believe is eminently qualified to be the next Secretary of Homeland Security.
Senator Ted Cruz: (11:26)
Chad was born in Jackson, Mississippi, but he very quickly made his way to the great state of Texas and he grew up in Plano, Texas. He earned a degree in American history from Southern Methodist University and began his career in working for not one, but two Texas senators, Phil Graham, and my predecessor, Kay Bailey Hutchison. Chad left The Hill after the September 11th attacks to serve our country and to protect us from terrorist threats, going to work at the newly created Transportation Security Administration in 2002. He became an early leader at the TSA, finishing out his first run of service there in 2005 as assistant administrator for Transportation Security Policy.
Senator Ted Cruz: (12:12)
After over a decade in the private sector, Chad returned to the TSA as chief of staff in 2017 before becoming deputy chief of staff and eventually chief of staff at the full Department of Homeland Security. He has been acting secretary of Homeland Security since November 2019. And in that role, he has shown strong leadership. That leadership I believe has been tested in particular by the protests that became riots and the violence that we have seen across the country. Nowhere was that violence, were those riots worse than in Portland, Oregon, where night after night, thousands of angry protesters physically assaulted federal law enforcement officers, attacked the federal courthouse, threw fire bombs, attempted to wreak havoc.
Senator Ted Cruz: (13:17)
Mr. Wolf took his responsibility to protect federal facilities and to protect federal personnel with the gravest seriousness. He did so at a time when political divisions in this country made it much more difficult to do so. He did so at a time when the mayor of Portland and the governor of Oregon both told him to, in no uncertain terms, get the hell out. Mr. Wolf was not cowed by political pressure. He was not cowed by the partisan anger of the moment. He was not willing to abandon a federal courthouse, which was still hearing cases, was still in operation. He was not willing simply to hand the courthouse over to the mob and allow them to burn the courthouse to the ground. Nor was he willing to abandon the men and women who he’s been entrusted to lead.
Senator Ted Cruz: (14:22)
Federal law enforcement officers faced hundreds of violent physical attacks in Portland, having rocks thrown at them, water bottles thrown at them, having industrial grade lasers fired in their eyes resulting in numerous serious eye injuries. Having commercial fireworks thrown at them, having fire bombs thrown at them. Protesters armed with guns, with knives, night after night after night attacking federal law enforcement officers in a profoundly politicized context. And I’ll tell you, I have been impressed by Acting Secretary Wolf’s steadfast commitment to do his job, to follow the law, to protect the federal facilities he was charged to protect, and to stand with the men and women, the law enforcement officers who were risking their lives to do their job. I believe that record, in addition to his long history and experience, qualifies him well to be confirmed as Secretary of Homeland Security. And I’m proud to introduce a fellow Texan.
Chariman Johnson: (15:43)
Thank you, Senator Cruz, for that introduction and your really powerful opening statement. It is the tradition of this committee to swear witnesses in. So Acting Secretary Wolf, if you’ll stand and raise your right hand.
Chariman Johnson: (15:59)
Do you swear the testimony you will give before this committee will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?
Chad Wolf: (16:04)
Chariman Johnson: (16:05)
Thank you. Please be seated. The honorable Chad Wolf is the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Mr. Wolf was appointed to the acting secretary position following his confirmation as under secretary for the Office of Strategy, Policy and Plans in November 2019. While serving as the senior official overseeing the department’s policymaking process, Mr. Wolf led the development and coordination of strategies and policies to advance the department’s homeland security mission. Mr. Wolf previously held numerous senior leadership roles within the department, including serving as the chief of staff for the department. Prior to joining the administration, Mr. Wolf served as vice president and senior director at Wexler and Walker, a bipartisan public policy consulting firm. Mr. Wolf.
Chad Wolf: (16:51)
Well, good morning Chairman Johnson, Ranking Member Peters, and other distinguished members of the committee. Certainly an honor to appear before you today as the president’s nominee to be the Secretary of Homeland Security, I’m grateful to the president for the faith and trust he has placed in me to serve the tremendous men and women of the department, whose mission is now more important and more critical to the safety and security of the homeland than ever before. Again, I’d like to thank Senator Cruz for being here today to introduce me and for his kind words, but more importantly for his continued support for the department and our mission.
Chad Wolf: (17:24)
As each of you personally understand, service to one’s country means dedication, hard work and commitment. That dedication often means less personal time with family and loved ones, which is a sacrifice felt by all of us in public service. For many years, my family has made tremendous sacrifices so that I could serve our nation. I’d like to take this time to recognize them for their ongoing encouragement, patience, and support as I continue my journey at the department. Please allow me to introduce my wife of 16 years, Hope. She is my rock and without her, I would not be here today. I would also like to acknowledge our two children, Tucker and Preston, who keep me grounded and focused on the important things in life like little league. I’d like to recognize my parents, Jim and Sinda, who were unable to travel to DC today, but who are proudly watching these proceedings in real time. From an early age, they instilled in me a sense of service and commitment, and they have been immensely supportive of my desire to pursue public service throughout my career.
Chad Wolf: (18:21)
I’d also like to think numbers of this committee and their staffs for the important work that you do every day. I’ve had the privilege to meet many of you throughout the past several years and if confirmed, I look forward to the opportunity of continuing to work closely together to advance the mission of the department.
Chad Wolf: (18:36)
And finally, I would like to thank the DHS workforce for what they do every day of keeping the homeland safe and secure. Most Americans don’t understand the sacrifices that they make, the unfair criticism that they endure and the complexities of their job. But from one employee to another, I say thank you for your service.
Chad Wolf: (18:55)
Like many Americans, my personal call to service began on September 11th when I was a congressional staffer here on Capitol Hill. At that time, I had no idea that the events of that morning would forever shape my future as well as the future of our nation. Heeding the call to service, I joined, again, asa Senator Cruz indicated, Transportation Security Administration, the very agency task securing our airways and for ensuring that another event like 9/11 never happened again. I was proud to serve at TSA during its inception, as well as its integration into the larger department.
Chad Wolf: (19:29)
Over the past several years, I’ve had several positions at DHS, including, among others, as the department’s chief of staff, assistant secretary and undersecretary position, as well as the currently acting secretary position. Over the past 10 months, while serving as the acting secretary, our nation and the department has experienced some of the most difficult challenges of our lifetime, but I couldn’t be prouder of the accomplishments we’ve achieved. We faced a global pandemic head-on and led the federal government’s unprecedented response efforts to include the coordinated distribution of billions of items of life-saving PPE. We’ve aggressively pushed back against malign foreign actors and nation states who have sought to interfere in our elections. And we have worked together with all 50 states and territories to protect our election infrastructure.
Chad Wolf: (20:14)
We’ve been tireless in our efforts because we believe that free and fair elections are the foundation of our democracy. We have taken extraordinary measures to protect the American people from a broad array of threats to include homegrown violent extremists, domestic violent extremists, human traffickers, transnational organized crime, illegal narcotics, COVID-19 fraud and more. We’ve stood firm against civil unrest and violence, much of which have been directed towards our nation’s federal properties and law enforcement officers themselves. The department has surged resources as needed, provided mutual aid to state and local partners as appropriate, and has done so with the respect and professionalism I’ve come to expect from the dedicated men and women of DHS law enforcement. And finally, we are supporting our state and local partners as they continue to combat historic wildfires and prepare and recover from numerous hurricanes.
Chad Wolf: (21:08)
Against each of these challenges, the department has marshaled our assets, exercised our authorities, and unified our efforts to safeguard the American people and our way of life. But despite the challenges of today, our eyes are remaining firmly on the horizon. As the strategies of our enemies evolve, DHS will adapt at every turn to defeat those who seek to do our nation harm. As the men and women of DHS can attest, our mission is anything but simple or easy. It is one that is increasingly complex and expansive, one that transcends borders, mission sets and threat streams. Answering the call often in the most arduous of environments and difficult of circumstances has been my sole focus since day one. It’s been the greatest honor of a life to serve alongside the 240,000 men and women of the department. And if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed, I look forward to continuing our progress to secure and protect the lives of all Americans. Thank you.
Chariman Johnson: (22:05)
Thank you, Acting Secretary Wolf. Again, thank you for your service. I also want to express my sincere gratitude to your wife and your children. I’m sure they don’t see you a whole lot, particularly not since you started serving this role. So thank you very much.
Chariman Johnson: (22:20)
There are three questions the committee asks of every nominee for the record. So let me [inaudible 00:22:25] respond to each one. Number one. Is there anything you are aware of in your background that might present a conflict of interest with the duties of the office to which you have been nominated?
Chad Wolf: (22:35)
Chariman Johnson: (22:37)
Do you know of anything, personal or otherwise, that would in any way prevent you from fully and honorably discharging the responsibilities of the office to which you’ve been nominated?
Chad Wolf: (22:47)
Chariman Johnson: (22:49)
Do you agree without reservation to comply with any requests or summons to appear and testify before any duly constituted committee of Congress if you are confirmed?
Chad Wolf: (22:57)
Chariman Johnson: (23:02)
Frequently, I will reserve my time and pass the question, but maybe it’s because I’ve been the target of a number of false allegations here over the last few weeks and months, I know you are having to endure many charges as well. So I’m just going to basically give you my time to address four current attacks against you or your office. And I’ll just list them and then you can respond to each of the four. First, if you’d respond to the allegations about the order of succession issue. If you could respond to some charges about events occurring at an ICE detention facility. If you could respond to a whistleblower complaint from Brian Murphy, the former acting under secretary for intelligence and analysis. And then just today, a brand new charge about contracts that were let out by DHS to your wife’s firm. So if you can just take your time, take as much time as you want and just address these for the committee, please.
Chad Wolf: (24:13)
Well, thank you, chairman. I’ll take those in order. We’re certainly aware of the GAO’s opinion regarding the order of succession at the department. I will say that we very strongly disagree with that opinion. I’ll continue to say I respect the role that GAO plays, but that again does not dismiss the fact that we believe they have a faulty decision and the legal logic that they used is very inaccurate. So we’ll continue to talk about that. That is a non-binding decision that the GAO has made. Again, we’ll continue to state our position. We’ve stated it pretty emphatically about that. And so we’ll continue to operate as we have using our existing authorities, using our authorities under the Homeland Security Act to designate successors. The department has unique authority to do that. We did that in this case, not under the Vacancy Reform Act, but under the HSA, which again, GAO did not comment on. So that’s the first one.
Chad Wolf: (25:14)
The ICE whistleblower complaint. Let me just say at the outset whether it’s the ICE whistleblower complaint or any whistleblower complaint, we take whistleblowers very seriously. They have certain rights and we’re going to certainly make sure that those investigations by the Office of Inspector General are played out and we’ll be fully cooperative with that. Regarding the ICE whistleblower complaint, it is my understanding that the OIG has individuals on the ground in that facility in Georgia. They will be talking with those individuals today, tomorrow. So I look forward to that investigation.
Chad Wolf: (25:51)
Some of what we have seen thus far on some of the most, I would say dramatic allegations in that complaint regarding certain medical procedures, some of the facts on the ground and the facts that we have seen do not back up those allegations. But again, I’m going to let the OIG process play out. But if there is a kernel of truth to any of that, you can guarantee that I will hold those accountable and we’ll take very decisive action. But at this point they are allegations and we need to make sure that we fully investigate them so that all sides have a chance to be heard.
Chad Wolf: (26:23)
Regarding the intelligence analysis whistleblower complaint from Mr. Murphy is patently false. It’s a fabrication completely. I reject any claim that I attempted to influence or retaliate against any individual at DHS, but specifically Mr. Murphy. I removed or reassigned Mr. Murphy at the beginning of August for a very specific reason that I issued a statement on it. I talked about it in the media. It was very clear. Because I had received credible allegations that he abused his position, he abused his authority and possibly violated numerous legal requirements when he personally directed the collection of information on US journalists. I have referred that to the OIG. There was an OIG investigation. I told him at the time that I needed to reassign him to ensure that that process, that investigation could go on through INA without any appearance of influence by him leading that organization. Obviously he disagreed with that, and we see what’s occurring at the time.
Chad Wolf: (27:23)
For me, it was a bright line. If there was even any indication that information was being collected on journalists, I had to take that action before any type of investigation was completed. So I’ll continue to talk about everything that I’ve done with INA, the conversations I’ve had with Mr. Murphy, and so happy to go in further on that as well.
Chad Wolf: (27:47)
And then of course, just recently, I think overnight, there’s a new story about some contract that DHS awarded to my wife’s firm. I guess it was in 2018. I just found out about it last night when the media inquiry came in. And so whether I was chief of staff, whether I was the acting secretary, the under secretary or any other position at the department, I have no role in procurements. I don’t even see procurements until they are released, until they’re in the news and on the street. If I was involved procurements, which I am not, I have recusals in place to not only include her firm, but also clients that I had before arriving at the department. So again, fabricated story. There’s obviously no evidence of anything, but that’s not going to stop folks. So I appreciate the opportunity to address each of those, Chairman.
Chariman Johnson: (28:40)
Well, Thank you, Acting Secretary Wolf. Senator Peters, I’ll reserve the balance of my time. Senator Peters.
Senator Peters: (28:47)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Wolf, as we learned from the faulty intelligence related to the search for WMDs in Iraq following 9/11, using intelligence to confirm preconceived beliefs or biases can clearly have some devastating consequences. Trust in institutions is especially essential when you’re dealing with national security issues. It takes years to cultivate trust and only one error of judgment for all of that trust to go away. So, Mr. Wolf, my question is, would you agree that accurate intelligence reports are absolutely crucial for law enforcement and other stakeholders to effectively address and counter threats to our nation?
Chad Wolf: (29:33)
Senator Peters: (29:35)
Is it true that in July, you personally withheld from release an intelligence bulletin calling out a Russian attack on Vice President Biden’s mental health?
Chad Wolf: (29:45)
Senator Peters: (29:48)
You did not withhold it?
Chad Wolf: (29:49)
I did not withhold it. I asked for the product to be improved, which they did over a period of time. And then that product was released at the beginning of September.
Senator Peters: (30:00)
So it was held for a time. In fact, how long was it withheld before the product was improved?
Chad Wolf: (30:07)
So I saw that product at the beginning of July. I outlined my concerns, not with the underlying intelligence. The intelligence I agreed with. The intelligence has been backed up from the IC and others. It was the quality of the product itself that was lacking. And again, any product that comes out of the department, I’m very, very specific on making sure that that is a professional document. When I brought this to the attention of career officials at INA, they agreed with me. They had not seen that product before it was about to go out. They agree that it could be improved. So I asked them to improve that. And then it came back as a better document the beginning of September. Underlying intelligence remained the same. It was better sourced, better put in context for our state and local partners. And it was issued I believe on September 4th.
Senator Peters: (30:51)
So it took a couple months after you looked at it for it to basically come out. Does it normally take about close to two months for you to bring a two page intelligence report up to the quality standards that you think are necessary? Is that-
Senator Peters: (31:03)
[inaudible 00:31:00] intelligence report up to the quality standards that you think are necessary, does it really require that much time?
Chad Wolf: (31:06)
No, it doesn’t. Again, I’d sent it back to INA in our intelligence and analysis office and relied on them to improve the product. At that time, we did have a leadership change at the beginning of August. This is back to my earlier comments about Mr. Murphy being reassigned. So there was a leadership change. We had new leadership, acting leadership that’s come into that office that was reviewing that office and reviewing a number of their reports. So it was part of that process.
Senator Peters: (31:29)
You’re saying it doesn’t normally take two months for a normal two page report to go through, or does it take two months for it to go through, you’re saying that doesn’t go through?
Chad Wolf: (31:37)
I can’t comment on how long it takes INA to produce each of their documents. What I asked them to do is improve upon that product. And so it went from essentially a page and a half to about three and a half pages. And it was again, better context and a better product at the end of the day. But I think the important part is the underlying intelligence did not change. I didn’t direct them to change it-
Senator Peters: (31:57)
Well, I get that-
Chad Wolf: (31:58)
I was focused on the quality of the product itself.
Senator Peters: (32:01)
Well, I understand that Mr. Wolf, it just seems to be a real long time to do that kind of change. And it’s curious that the report was only issued after news broke about it. So here we go, a couple page report, doesn’t get out, news breaks that there’s an issue. And then suddenly it comes forward. My understanding is that there have been a number of potentially problematic products coming from INA. You and I have spoken about that in the past. But is it possible that your staff chose to elevate this particular report to you? Because there are a lot of reports that come out. Is it possible that your staff elevated this report that you withheld from release so for some time, because it was about the president’s opponent?
Chad Wolf: (32:40)
Senator Peters: (32:42)
Not possible? How many intelligence reports have you reviewed and put a hold on?
Chad Wolf: (32:47)
I have reviewed … again, they don’t come to me for approval. We make sure of that. I want to see those as they are released to our state and local partners. And I’ve probably reviewed a half a dozen to a dozen of INA’s products, again, as they are going out the door to make sure that I understand what they are and make sure they are up to my standards. And then as we’ve talked, this one has not. I’ve asked them to look at a number of those reports, this one specifically, to improve on the product again, not the underlying intelligence, but the product itself.
Senator Peters: (33:16)
But still, it sounds like a relatively small number come to your attention. Will you commit to sharing those held reports, including pre-released drafts that you reviewed with the committee?
Chad Wolf: (33:26)
Pre-released drafts of?
Senator Peters: (33:28)
Of the other reports that you said you’ve reviewed?
Chad Wolf: (33:31)
I can go back and see which ones that they have sent up.
Senator Peters: (33:35)
So then you will provide those to the committee that we can take a look at?
Chad Wolf: (33:37)
Senator Peters: (33:37)
I appreciate it. To your knowledge. Has Mr. Cuccinelli ever directed or encouraged staff at the department to withhold issue or alter intelligence reports to align with the White House’s messaging and rhetoric?
Chad Wolf: (33:49)
Senator Peters: (33:49)
Mr. Wolf, I sent you a letter last week asking that you and any staff named Mr. Murphy’s whistleblower complaint, as well as other staff with knowledge or involvement in the activities cited in the report, meet with the committee staff for a transcribed interview. As of today, you have not responded to that request. Can I get your commitment that you and your staff will make yourselves available for interviews as part of the investigation into these allegations of political interference within DHS intelligence reporting?
Chad Wolf: (34:21)
Well, what I want to say is that we are currently doing that for various committees at the moment. So we have-
Senator Peters: (34:28)
Well, I appreciate that but-
Chad Wolf: (34:29)
[crosstalk 00:34:29] the House intelligence. We are beginning transcribed interviews. Senate intelligence committee has also expressed an interest, although they have not asked for transcribed interviews. So we’re going through a process. I believe three individuals have been transcribed, have sat for transcribed interviews in the House thus far, we received your letter last Friday. So I think we’re on the third or fourth business day. We will respond to that. And I look forward again to working with the committee as a whole, to make sure that you have the information that you need to do your oversight responsibilities.
Senator Peters: (34:58)
Well, and as you said, I appreciate your working with other committees. This committee has primary oversight, particularly when it comes to your fitness to serve as secretary of Homeland Security. This is very relevant information, and I would expect that you would be willing to do that. And I have today, your commitment that they will be made available to us.
Chad Wolf: (35:14)
Again, happy to work with the committee as a whole to make sure that you have all the information to do your oversight responsibilities. I also want to indicate there also is a office of inspector general investigation into this as well. So we need to make sure that we’re also providing information to them at the same time. So we’ve got multiple levels of review in this whistleblower complaint.
Senator Peters: (35:36)
So I’m running out of time here, but another important issue you and I have spoken about a lot and wanted to spend a little time getting some direct answers from you relating to work towards dealing with white supremacist violence and activities. I showed the chart that was here earlier. Can you confirm that the department assesses white supremacist violence to be the most deadly threat now facing our nation today?
Chad Wolf: (36:01)
I think when you talk about domestic terrorism, so I want to be clear on that front. When you talk about domestic terrorism, we talk about homegrown violent extremists, which are folks that are inspired, motivated, or directed by foreign terrorist organizations. And then we talk about domestic violent extremists within that category are racially and ethnically motivated individuals and certainly white supremacist extremists from a lethality standpoint over the last two years, particularly when you look at 2018 and 2019 are certainly the most persistent and lethal threat when we talk about domestic violent extremists. But I think your question was all of the threats facing the Homeland, I don’t think I would agree that out of all the threats facing the Homeland from nation state threats to pandemics to hurricanes and the like, that is the most-
Senator Peters: (36:46)
Yes. And that was my intent. You answered it. So dealing with those terrorist attacks, that was the intent of the question.
Chad Wolf: (36:53)
I do want to say that it’s important as we talk about domestic violent extremists and we about historically 2018, 2019, we cannot ignore what has been occurring over the past four months when we talk about anti-government extremists, anarchist extremists, anti-law enforcement folks, it’s very important that we continue to look at and address the threat that’s been occurring in the country over the last four months.
Senator Peters: (37:14)
Well, I agree. And I just want a quick question here that I know the department finally released your public action to implement strategic framework for countering terrorism and targeted violence a long time coming, it’s out now, but specifically what actual steps has the department taken additional to report, what are the actual steps has the department taken to reduce the threat communities face from white supremacist actors? And I know there’s some grant programs out there, please don’t talk about the grant programs. What specific actions has the department taken given the fact, as you just mentioned, given the threat posed by white supremacist groups?
Chad Wolf: (37:49)
Well, understanding you don’t want to talk about the grant programs, but that is a big part of what we do at least in the prevention space.
Senator Peters: (37:55)
And I’m granting that I’m giving you that. I want to know what else.
Chad Wolf: (37:57)
We also do community awareness briefings, and we do other types of briefings that our office of TVTP does as well in conjunction with CRCL and others. So part of our mission is to make sure that we are educating folks for sharing information. So we’re also pushing out, probably I believe since April INA has pushed out roughly 20 or so products regarding white supremacy, extremism to our state and local law enforcement officers. So those are to our fusion center, so we’re pushing intelligence out, but then we’re also providing those community awareness briefings and the like, and a big part of that, or the resources that we put behind that, which are the grant programs themselves.
Senator Peters: (38:31)
I appreciate it. Thank you. My time’s up.
Chariman Johnson: (38:34)
Thanks Senator Peters. As long as you brought up the issue of domestic terror threats and white supremacists, I’ll reclaim a couple minutes of my time, Secretary Wolf. You seem to make the distinction between what’s happened over the last couple of years as relates to the violent extremism and what’s transpired over the last four months. Over the weekend, I saw pretty interesting videos, a press conference put on by the chief of police in Chicago that showed what happened in Grant’s Park, where peaceful protestors took a left-hand turn, went into a park, were either shielding the people that then started throwing frozen water bottles and industrial type of fireworks and that type of thing at the Chicago police officers.
Chariman Johnson: (39:21)
When you were before our committee, a couple of weeks ago, I asked, what is your assessment in terms of who’s really fomenting the peaceful protests that then end up in transition into riots? Senator Peters seems to try and link those and conflate the white supremacist groups. I don’t think that’s the case, but what do you say in terms of … what is the main thrust, who are the main groups? What is the main ideology behind what we see in the last four months where a peaceful protest turned into pretty destructive riots? I don’t know the exact count of how many businesses were burned in Kenosha, Wisconsin, but the city shut down, it’s been devastating for the downtown. Can you just comment on who’s fomenting that violence over the last four months?
Chad Wolf: (40:11)
Sure, absolutely, Chairman. What I will say at the onset is the department is focused on countering any forms of violent extremists. So let me just say that from the outset, when we produced the framework that the ranking member mentioned back in September of 2019, we specifically pointed to two threats. When we talk about domestic terrorism, domestic violent extremists, specifically, we talk about white supremacist extremists, but we’ve also talked about anarchistic extremists. And we specifically mentioned again, back in September of 2019 Antifa concerns that the department was seeing at that point. So this is not anything that the department has come to in the last four months. The last four months have certainly highlighted what we’ve seen specifically in Portland. And I will talk very specifically about Portland, which I have in this room and before this committee again, where we had over 60 day period law enforcement officers, specifically targeted … a courthouse, specifically targeted as seat of justice in downtown Portland, specifically tried to be burned down. The intel that we received out of Portland that we received elsewhere across the country as well, has this anarchist sort of ideology.
Chad Wolf: (41:17)
But I want to be clear and I believe director Ray has made it clear from the FBI is we don’t look at specific groups. We’re looking at the criminality coming out of the activities of groups. So we’re looking at the criminal activity. And of course the FBI is the lead investigator of any type of criminal activity that’s coming out. So what we saw in Portland was night, after night, after night criminal activity occurring at that courthouse against law enforcement officers and against at that courthouse, which is protected by DHS. So specifically in Portland, we saw three, four months of activity being organized. It was coordinated, it was not spontaneous every night. And so that’s what we saw very firsthand. And we’ve seen that in other communities around the country as well.
Chariman Johnson: (42:06)
Well, thank you. Acting Secretary Wolf. Let me just give the members of the order of questioning Senator Portman, then Hassan and Langford, then Rosen, then Scott, then Romney. Senator Portman, are you available?
Sen. Portman: (42:19)
I am Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for holding the hearing and Secretary Wolf as you and I talked about in our conversation recently, I appreciate your service. This is a tough time for our country in many respects. COVID-19, the demonstrations in writing that we’ve seen. You’re in the middle of it. And our condolences from this entire committee go to the family and to the colleagues of Dave Underwood, a federal protective service officer who was killed outside the Oakland courthouse in California. But also, you’ve lost a couple of officers recently to COVID-19 contracted on duty, Marco Gonzalez and Lucas [inaudible 00:12:10], and we think of them too, and then recently another officer injured along the border.
Sen. Portman: (43:15)
So these men and women are doing the work for all of us to make our country safer and more secure. Your people are also responding to the wildfires in California and throughout the West. And then also obviously the recent hurricane. So you’re in the middle of a lot. And I think it’s really important that we have confirmed leadership at the department right now. For some time, I had been concerned about the lack of leadership positions being filled, not just at the top, but through the ranks. And I know the Chairman shares that concern as does the ranking member we’ve been working on it. But we need a confirmed secretary. Some had said to me, well, we’re at the end of the first term of the president. Why are we focused on this? We’re focused on it because we believe that the men and women of the department deserve to have that kind of certainty and accountable leadership.
Sen. Portman: (44:11)
So I’m delighted we’re having a hearing today. I want to get you confirmed as quickly as possible. And I also think it helps to hit off some of these court battles that were talked about earlier, which are obviously a huge distraction for the agency at a critical time.
Sen. Portman: (44:26)
So in our conversation, we talked about the whistleblower complaints. You’ve addressed those again today. I appreciate the fact that you’re taking those complaints seriously, and that you are asking the IG to complete the investigation independently and thoroughly. I think that’s appropriate and I don’t want to belabor that issue because again, it seems like not only in private, have you talked to me about this, but in public testimony this morning, you’ve made a personal commitment to that. You’ve also made a commitment to make sure our elections are safe and that’s really important. We’ve already started voting in some States. We start soon in Ohio. We need to be sure that there’s a unified and streamlined federal effort to help our States and our local efforts to secure our elections. Let me give you a second to expand a little on that. You mentioned it in your testimony, but can you talk about specifically what DHS has done in this regard?
Chad Wolf: (45:20)
Absolutely. So again, at DHS, when we talk about election security, we are focused on cyber threats to election systems and election infrastructure. So over the past three and a half to four years, we have been working with all 50 Secretaries of States, thousands of local jurisdictions technology vendors and the like, making sure that our election here in November is going to be the securest election we’ve had to date. Obviously we saw the concerns in 2016, we continue to work throughout 2018 in the midterms. We saw 2018 elections is probably some of the securest elections that we have held to date. And we continue to build on that work as we go into 2020. So very proud of the work that CISA has been doing on election security. And so we know in this election cycle, the IC has said that they have not attributed any cyber campaign against any election infrastructure from a nation state adversary.
Chad Wolf: (46:20)
And I think that speaks to the type of work that we have done over the past three and a half to four years, because at this time, going all the way back to 2016, there were indicators and warnings that they were targeting our election infrastructure. We don’t see that today as I sit here today. And I think that’s because all of the work that not only CISA has done, but the entire inner agency has done as well as the work the administration has done is calling out individuals that we have identified that are trying to-
Sen. Portman: (46:46)
Senator Wolf, can you address briefly the recent report that came out? I think it was from Microsoft about various countries trying to interfere in the election. They mentioned as I recall Russia, China, Iran, can you address that?
Chad Wolf: (47:04)
Absolutely. So when we talk about nation state threats to our election systems, we talk about three specifically. We talk about Russia. We talk about China and we talk about Iran. And they all come about this differently, but all three are a threat. So I have been very consistent about that. The intelligence assessment put out by the DNI in early August was very consistent about that. And again, the Microsoft report, Senator that you mentioned also talks about all three of those nation states being a threat. So I know that there continues to be a lot of focus on Russia as there should be, but you cannot do that at the exclusion of making sure that we continue to address the threats that are from both China and Iran again they are [crosstalk 00:47:47]-
Sen. Portman: (47:46)
So what the Microsoft report says is not inconsistent with what you’re saying in terms of infrastructure not being under attack?
Chad Wolf: (47:52)
That’s correct. So they’re not focused or we don’t have any specific intelligence that they are focusing on election infrastructure. That’s not to say they can’t or they won’t. But as I sit here today, they’re not focused on election infrastructure. They are looking at those influence campaigns that we see them …
Sen. Portman: (48:06)
Let me change subjects if I could. And I’m going to ask you about something we did not talk about in our private conversation. And that has to do with your disaster relief fund since the $600 federal supplement on unemployment insurance ended, many people have not been able to have access therefore to unemployment insurance who lost a job to no fault of their own. The president and his administration stepped in. You stepped in and provided help at $300 in federal supplement on top of the state supplement per month. That has been a six week program. It actually just ended last week, but you took the funding out of the disaster relief fund to be able to do that. I personally believe that, that $300 extension a good idea, I think it should be done until the end of the year. I think that’s about the right amount.
Sen. Portman: (48:54)
There is no magic number, but that’s not disruptive to the labor market as the $600 was. However, my understanding is that the disaster relief fund has now reached its cap. In other words, you set a number that was based on some analysis that left enough money in the disaster relief fund to respond to true natural disasters. So two things have happened. One is we’ve had a lot more natural disasters, even in the last couple of months, certainly the hurricanes and the wildfires are at the top of that list. So more demand for the assets in the fund. And second is, as I understand it, depleted the entire amount that was set aside for the unemployment insurance. I have a legislative proposal. In fact, I’m going to offer it as an amendment to the CR and we’ll see what happens, but to try to replenish that fund, unfortunately it’s not fully replenished in the CR.
Sen. Portman: (49:48)
Can you talk about that for a moment? Again, it’s not something I’ve raised before with you, and I don’t expect you to have all the details, but my understanding is the fund has $24.7 billion left in it. And that’s not enough to handle the natural disaster challenges we face. Plus, being able to try to extend this $300 federal supplement program. Can you talk about that?
Chad Wolf: (50:11)
Yes, Senator. So as of today, FEMA has obligated around $49.5 billion in DRF funding to support COVID-19 relief efforts. And that includes about $39.6 billion in supportive lost wages, Senator, which you certainly articulated. Obviously the DRF is also used to respond to a disaster. So hurricanes Laura and Marco about $581 million, hurricane Sally is $2.4 million thus far. And we’ll see again, how that continues to roll out. Our balance in the DRF is a little north of $25 billion. So there are still funding inside our disaster relief fund to continue to address. As you know, hurricane season goes all the way through November as well as to address the wildfires out in the West. So we do have funding as of today in the DRF to continue to support that FEMA has to continue to support efforts around the country.
Sen. Portman: (51:10)
Right. My time has expired. Just one quick answer. Do we have enough or not?
Chad Wolf: (51:15)
We do have enough as we sit here today. Now, if we have additional hurricanes, depending on the size and category of those hurricanes, as well as the wildfires, we may have to have continued discussions with Congress and OMB about additional funding for the DRF.
Sen. Portman: (51:29)
Thank you, Chairman.
Chariman Johnson: (51:31)
Thank you Senator Portman. Senator Hassan?
Sen. Hassan: (51:34)
Well, thank you Mr. Chairman and ranking member Peters for this confirmation hearing. Thank you, Mr. Wolf for being here for your testimony for your willingness to serve and for the conversation we had last week and I’ll join my colleagues in offering condolences to your entire workforce for the loss of the officers, you have all suffered and to their families. Mr. Wolf, ISIS and affiliated forces are gaining strength worldwide, launching more than a hundred attacks in Iraq last month, seizing more land in Afghanistan and increasing threats on the African continent. This potential resurgence of ISIS in the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan is alarming. And we obviously can’t ignore it. What steps has DHS taken to strengthen its counter terrorism capabilities in the event that ISIS continues to grow in these regions and pursues external operations against the US?
Chad Wolf: (52:29)
So our counter terrorism portfolio is sort of the core capability of what the department has done over its tenure. So we have a layered approach when we talk about counter-terrorism policies and procedures that we put in place from keeping individuals out of the country to identifying individuals as they come into the country and then to make sure that we are removing individuals as we see fit. So we do that with a number of policies. We do that with in close coordination with our foreign partners, we do that through travel restrictions that we have put in place over the years, but making sure our screening and vetting programs are really at the heart of our counter-terrorism programs.
Chad Wolf: (53:06)
And I would say that our screening and vetting programs at the department are probably some of the best in the world. And so we share that, we share those partnerships with our allies across the world, making sure they have programs like VWP, our Visa Waiver Program, our ATSG, our SRTP. These are all biometric programs that we share with them, so that we’re able to share information that we’re able to share that real time, again, information. So we know who is transiting certain countries, making sure. So if we see individuals that are returning from the battlefield, perhaps back to the US, or back to Europe or other places of the world, that we’re able to identify them and we’re able to work together.
Sen. Hassan: (53:44)
Well, thank you for that. And I would look forward to continuing to work on Visa security teams as well, appropriately balanced. I’ve heard from many constituents regarding FEMA’s recent policy statement that personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies purchased by schools are not eligible for reimbursement through the public assistance program. While these items may not typically fall within the program, schools have been operating under the impression that they would be reimbursable during the pandemic and have acted accordingly. In New Hampshire, the communities of Salem and Londonderry must now find another way to pay for $350,000 in COVID related expenses. There has been a bipartisan outcry, urging FEMA to reconsider this position. These are obviously extraordinary times and schools need this support to help ensure that students, teachers, and their families can be safe if they’re able to return to the classroom. Will you commit to reversing this decision and allowing reimbursement for schools who purchase PPE and cleaning supplies?
Chad Wolf: (54:45)
So again, I have talked to the FEMA administrator about this, and this really has to do with authorities that FEMA has versus making sure they use that for emergency protective measures versus just sort of your traditional operating expenses. What I will say though, is that there is funding outside of FEMA to address some of these concerns that schools have. We have over 39 different agencies that have over $3 million in funding from COVID related packages-
Sen. Hassan: (55:12)
I’m going to interrupt you for just a second, because I know how sparsely those resources have already been spread in my state. And there is nothing routine about needing personal protective equipment and sanitation equipment in schools to combat a pandemic. There is absolutely nothing routine about that. So I’d like you to-
Chad Wolf: (55:32)
HHS is distributing again about 125 million cloth face masks in the month of September as well. So-
Sen. Hassan: (55:39)
I appreciate that, but I will also just point out that FEMA led schools to believe they would be able to get reimbursed. They have therefore deployed the resources from other agencies in other ways. Let me move on to another question. For months, my staff and I have been trying to get updates from the Federal Emergency Management Agency regarding … oh, sorry. That was the question I just asked you. This happens. Let me move on to the last question I have for you. With less than two months until a presidential election, the nation is being bombarded with disinformation and propaganda coming from Russia, DHS’s own intelligence and analysis shop has said this. And yesterday report surfaced that president Putin and his top aides are probably directing the operation. Based on everything you’ve seen, do you think that the Russians are seeking to advance propaganda against vice president Biden?
Chad Wolf: (56:34)
I think on everything that I’ve seen, that there are three nation States that we have to be very concerned about. One is Russia, one is China and one is Iran, and they all have different ways and different motivations of doing this. We have seen what the intelligence community assessment has said again in early August was that Russia looks to denigrate former vice president Biden, China prefers vice-president Biden, and Iran prefers vice president Biden. So we’ve got to-
Sen. Hassan: (57:02)
But the answer is that that Russia is in fact seeking to advance propaganda against vice president Biden. Thank you for reaffirming that.
Chad Wolf: (57:12)
All three nation states are.
Sen. Hassan: (57:13)
And because I do have a little bit more time, let me go back to one other issue. We’ve been trying to get updates from the Federal Emergency Management Agency regarding its role in the purchasing and distribution of personal protective equipment. I understand that many of the tasks handled by your department this spring have now transitioned back to HHS and the department of defense, but how precisely is the work is being shared and what agency is handling it, remains pretty opaque. So can you tell the committee in a straightforward way, what FEMA’s current role is in the pandemic response?
Chad Wolf: (57:50)
Sure. They still continue to coordinate a number of activities when we talk about making sure that PPE gets to certain places. Again, I talked about earlier about the lost wages program that FEMA continues to administer. And again, that’s a COVID relief type of activity. So they continue to coordinate the vast majority of activities. I will say, as you indicated, certain activities have transitioned back to HHS as they are medical in nature. As we continue to fight this, happy to get you more information, happy to have FEMA come up and brief you on exactly what they’re doing. This isn’t a secret. It’s very clear and we’ve been very upfront about what their role is.
Sen. Hassan: (58:29)
Well, and, and I appreciate that, but it has been very difficult for instance, to get precise information about projections, for instance, on the amount of PPE needed. And what tends to happen is people say, well, HHS is dealing this or FEMA is dealing with that. And I think it’s really imperative that we be able to exercise oversight and get precision from y’all.
Chad Wolf: (58:48)
I agree 100%. I have to say, as from March all the way probably to present day, FEMA has been overwhelmed with the number of letters that they have received, and they’re processing them as quickly as possible. So we’re being as responsive as humanly possible. As you can imagine, they’ve got a deluge of letters from members of-
Sen. Hassan: (59:09)
Right. And the letters. And I know I’m over time, Mr. Chair. So I’ll just close with this. The letters from Congress obviously should be responded to, but if you have a structure in place and clear communication, clear lines of responsibility and constant communication with us, some of those letters might not be necessary. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Chariman Johnson: (59:26)
Thank you Senator Hassan. Senator Langford?
Sen. Langford: (59:29)
Chairman, thank you. And Acting Secretary Wolf. It’s good to see you again. Thanks for being back in this room once again. The last time we were here, we were talking about what was happening in Portland and federal law enforcement that was under assault there by the individuals that were rioters that were attacking the federal courthouse and attacking federal law enforcement. At that time, you had said there were about 277. If I remember the number correctly, federal law enforcement that had been injured in those attacks, can you give us an update on those on our federal personnel and the injuries that have been sustained and how they’re doing?
Chad Wolf: (01:00:05)
So we’ve had a to date about 349 separate injuries to DHS law enforcement officers there in Portland. Many of those have recovered. So the bones have healed, broken bones have healed, stitches have come out and the like. We have about 125 DHS personnel that have eye injuries of one manner or another, from those lasers that were pointed and we don’t believe any of them will be permanent. There will be some damage. And some of those are still undergoing evaluation to see what’s the extent of that damage. So what occurred in Portland in June and July, we’re still dealing with that today from a law enforcement officer perspective. Again, we not only talk about the physical injuries, but again, we talk about the doxing of personal information that is out there on the internet of these law enforcement officers. And they’re having to deal with that with their families. So some of the attention may not be on Portland today, but I can guarantee you Senator that our efforts at the department is still continuing to support those law enforcement officers.
Sen. Langford: (01:01:09)
Would you tell them thank you from us?
Chad Wolf: (01:01:10)
Sen. Langford: (01:01:11)
They were asked to do something by our nation to be able to protect federal facilities and they stepped up and did it at the cost of their own blood at times. And their families have paid an incredible price for them to step up and do what’s right to be able to protect our country. So please do pass on our thank you to those folks. Well, let me head down South. I’ve seen some of the numbers and the statistics that during the time of the pandemic, the cartels have altered their methods for trying to be able to move it illicit drugs into the United States. They’ve changed techniques, they’ve changed locations, and the quantities have gone up significantly during the time of the pandemic. We have seen this with people that are in isolation that have struggled with drug abuse in the past, the isolation of the pandemic has caused a severe strain for mental health, for many of those individuals and driven some people back into their drug addictions or deeper into drug addiction-
Sen. Langford: (01:02:03)
… and driven some people back into their drug addictions or deeper into drug addiction, and the cartels are taking advantage of that. What are you seeing on the southern border now, as far as the movement of drugs and how our interdiction process is going to be able to protect Americans?
Chad Wolf: (01:02:14)
I think there are a couple of dynamics that are going on at the southwest border, not to obviously include COVID. We’ve talked about a new border wall system going up. We have over 320 new miles of that new border wall system, and those are in very trafficked areas that we are putting that border wall system up. That is causing cartels and TCOs to try to find new pathways, new avenues into the country.
Chad Wolf: (01:02:35)
At the same time, we have DOD personnel, DOD assets that are on the southwest border. We are moving those to areas where we don’t have the border wall system. You have more cameras, you have more eyes and you have more agents in areas that have been difficult or historically difficult to patrol, that’s again causing disruption to, again, those cartels and those TCOs. We’re seeing more movement through ports of entry, which is exactly where we want to push this sort of illegal contraband. We want to push them to ports of entry, where we have people, where we have resources, where we have technology, and it’s on our terms on how we interdict these folks.
Chad Wolf: (01:03:07)
Now what we are seeing as we put in travel restrictions, because of COVID, we are seeing some of their tactics change. They are using and recruiting a lot more US citizens today than they have historically because we’ve cut down on that land, the traffic across those land ports of entry. US citizens and legal, permanent residents can still come freely, and so we’re seeing much more of that traffic. We’re seeing more individuals trying to smuggle illegal narcotics in as well. We continue to catch more. We continue to deploy more technology at our ports of entry, our NII technology non-intrusive inspection technology, designed to look inside cars and vehicles as well as individuals.
Sen. Langford: (01:03:48)
What do you need to continue that work based on the transition and the flow and the effectiveness of the border wall and moving people to other areas where we’ve got additional cameras and additional inspections? What what do you need now?
Chad Wolf: (01:04:00)
I would say two things: Additional resources for personnel, for CBP personnel, specifically OFO personnel, as well as border patrol personnel. We’ve requested that in the past, I believe, three to four president’s budget, and that has not been approved to date. Some of our fees that we normally see, some of our sort of normal fees help to increase our personnel as those fees are down because of COVID, less travel, the fees are down, so we’re not able to hire as many folks that we would like to see. We’d like to see more individuals at our ports of entry, more time looking at cars, vehicles, individuals, as well as continued funding.
Chad Wolf: (01:04:39)
I know Congress has been very supportive of that non-intrusive inspection program that we have. We’re trying to increase our inspections for commercial vehicles from a very low percentage, I don’t have it offhand, upwards to about 70% by 2023 and for personal vehicles up to about 40% in 2023, so continued support and funding for that initiative as well. Again, continued support for that new border wall system. Again, as we continue to put that in places, we continue to funnel human traffickers, TCOs and others to ports of entry, or at least in areas that we prefer to encounter them.
Sen. Langford: (01:05:17)
The individuals that are crossing the border illegally, do you see some trend changes from 2020 to 2019? Obviously, COVID’s had a pretty dramatic effect on that.
Chad Wolf: (01:05:26)
Sen. Langford: (01:05:26)
The Northern Triangle countries have closed down their borders there. What are you seeing on the border as far as the flow of people?
Chad Wolf: (01:05:32)
We have. We’ve seen a different flow. In 2019, it was mainly UACs, unaccompanied alien children, as well as family units from the Northern Triangle. We put a number of policies and procedures in place. Today, what we see are mainly single adults from Mexico, not exclusively, but that is the highest percentage by far. What we’ve seen, obviously, that sort of hearkens back to the 1980s and ’90s have seen that same trend and that same flow. The vast, vast majority almost exclusively are coming here for economic reasons.
Chad Wolf: (01:06:02)
Now, the good news is we were able to repatriate them back to Mexico pretty quickly, but the different dynamic that we see today in 2020 versus 2019, in 2019 folks were coming across the border and they were sitting down. They were sitting down waiting for border patrol to come up because they knew that they would be released within a matter of hours, if not days into the interior of the US, and that was the goal. Today, we see they’re running from border patrol. They’re trying to get away, so that obviously increases risk on border patrol injuries and things of that nature. The dynamic has changed. The demographics have changed and we’re trying to change with that.
Sen. Langford: (01:06:35)
Well, the things that you cover and that you’ve worked on already, both as a deputy chief of staff, chief of staff, then acting director, natural disasters, border security, terrorism, cyber-security, election security, it’s a pretty remarkable portfolio of the things that you’re having to be able to manage day to day. Thanks to you and your team, the work that you’ve already done. Thanks to your wife and your kids for loaning you out to the nation. I hope you get a chance to catch some little league games with the kids as well while you’re also getting a chance to be able to serve us. Thanks for doing it.
Chad Wolf: (01:07:08)
Thank you, Senator.
Chariman Johnson: (01:07:08)
Thank you, Senator Lankford. Senator Rosen?
Jacky Rosen: (01:07:13)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member for holding this hearing. Of course, thank you, acting secretary Wolf for being here today. Thank you for the conversation we were able to have last week before this hearing. I really appreciate it.
Jacky Rosen: (01:07:29)
But I want to go back to your confirmation hearing for undersecretary position. It was before this committee on June 12th of 2019. I asked if you were involved in developing the family separation policy, and you answered me, “Unequivocally no, ma’am.” I asked how you became aware of the policy and you told me, quote, “Through discussions with staff, discussions leading up to the Attorney General’s announcement in April, 2018.” unquote.
Jacky Rosen: (01:07:58)
After that hearing an email exchange became public in December of 2017. You emailed the Justice Department spokesman, attaching a memo with the file name, and I quote, “UAAC options.” UAC, of course, meaning unaccompanied children. You wrote in the email to the other official that you worked with others to pull the memo together and that the purpose of the memo was to give then DH Secretary Nielsen, quote, “An idea of what she can do right away versus actions that will take months-plus to implement,” and I end quote. When you open the attached political memo, it’s called “Policy options to respond to a broader surge of illegal immigration.” And out of 16 policy options, family separation is number two on the list.
Jacky Rosen: (01:08:45)
Let me ask you this, I asked if you helped develop this policy and you told me no, is that correct?
Chad Wolf: (01:08:52)
Jacky Rosen: (01:08:54)
You and several others, quote, “You pulled together a memo for the DHS secretary that discussed the family separation policy,” and this policy was implemented. You know children were separated from their parents at the hands of our government.
Jacky Rosen: (01:09:07)
Let’s go back over the cover email. You said the purpose of this memo was to give Secretary Nielsen, the DHS secretary, the person who’s chief of staff that you were, an idea of what she could do immediately versus what would take months. Is that correct?
Chad Wolf: (01:09:22)
Jacky Rosen: (01:09:24)
At your confirmation hearing, when I asked you if you helped develop the policy, you didn’t mention this memo. Is that also correct?
Chad Wolf: (01:09:32)
I don’t believe the memo was discussed at that hearing. No.
Jacky Rosen: (01:09:36)
Thank you. Let’s talk about your memo. Here’s what it says for the number two policy option. Again, I’m going to quote, “Announce that DHS is considering separating family units, placing adults in adult detention and placing the minors in custody of HHS as unaccompanied alien children or UACs.” But those children, you recommended classifying as UACs were not actually unaccompanied, were they, Mr. Wolf?
Chad Wolf: (01:10:07)
I’m sorry, can you repeat your question?
Jacky Rosen: (01:10:09)
You said you were going to separate, this is what you said in your memo, and I’m quoting you considered separating family units and treating the children as unaccompanied. They weren’t unaccompanied. They were part of family units. That’s what you said in your memo. You called them unaccompanied, but they weren’t.
Chad Wolf: (01:10:32)
Again, unaccompanied as a legal terminology. Let me just say it was not my memo. You keep referring to it as my memo. As I said last year that the secretary, Secretary Nielsen, relied on not only her operators but also her policy, her immigration attorneys to develop policy options. Of course, they did that-
Jacky Rosen: (01:10:51)
But you were part of the team. And as her chief of staff, you have direct relationship and responsibility. You were part of the series of memos that went on deciding to separate children and treat them as unaccompanied.
Chad Wolf: (01:11:03)
I had a responsibility to make sure that the secretary was fully staffed. Anytime we talk about immigration within the department, I appreciate it may sound simple, but it is anything but simple in making sure that we pull USCIS, ICE, CBP, general council policy office, and any number of other individuals inside the department together-
Jacky Rosen: (01:11:18)
I understand. But I have a chief of staff, anyone who has a chief of staff understands that it’s a complex job.
Chad Wolf: (01:11:22)
That was not my portfolio. It was not my issue set at that time.
Jacky Rosen: (01:11:27)
Let me ask you this question.
Chad Wolf: (01:11:28)
Jacky Rosen: (01:11:28)
You’ve been acting secretary for 10 months, do you now consider it your job to speak the truth to power when utterly abhorrent policies like this get proposed? And do you support ending family separation? Do you stand by that? You testified for that.
Chad Wolf: (01:11:45)
As I testified last year, I testify again this year, I support the president’s decision when he issued an executive order to stop that practice as the department did. We executed that executive order, I believe, in June of 2018.
Jacky Rosen: (01:12:00)
Thank you. I’d like to talk about the ending of TPS quickly.
Chad Wolf: (01:12:04)
Jacky Rosen: (01:12:05)
Nevada is home to more than 4,000 TPS holders and their families. 1700 of those are essential, critical infrastructure workers, meaning they provide services that Americans depend on to operate during this COVID-19 pandemic and they are in all of our response efforts, according to DHS guidance. We know what’s happened last week, the decision to deport a TPS recipients. In light of the federal appeals court decision, what are your plans for deporting TPS holders from the countries of El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan?
Chad Wolf: (01:12:43)
We’re not taking any measures at this time. As you know, we can’t do that I believe until about 52 days after that court decision. 45 days of that is allowed for individual parties to appeal that decision. We certainly expect that decision to be appealed. Basically it starts from that 52nd or 53rd day. We then look at a number of those TPS decisions that have been issued. But you’re probably looking at the earliest 180 days out before any individuals are, any TPS orders are enforced.
Chad Wolf: (01:13:14)
It’s still very much in the courts, unfortunately. We’ll continue to play it out in the courts, even though we did have a ninth circuit decision last week. They’re still very much, and there’s other lawsuits I would say and other court cases, depending on the country that we’re talking about regarding TPS. All that’s to say, there’s not one answer on how we’re addressing TPS. The decision was made in 2017 to end TPS.
Jacky Rosen: (01:13:37)
But would you consider speaking now particularly of protecting those essential workers that are critical to our pandemic response?
Chad Wolf: (01:13:45)
We’ll continue to look at that. Again, we have, again, about 180 days before there’s going to be any action taken. But these are temporary programs. TPS is a temporary program. We litigated, we talked about this in 2017. Policy decisions were made by former secretaries at that time regarding TPS. If this is a population that the United States Congress feels very passionate about, very much like DACA, very much like some of these other temporary populations, then I would encourage Congress to find a lasting solution for these individuals.
Jacky Rosen: (01:14:18)
I would love for us to do that too. In the meantime, we are very short of those essential workers in many of our communities across this country and during a pandemic. I would just urge special consideration of those families who are putting their own lives on the line to save others as we this week hit over 200,000 families whose lives are forever altered by the death of someone that they love. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chad Wolf: (01:14:43)
Chariman Johnson: (01:14:46)
Thank you, Senator Rosen. Senator Scott?
Rick Scott: (01:14:49)
Thank you, Chairman Johnson. Secretary Wolf, thank you for being here.
Rick Scott: (01:14:53)
Talking about TPS, twice in the last year, I took a bill to the floor, all Republican senators supported it, which would completely revamp the TPS program, which after it expired would come back to Congress and Congress would actually make the decision of what should happen with regard to TPS.
Chad Wolf: (01:15:10)
Rick Scott: (01:15:11)
And it would immediately have granted TPS to Venezuelans, which is very important, especially in my state. Unfortunately, the Democrats blocked it both times. It’s interesting that there’s this interest in doing something about TPS, but the Democrats don’t want to fix it.
Rick Scott: (01:15:23)
First of all, I just want to thank you for what you’re doing. I was just down in Pensacola with, FEMA was down there with the hurricane that just hit.
Chad Wolf: (01:15:31)
Rick Scott: (01:15:32)
The individual that runs the Southeast for FEMA immigration check does a great job. I just want to thank FEMA for their efforts. I know they’re not doing it just in Florida, but they’re doing it around the country as we’ve had different disasters and the people that work at FEMA do a great job.
Chad Wolf: (01:15:49)
Well, I appreciate that. Obviously, when we talk about FEMA, we talk about the COVID response a lot, but outside of that, they’re normal every day-to-day work, responding to wildfires in California and Oregon, Hurricane Laura in Southeast Louisiana. They’re still there. They’re still onsite. Obviously, in Pensacola and elsewhere. We are into the Greek alphabet on named storm.
Rick Scott: (01:16:12)
Chad Wolf: (01:16:13)
It’s a very active season, and I appreciate the support.
Rick Scott: (01:16:18)
Yeah. I’ve been up here. This will be I think my 21st month, along with Senator Holly. I just want to tell you my experience with Homeland security and the people that work for you, they’re very responsive. Your legislative affairs team is very responsive.
Chad Wolf: (01:16:33)
Rick Scott: (01:16:33)
You get an answer. It’s not always exactly what you want, but I can tell you what the people, everybody I’ve talked to, they’re trying to be very responsive.
Rick Scott: (01:16:42)
One thing I know that’s important to you is law enforcement. I just want to ask you how you, I don’t know if you saw what happened last week. I did a unanimous consent that all the Republican senators signed off on to just, it was just a resolution in the Senate supporting our men and women in law enforcement. It shocked me, but the Democrats blocked it. I mean, I can’t imagine not supporting that.
Chad Wolf: (01:17:06)
Rick Scott: (01:17:06)
And you’ve got a lot of wonderful men and women that work in law enforcement and how’s it make the people that work with you feel when you see that people don’t recognize that they put their lives on the line. In my eight years as governor, we lost 51 members of law enforcement in the line of duty while I was governor. I mean, these people are putting their lives on the line every day. How do you think it makes the people feel?
Chad Wolf: (01:17:29)
Yeah. It’s extremely difficult. DHS is the largest law enforcement agency in the country, from border patrol to ICE to Secret Service and everything in between. We have an extensive law enforcement community at the department. It’s not the only thing that we do, but it’s a big portion of what we do. Everywhere I go and I travel and I get the opportunity to talk with those law enforcement officers, the first thing they say, and they can say a lot of things to me, the first thing they say is, “Thank you. Thank you for talking about what we do and how we protect the homeland.”
Chad Wolf: (01:17:58)
They put on a badge, they put on a uniform every day at great risk to themselves, and now to their families, I talked about doxing earlier and they’re just trying to go to work and do their job and protect their communities. When they see some of the dialogue that’s out there and trying to paint them a certain way with a broad brush, obviously there are bad actors in every profession to include law enforcement, we need to hold those individuals accountable, but when they start talking about law enforcement across the board as being racist or whatever it might be, it impacts these individuals. They’re not robots, they’re humans.
Chad Wolf: (01:18:32)
I try to talk to them a lot about making sure that they understand the support that they have at the various highest levels of the department, making sure that we’re supporting them, not only through training and resources and PPE and in COVID environment, but I think a lot of what we do in supporting them is what we say publicly and making sure that we have their back. We need to hold individuals that abuse that accountable. I’ll do that from my position. But federal protective service, and we’ve talked about Portland here a little bit, I don’t think most people knew about the federal protective service five months ago.
Rick Scott: (01:19:08)
Chad Wolf: (01:19:08)
They know about them now. They know about the work that they do being unfairly targeted and alike. I appreciate those comments, and I’ll keep talking very specifically about the law enforcement mission that the department has.
Rick Scott: (01:19:21)
Thank you for doing that.
Rick Scott: (01:19:23)
I had the opportunity to visit the US Customs and Border Protection International Mail Facility in Miami, I guess it was before COVID, so I think it was last fall. They went through and talked about how they’re trying to combat counterfeit goods from communist China. We’ve seen unbelievable human rights abuses. There’s an article today, I haven’t looked at the background of it, but on top of what they’re doing to the Uighurs. They’re doing something similar with the Tibetans in communist China, and it’s disgusting. Can you talk a little bit about what you’re doing to try to crack down on goods that are produced with the state-sponsored Uighur forced labor, and how you’re able to do that, and how difficult it is for your mail centers to try to stop some of this counterfeiting and try to even deal with human rights abuses?
Chad Wolf: (01:20:15)
Yeah. I’ve been to the same mail facility in, or sorry, mail facility in Miami, and it’s quite an impressive operation that they have, as they screen parcels coming in. When we talk about China and forced labor, the department took some action recently, along with the administration in putting in withhold removal orders for specific companies operating in China that have been identified of using forced labor. From a CVP perspective, we can put these orders in place that are actually fairly effective because we simply don’t let the product come in. It allows companies that are using those, that have relationships with these companies, they’re going to have to shift. They’re going to have to adjust. They’re going to have to make sure that subcontractors and folks that they’re using in China are not part of this order or have not have been identified as having these abuses, having this forced labor, having products made from forced labor.
Chad Wolf: (01:21:10)
We think that they’re very effective. Obviously, there’s other things that the administration can do as far as sanctions and other activities. But from a DHS perspective, we think that these withhold orders are actually very effective. We’re very proud of sort of the piece of the pie that we play there. We’re very forceful and leaning forward and making sure that we identified these companies that are using this forced labor in China and calling them out.
Rick Scott: (01:21:35)
Yeah. Well, I just want to finish by thanking you. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with DHS individuals in Central America. I’ve met with them along the border with Mexico. I can just tell you they’re a class act, trying to do their job and they need the support of Congress.
Chad Wolf: (01:21:53)
Rick Scott: (01:21:53)
Thank you very much.
Chad Wolf: (01:21:53)
Chariman Johnson: (01:21:56)
Well, thank you, Senator Scott. I think Senator Romney’s next on the list, but I think he might’ve logged off. Senator Romney, are you there? If not, we will go to Senator Carper.
Tom Carper: (01:22:07)
Thanks, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Wolf, welcome. Good to see you. Thank you for joining us to today.
Tom Carper: (01:22:13)
I’ve mentioned this to you before, but I think it bears remembering, the name Jane Holl Lute may or may not mean anything to you.
Chad Wolf: (01:22:20)
Tom Carper: (01:22:20)
But she used to be deputy secretary of the department, and she’s testified before us in that capacity any number of times. I remember once when she said to us that one of her foremost goals as the deputy secretary was to get the Department of Homeland security off of GAO’s high-risk list. She would go meet with Gene Dodaro, the controller general, on a monthly basis and say that this question like, “How can we get off your high-risk list?” And they’d lay out the steps that the Department of Homeland security needed to take, and ultimately succeeded. Ultimately succeeded.
Tom Carper: (01:22:55)
I learned the other day from my staff that DHS is now one of three capital-level agencies with over 400 open jail recommendations awaiting action, joining the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services with this high number of open recommendations. Among those recommendations are 26 priority recommendations related to emergency preparedness, related to border and transportation security, infrastructure, and cybersecurity among others. We’ve talked a little bit about this before on the phone, but I just want to gauge your interest in if you are confirmed as our secretary to have the same kind of passion that Jane Holl Lute held for these issues when she was deputy secretary?
Chad Wolf: (01:23:39)
Yes, Senator, and I appreciate the conversation that we had on this.
Chad Wolf: (01:23:42)
We do have about 434 open GAO recommendations, that’s about a 50% decrease from a high that the department had in January of 2011. It’s only slightly above our all-time low that we had in September of 2018. As you know, and I’m sure Ms. Lute said, our practice at the department is we actually don’t close out any GAO recommendation until both we and the GAO agree that it is closed out. That may not be the practice across the government writ large, but that’s the practice at DHS.
Chad Wolf: (01:24:18)
I also point to an April, 2020 letter that we received from the comptroller general highlighting the remarkable effort that DHS has implemented, about 83% of all GAO recommendations during the past four years, and that exceeds the overall average of most federal agencies. That’s not to say that we don’t have more work to do. We do. We get a lot of recommendations given our breadth and our mission, and we’ll keep plugging along. It continues to be a focus of mine, not only making sure that we respond to the GAO, but also to the IG.
Tom Carper: (01:24:50)
Good. Thank you. That’s encouraging. The preamble to the Constitution starts off with these words: “In order to form a more perfect union.” The goal of the founding fathers was perfection, knowing that we would never get there, and I think that’s a good goal for us in this committee and certainly a good goal for Homeland Security. I would urge you to maintain the attention and the commitment there.
Tom Carper: (01:25:16)
Second, a number of us have been down to Central America and with a special focus, as you know, on Honduras, Guatemala, and Salvador, the Northern Triangle countries. One of the countries, among the three, where we are seeing the most illegal migration, as you know, is Guatemala. A lot of folks are coming out of the highlands.
Chad Wolf: (01:25:37)
Tom Carper: (01:25:37)
[inaudible 01:25:37] When I went down there, I said, “Why are so many people come out of the highlands?” They said, “They’re farmers. They’re agrarian people. They have been going through a series of droughts that have decimated their ability to raise crops, including coffee.” My colleagues know I’m a big root-cause guy. I don’t just look at the symptoms of problems, I say, “Well, what is the causes of the problems?” Do you have any thoughts about a connection between the illegal migration of folks out of the highlands of Guatemala and what’s going on in terms of our climate?
Tom Carper: (01:26:13)
My son, our oldest son, lives out in California. They’ve just been through firestorms from one end of the state to the other. My wife was down in Antarctica back in, gosh, in January, where they set record temperatures, 70 degrees in Antarctica. We are seeing, I think, a record number of maybe hurricanes expected to come to our country this year. Something’s going on here. As it turns out, I think something might be going on in Guatemala. What do you think?
Chad Wolf: (01:26:39)
I appreciate the question. We’ve done extensive work with the Northern Triangle countries, with the government of Mexico and others over the past three-and-a-half, almost four years now. I’m trying to think of where to start.
Chad Wolf: (01:26:51)
We’ve signed a number of agreements back in 2019, from asylum and cooperative agreements to security agreements, to biometric agreements, making sure from a departmental perspective that we continue to help them from a security perspective. Now we work with the inner agency. We work with the State Department. We work with USAID and others to help with things like food insecurity. We also address corruption. There’s a number of other issues that the Northern Triangle countries, the countries that you mentioned specifically, are dealing with.
Chad Wolf: (01:27:20)
The department plays a specific role when it comes to security, we send teams down there. We’ve had embedded teams in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador. Obviously, this is pre- COVID, building up their capacity, because what we know and what they have said to me, officials have said to me specifically, is that the more stability that they have in their country, so whether that’s security, whether that’s food security, whether that’s an economic environment that allows individuals to stay there, is best not only for their country, but for our country as well. We’re working as an inter-agency as a sort of a full-government response. DHS has a piece of that, making sure that we provide the resources, the support, the capacity building for Central America, for those Northern Triangle countries.
Tom Carper: (01:28:04)
Thank you. Five or six years ago, they had a presidential election where in Guatemala and there was a newcomer who was running. He’s actually had his own television show. He’s a very popular guy. His name is Jimmy Morales. His campaign motto was: “Neither a thief, nor a crook.” Neither a thief, nor a cook. He got elected to be president. I remember working with him from afar, from down there from afar, trying to mentor him and encouraging him to surround himself with excellent people and not to follow the same bad path that a number of his predecessors had followed. Corruption, that sort of thing. He ended up leaving in, maybe not disgrace, but in just being greatly discredited. It was a huge disappointment.
Tom Carper: (01:28:47)
There’s a woman named Thelma Aldana, who was the attorney general in Guatemala, who wanted to run for president. She was in El Salvador meeting with a guy named Bukele, he’s now the president there, and figuring out how he got elected president in El Salvador and how that would help her in her campaign in Guatemala. Then she was not allowed to come back into her country. Could not come back, was denied as attorney general. She was death on crime, death on corruption. Why do you suppose we never stood up for her? Not to say that they ought to elect her, but at least to try to encourage the authorities in Guatemala to let her come back and run?
Chad Wolf: (01:29:31)
Well, I’m not sure I can answer that question Senator. It was before my time, so I’m not specifically familiar with that individual. What I can tell you though is that the relationship that we have with President Gimmattei’s administration in Guatemala is good. They are a strong partner. They understand. They want to continue sort of the agreements that we’ve put in place with Guatemala, as well as the other countries. They’ve committed to that and we continue to build on that progress.
Chad Wolf: (01:29:54)
When we talk about the administration there today, they are good partners. We continue to work with them. We think we can always do more. Then, obviously, COVID has been a challenging time for all of us, particularly the Northern Triangle. We’ve provided resources to increase their testing, to increase some of their quarantine capacity as well. We continue to try to support them on a number of fronts.
Tom Carper: (01:30:16)
All right. Thanks very much.
Chad Wolf: (01:30:17)
Chariman Johnson: (01:30:19)
Thank you, Senator Carper. Senator Hawley?
Josh Hawley: (01:30:21)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Wolf, thank you for being here. I enjoyed speaking with you last week in anticipation of this hearing.
Josh Hawley: (01:30:28)
Let me talk to you a little bit about Operation LeGend, which the department is participating in, which is so important to my home state. Just last week with another tragic shooting death in the city of St. Louis, that marked that city’s 195th death this year, three months to go of course in a year that already surpasses though last year’s total, which was itself horrific, 194 killings in 2019. We’re seeing a surge in violent crime across my state, unfortunately, and across the United States. This is one of the reasons why I so appreciate your department’s cooperation and help with Operation LeGend, which is itself named for a Missouri resident, LeGend Taliferro, a four-year-old boy who was killed sleeping in his home in Kansas City, Missouri. Can you give us an update? When you were here in August, you talked a little bit about, actually talked at some length, about the department’s involvement in Operation LeGend. Can you just give us an update of where those efforts stand?
Chad Wolf: (01:31:21)
Sure. Absolutely. We continue to support the Department of Justice. I talked a little bit about mutual aid support, as far as from a law enforcement perspective. Anytime the Department of Justice calls up tells us they need additional investigators, so mainly we’re talking about ICE, Homeland Security investigators that are involved every day with criminal organizations, illicit crime, firearms, anything that comes across the border and has a nexus inside the US, they get involved in. They are the primary response as we work with Operation LeGend in various cities throughout the country to include in Missouri. We’re happy to do that. ICE HSI is happy to lend their expertise and specifically focus on some of that violent crime activity that’s occurring in those areas.
Chad Wolf: (01:32:08)
Obviously, Senator, you know the idea of Operation LeGend is surge resources in there so that you can close cases quicker. You can get them to the investigative stage quicker. You can get them through that investigative and prosecutorial stage. You want to speed up the timeframe, because as you know being the attorney general, it takes time to get through all this. You want to flood the zone with resources to address the issue, and we’re happy to be a part of that.
Josh Hawley: (01:32:34)
Well, thank you for what you’re doing. And as someone who served as the attorney general of my state, my state’s former chief law enforcement official, I can tell you that having additional resources, I mean, we always welcomed prosecutorial help, investigative help. I know that Missouri law enforcement officials are very grateful. They told me that. They’ve said that on the record. I’m very grateful for what you’re doing. Thank you for your partnership with DOJ and your help to our local officials, who oftentimes are very strapped for resources. I mean, that’s just the-
Josh Hawley: (01:33:03)
Your help to our local officials who oftentimes are very strapped for resources. I mean, that’s just the fact of the matter in all times, but especially in these times. So thank you for that federal help. I want to shift topics and talk for a second about human trafficking. Earlier this year, the department announced a new strategy to end human trafficking and recognize that issue as a priority for the Homeland Security Department. I really applaud this new focus. I’ve introduced legislation in this Congress to authorize a comprehensive study to determine how widespread human trafficking is now in this country.
Josh Hawley: (01:33:30)
We haven’t had a comprehensive study of this sort in over a decade. I think it’s time we found out. Can you just give us an update on the implementation of the department’s strategy on human trafficking and what progress has been made?
Chad Wolf: (01:33:41)
Sure. Absolutely. So this is an area I don’t know that the department has really talked about it in length. Obviously, we have a blue campaign and again, ICE, HSI does a lot of work in this human trafficking area, but it’s not an area the department has traditionally talked about. I think we’re trying to change that. We’ve tried to change that specifically over the past year, but even if you go back two to three years, we have a strategy, as you talked about at the beginning of this year. In October, we will be opening a human trafficking center at the department.
Chad Wolf: (01:34:10)
So again, we’re trying to signal that this is a threat. This is sort of a threat line that we continue to focus on at the department, making sure that we’re applying all of the resources throughout the department into one center to attack this issue head on. So I can get back to you on the specific updates from the strategy itself, but let me just leave you with the fact that we take this seriously. We are devoting extensive resources to it. This is not just a one-off issue that we like to tack on at the end of the sentence. This is an issue that we care deeply about, and we’re putting a lot of time and effort into it.
Josh Hawley: (01:34:46)
Well, I certainly appreciate your focus on it and I think that the department did so much last year to raise awareness about the levels of human trafficking we were seeing on the Southern border and cartels’ involvement in human trafficking and the horrific details about the use of children, the selling, the renting of children and how trafficking rings were doing this on the Southern border. That awareness, I mean, getting those facts out there and then coming up with a strategy to combat that, I think, is so key and the department, I think, is stepping up to that.
Josh Hawley: (01:35:15)
I encourage you to continue to make that a focus.
Chad Wolf: (01:35:17)
I appreciate that. And we continued that along the Southwest border with our fraudulent family unit program, which is making sure that as individuals come across that border and they do claim to be a family that we hold those individuals accountable. And we’re doing that a couple of different ways, rapid DNA and elsewhere. And we continue to find a high amount of fraud. And so whether these are individuals and children that are being trafficked or being smuggled or the like, we are finding a high percentage of fraud there.
Josh Hawley: (01:35:44)
Human trafficking has got to be the worst of human rights abuses. It truly is modern day slavery. It’s a travesty to have it in any form in this country. And I applaud you and encourage you to continue the efforts to use the full weight of the department to root it out and to bring those criminals who are perpetrating it, whether inside this country or outside, by pushing it into the country, to bring them to justice. Let me talk to you about another form of human rights abuses going on in China. Senator Scott mentioned this and I just want to follow up.
Josh Hawley: (01:36:14)
I was delighted to see the CBP take action last week by issuing five new withhold released orders on various consumer products made by companies and the Changchun region and one Chinese facility that’s widely considered to be a concentration camp. I think we need to do even more. I’ve introduced legislation that would require all major multinational corporations to certify that the whole of their supply chains are slave free. Can you just give us a sense? To your knowledge, is CBP currently weighing any more comprehensive bans, limits on the importation of goods from the region of Changchun rather than just bans on specific producers?
Chad Wolf: (01:36:51)
The answer is yes to both of those. So continue to look at not only sort of a regional approach, but also additional producers. CBP also took similar actions, I believe, with the company out of Malaysia several months ago as well. So again, China is obviously a big focus, but we’re also looking across the globe, making sure that we hold folks that are participating in forced labor accountable. So I believe so far this fiscal year, CBP has issued 12 WROs, including eight again from China itself. So we’ll continue to lean in on that.
Josh Hawley: (01:37:24)
Very good. Again, I salute your work on that and hope that we’ll be able to push forward and to do our best to root out the sort of forced labor and certainly to end any American complicity in it. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chariman Johnson: (01:37:38)
Thank you, Senator Hawley. Senator Sinema.
Jacky Rosen: (01:37:39)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate Acting Secretary Wolf joining us today. I want to focus my questions today on several issues related to border security and immigration, key issues, of course, in my home state of Arizona. I remain committed to finding bipartisan and common sense solutions to secure Arizona’s border and protect public health while also treating migrants fairly and humanely. Strong border security and a fair immigration system should be mutually reinforcing goals, and I’m always ready to work with my colleagues in a bipartisan way to achieve these goals.
Jacky Rosen: (01:38:12)
So my first question for you, Mr. Wolf, is your department has not completed environmental stewardship plans for border barrier projects in Arizona, despite local stakeholders expressing significant concerns about the impact of these projects on water and cultural resources. While my office has received information from DHS that these reports will be available soon, construction began before mitigation plans were complete. I will note that my office received reports of dynamite blasting in Guadalupe Canyon yesterday related to wall construction.
Jacky Rosen: (01:38:44)
Do you believe that ESP should be completed before DHS begins construction on a specific project or it takes action, such as blasting with dynamite that will have a permanent impact on our land? And could you explain why or why not?
Chad Wolf: (01:38:57)
Sure. Thank you, Senator. We continue at the department mainly through CBP obviously, in conjunction with the Army Corps of Engineers who is building our border wall, a new border wall system, to minimize or mitigate any impacts to natural cultural resources along the Southwest border. I will say the president did issue a national emergency to build a new border wall system. So where appropriate, we are waiving regulations to make sure that that work does not slow down, is not delayed and we continue to build new border wall system.
Chad Wolf: (01:39:26)
That is not to say, again, that we take our environmental responsibilities very seriously and CBP continues to solicit information from the public on how to address environmental impacts. Now, as we talked earlier, I believe last week on the environmental stewardship plans, those are almost to completion. Those should be issued in October, and we’re happy to share those with you, those specifically regarding the 137 miles in the Tucson sector. So we’ll continue to abide by our responsibilities to make sure that we’re good stewards of the environment, making sure that we are doing everything that we can to minimize and mitigate impacts to the environment as we build that new border wall system.
Chad Wolf: (01:40:05)
But it’s been very clear that that is a national security issue, and we’re going to continue to build that new border wall system.
Jacky Rosen: (01:40:13)
Well, thank you. I just want to note that the reports are not available yet, and yet there was dynamiting in the Guadalupe Canyon yesterday. And so it seems like there’s a cart before the horse situation and I do want to note that residents of Southern Arizona have expressed intense concern about this. So I hope this is something that you’d be willing to address in the order in which you move forward with these projects. My second question is a common theme that I have raised in many of our conversation is the insufficient communication between DHS stakeholders in Arizona and my office on a variety of issues.
Jacky Rosen: (01:40:46)
And this includes the border barrier construction concerns we just discussed, but it also includes a wide array of other topics like the use of hotels to attain migrant children, conditions in ICE detention facilities, consultation with Arizona’s tribal leaders, crossing restrictions at our ports of entry and the use of title 42 authority at the border. So my office has asked you and your office to provide the guidance that your department uses to keep detainees safe and ensure that trafficking victims are not returned to danger in Mexico.
Jacky Rosen: (01:41:16)
I’ve also asked you to take some common sense steps such as having proper back and forth consultation with Arizona tribes on issues such as wall construction. Can you tell me what the specific steps that you’ve taken to improve communication between DHS and our state, local and tribal partners in Arizona?
Chad Wolf: (01:41:34)
Sure, Senator. I’ve talked to leadership, both at ICE, based off of conversations that you and I have had, as well as CBP, making sure that those lines of communication, it starts at the local level. Obviously, there’s only so much I can do from DC, but I need to make sure that ICE area directors, CBP, port directors there in Arizona are making sure that they are communicating with their individual stakeholders. So obviously, I’ve gone to Arizona numerous times over the past 10 months. And every time I go, I start off with a round table of DHS leadership, making sure that they understand what my priorities are.
Chad Wolf: (01:42:09)
And the top priority, usually in all of those round tables, is about communication. So making sure that they are communicating to their stakeholders why we’re putting in a border restrictions at ports of entry and why we’re doing what we do. We addressed the issue, I believe, we had with the mayor of Phoenix, trying to understand more about the use of hotels for UACs. Again, that’s a practice that DHS has been utilizing for a number of years, over a decade. But again, was able to get the ICE director on the phone with the mayor, and I think that issue has been resolved as well.
Chad Wolf: (01:42:42)
So we’ll continue to make sure that we’re communicating. I tried to meet with a number of tribes in Arizona. It was unfortunately right at the beginning of the outbreak of COVID and I believe the reservation was closed at that time. So continuing to be willing to meet with any and all individuals, but it also starts there at the local level within the state of Arizona.
Jacky Rosen: (01:43:06)
Thank you. And I appreciate that. I know the mayor is eager to have constant communication and an open line of communication with folks representing DHS in the Metro Phoenix community. My last question. Currently, DHS provides a migrant who’s going through PACR or HRP with a 48 hour consultation window prior to their interview with a USCIS asylum officer. But migrants in CBP custody have inconsistent and limited ability to receive calls back from legal representatives or nonprofit organizations. Can you talk about how you plan to address this issue so that migrants in these programs can receive the phone calls from counsel?
Chad Wolf: (01:43:44)
Absolutely, Senator. So PACR and HRP are the two programs, I believe, you’re referencing. Those are expedited removal programs. So obviously, that’s authority granted to us by Congress to make sure that we do those removal proceedings in an expedited manner. We make sure that they have access to counsel, that they have all of their due process rights through that expedited process, but it is an expedited process. And we try to get that down to a certain number of days. So we continue to make sure, again, that they have, again, access to counsel or any other legal services that they may need to represent themselves or their clients.
Chad Wolf: (01:44:23)
Again, but I think it’s important to keep in mind that PACR and HRP are part of the expedited removal process the department goes through every day. So it’s different than other removal proceedings where perhaps that will drag on for days, sorry, weeks and months, and there’s multiple opportunities. The expedited removal process is again defined by Congress and we’re trying to do that in a very expedited manner. But we continue to allow them access to counsel and any other, again, legal services that they need.
Jacky Rosen: (01:44:50)
Last comment I’ll make, Mr. Chairman. I know that my time has expired. I just want to note that only 13 of over 2,000 HRP cases and only 18 over 2,700 PACR cases have had a legal representative in their proceedings. And so there’s clearly a lot of work that we have yet to do here. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
Chariman Johnson: (01:45:11)
Thank you. Thanks, Senator Sinema. Again, Acting Secretary Wolf, I want to thank you for your service and sacrifice. I want to personally, again, thank your wife and your kids that they don’t can see as much as I’m sure they’d like to. So again, appreciate that. And please convey Allie my personal appreciation, but I think the community’s appreciation to all the men and women who serve with you working day in and day out 24/7 trying to keep our homeland safe. So God bless all of you. We really appreciate it. The nominee has made financial disclosures and provided responses to biographical and pre-hearing questions submitted by this committee.
Chariman Johnson: (01:45:47)
Without objection, this information will be made a part of the hearing record with the exception of the financial data, which are on file and available for public inspection in the committee offices. The hearing record will remain open until 5:00 PM tomorrow, September 24th for the submission and statements and questions for the record. And like many of our committee members mentioned, it is important that we have a confirmed secretary for the Department of Homeland Security. So, Acting Secretary Wolf, I’ll do everything I can to move this nomination along as expeditiously as possible.
Chariman Johnson: (01:46:16)
So again, thank you. This hearing is adjourned.
Speaker 1: (01:50:06)
And they’re not asking you what is your philosophy, they’re asking about relief and this …
Senator Warren: (01:50:29)
Explain to me why Dr. Slowey should get to play by a different …
Representative Maloney: (01:50:36)
For our country because the treasury market is probably the most important market in the world. And at the time the Fed took dramatic action to shore up the treasury market, it provided unlimited amounts of cash in the form short-term loans on treasuries and also directly purchased trillions of dollars in treasuries through another round of quantitative easing. These actions were successful and I applaud the fed for taking them. But now that we’ve had time to study what went wrong, there seems to be a broad consensus that …
Representative Lee: (01:51:21)
Testing, contact tracing and support services and referrals for isolation. We also have in that bill funding …
Speaker 2: (01:54:18)
Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.