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Photo: CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and his acting deputy Ken Cuccinelli are ineligible to be serving in their positions, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) decided in a report released Friday.

Why it matters: While the finding has no immediate power, it could be important evidence in litigation over policies enacted under Wolf and Cuccinelli's leadership, said America's Voice's Ur Jaddou, who served as chief counsel to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) under President Obama.

What happened: GAO found that the administration did not properly follow federal law governing how certain leadership vacancies in federal agencies can be filled.

  • The issue began when Kevin McAleenan improperly became acting DHS secretary last year following Kirstjen Nielsen's resignation.
  • Changes later made by McAleenan to the agency's order of succesion to allow Wolf and Cuccinelli to assume their current positions thus were also unauthorized.
  • "We wholeheartedly disagree with the GAO's baseless report and plan to issue a formal response to this shortly," a DHS spokesperson told Axios.

The big picture: The Trump administration has struggled to maintain permanent leadership at DHS. It's been a record 492 days since it has had a Senate-confirmed secretary.

  • The administration has circumvented vacancies in Senate-confirmed positions by setting up temporary leaders willing to carry out President Trump's political agenda — particularly on immigration.
  • A federal judge ruled earlier this year that Cuccinelli had been unlawfully appointed to lead the immigration agency USCIS.

What to watch: GAO referred the issue to the DHS' inspector general.

  • The investigation came at the request of congressional Democrats.
  • House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) called on Wolf to "immediately step down" in a statement on the decision.

Read the full GAO report.

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Nov 13, 2020 - Sports

The Woj of esports is a free agent

Jacob (right) at the 2018 Esports Awards. Photo: Jacob Wolf

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski breaks NBA news with his patented "Woj bombs." Jacob Wolf does the same thing for esports. Nickname: "Wolf bombs."

Driving the news: ESPN is shutting down its entire esports division, part of the latest rounds of layoffs the company announced last week.

The Biden climate doctrine emerges at summit

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

President Biden's climate summit is highlighting a White House approach that blends diplomacy, executive power, salesmanship and a few threats too.

  • Here are a few pillars of the emerging Biden doctrine.

Biden gets mixed grades on revolving door

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden is getting mixed marks for his reliance on industry insiders to staff his administration during its first 100 days.

Why it matters: Progressives have leaned on the new president to limit the revolving door between industry and government. A new report from the Revolving Door Project praises him on that front but highlights key hires it deems ethically questionable.