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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.

Scoop: Gina Haspel almost resigned over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel almost resigned in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelations stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.