Saagar Enjeti explains how returning to normal is taking “the same poison that got us where we are today.”
Chad F. Wolf is the acting Secretary of Homeland Security and Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Strategy, Policy, and Plans. He previously served in several positions in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including as Chief of Staff of the Transportation Security Administration and Chief of Staff to DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. He was an architect of the Trump administration’s family separation policy.
From 2005 to 2016, he was a lobbyist, helping clients to secure contracts from the Transportation Security Administration, his previous employer.
Education and early career
Wolf is originally from Plano, Texas. He graduated from Plano East Senior High School and then attended Collin College on a tennis scholarship. Wolf then earned a B.S. in U.S. history from Southern Methodist University.
He worked as a staffer for Republican Senators Phil Gramm, Kay Bailey Hutchison, and then Chuck Hagel, for whom he worked for two and a half years. From 2002 to 2005, Wolf worked in the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), becoming Assistant Administrator for Transportation Security Policy in 2005. From October 2005 to 2016, he was Vice President and Senior Director at Wexler & Walker, a now-defunct lobbying firm. He helped clients obtain contracts from the TSA, his previous employer.
Return to Department of Homeland Security
In 2018 he became Chief of Staff of DHS under Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. While working for Nielsen, he was an early architect of the family separation policy. He later testified to Congress that his function was to provide information to the Secretary and “not to determine whether it was the right or wrong policy,” though he agreed with the decision to end the policy. He also testified that he was not involved in the initial development of the policy by the Executive Office of the President and the Attorney General, though this statement was disputed based on internal documents.
He then became Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Strategy, Plans, Analysis & Risk, a Senior Executive Service position not subject to Senate confirmation. He concurrently served as Acting Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Strategy, Policy, and Plans. He was nominated in February 2019 to serve permanently in the Under Secretary role, and his confirmation hearing was held that June, but the nomination was delayed by Senator Jacky Rosen to protest poor conditions for children at DHS facilities.
Wolf’s appointment as Acting Secretary of Homeland Security came after the departure of Kevin McAleenan was announced on November 1, 2019. The fact that he had previously lobbied for the National Association of Software and Services Companies, which was in favor of the H-1B visa program, led to criticism from groups favoring more restrictive immigration policies, but the Trump administration defended his record and privately asked Republican senators not to oppose his appointment.
The administration waited for Wolf’s confirmation as Under Secretary before appointing him to the Acting Secretary role, to avoid appointing him as a principal officer from a non-Senate-confirmed position, which many scholars and former government officials have argued is unconstitutional. DHS then had to move the Under Secretary position earlier in the line of succession, because the 210-day period in which an acting official may be named without a pending permanent nomination had expired, mandating that the duties of the Secretary must be performed by the department’s seniormost confirmed official.
Wolf was confirmed as Under Secretary on November 13, 2019 on a 54–41 vote, and was sworn in as acting Secretary of Homeland Security the same day. On November 15, House Democrats Bennie Thompson and Carolyn Maloney requested that the Comptroller General of the United States review the legality of Wolf’s appointment on the basis that former Acting Secretary McAleenan did not have authority to change the department’s line of succession, asserting that former Secretary Nielsen had not properly placed McAleenan first in the line of succession before resigning, and additionally that McAleenan’s change came after the 210-day limit to his authority had expired.
In February 2020, Wolf announced that the Trump administration was revoking New York residents’ ability to participate in Global Entry and other Trusted Traveler programs, in response to the state’s “sanctuary” immigration policies, which jeopardized the government’s ability to effectively vet travelers. The move prompted the State of New York to sue the administration.
In July 2020, Wolf sent federal agents dressed in camouflage and tactical gear to Portland, Oregon, where the agents used tear gas on protestors and pulled protestors into unmarked vehicles. The agents did not have obvious marking or identification. In the past, far-right militias had worn camouflage and tactical gear in clashes with other protestors in Portland, which sowed confusion. Oregon Governor Kate Brown described the action as “abuse of power,” and accused Wolf of “provoking confrontation for political purposes.” Portland mayor Ted Wheeler said it was “an attack on our democracy.” Wolf said the protestors were a “violent mob” and “violent anarchists.” The New York Times reported that an internal DHS memo had been presented to Wolf which said prior to the deployment that the federal agents in question had not been specifically trained in riot control or mass demonstrations.
Wolf is married and has two sons.
The rush to enact the tax bill was designed to mask — as a break for the middle class — what is in fact a $1.4 trillion package of benefits for key donors and lobbyists, the richest members of Congress, President Trump, his family and other families like his.
.. The speed from introduction to passage — seven weeks, with no substantive hearings — effectively precluded expert examination of the legislation’s regressive core, its special interest provisions and the long-term penalties it imposes on the working poor and middle class through the use of an alternative measure of inflation — the “chained CPI.”
.. The primary authors of the report — Ari Glogower, David Kamin, Rebecca Kysar, and Darien Shanske — describe the legislation as “a substantial blow to the basic integrity of the income tax” that will “advantage the well-advised in ways that are both deliberate and inadvertent.”
.. The most serious structural problems with the bill are unavoidable outcomes of Congress’s choice to preference certain taxpayers and activities while disfavoring others — and for no discernible policy rationale.
These haphazard lines are fundamentally unfair and inefficient, and invite tax planning by sophisticated taxpayers to get within the preferred categories.
.. The game is clear: Don’t be an employee, instead be an independent contractor or partner in a firm.” The ability to make this shift is available primarily to the well-paid.
.. It means that old property can still get the benefit of expensing, but only if it is sold to another party. If the original owner holds it, they have to depreciate according to the old rules; if they sell it to another party, then suddenly the full cost is eligible for expensing
.. It appears that the buyer of the asset could even lease it back to the existing owner, so that the property doesn’t even have to go anywhere.
.. create new incentives to shift tangible assets (and jobs) abroad. Given President Trump’s relentless message about U.S. jobs, it is incomprehensible to me that we are about to pass something that has this effect without any kind of meaningful discussion of the issue.
.. lower and middle-income families, who are especially dependent upon inflation-indexed deductions, credits, and bracket thresholds, will feel the impact increasingly as time goes on.
.. In the long term, Hemel argued,
this is a very subtle way to increase taxes on the lower and middle classes and then use those revenues to pay for a massive tax cut for corporations.
.. the shift to chained CPI — a less generous, slower-growing measure of inflation than the one currently in use — would not only result in a tax increase over time, it would set a precedent for Republicans who would like to use the same method to pare back so-called entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. It is, in effect, a backdoor method of reducing benefits for the elderly and the disadvantaged without public scrutiny or debate.
.. offers little redress to workers who have grown to believe that the country’s tax law thicket advantages those with power, political connections and lawyers on retainer.
.. (2) Carried interest provision. When Trump was careening around in his populist candidate mode, he promised to end it. Here is one campaign promise that he “somehow” failed to redeem when the clear and available chance presented itself.
(3) Restriction on state and C local tax deduction — consciously vindictive imposition of double taxation on citizens of certain Democratic states
.. (4) Expanding the standard deduction but financing the cost of so doing by repealing the personal exemptions is a bit of a bait and switch maneuver. Some people might be worse off.
(5) In a bill in which 100s of billions of dollars were sloshing around to provide steep tax cuts for already wealthy and highly prosperous corporations and pass through businesses, the Republicans could only find the will to raise the refundable portion of the child care tax credit from $1000 to $1400. Rubio wanted it to be raised to $2000 and his Republican brethren refused to even meet him halfway. Pitiful.
.. (6) Deduction for extraordinary medical expenses — retention of this deduction did not even get the five-year sunset window applied to all the other individual tax provisions, two years only. Vicious.
.. How well does this procedure stand up to the requirements Senator Ben Sasse specified in his maiden Senate speech on Nov. 3, 2015? In it, Sasse argued that the Senate was failing in its responsibility to fully air and debate the important issues before the county, calling for what he called “a cultural recovery inside the Senate”:
.. Good teachers don’t shut down debate; they try to model Socratic seriousness by putting the best possible construction on arguments, even — and especially — if one doesn’t hold those positions.
.. How could nearly every Republican representative — and all 52 Republican senators — support the tax bill? The best answer may be the most cynical: because it benefits key leaders, their friends, their heirs and their donors.
.. it is difficult to conclude that the motivations of its sponsors are either benevolent or somehow in the best interests of the country. More likely it is hypocrisy and venality mixed up into one awful bill.
Fox News is calling the Podesta brothers “central figures” in the Mueller probe.
.. Tony is obviously a big Democrat, but he has Republican friends and represents some clients that have more in common with the Republican side than the Democratic side. John is a hard partisan — a lot of people think of him as more strident, doing things that have never been done before to get your way.”
.. Tony built his firm into one of the top lobbying shops in the country — walks a delicate line between principle and profit. For every feel-good cause or nonprofit client, there’s a corporation or a foreign government with public relations problems and buckets of money to spend.
.. Tony’s work for Saudi Arabia has caused some raised eyebrows among human rights activists. Last year, the Podesta Group — one of several lobbying and PR shops the Saudis hired — was paid $140,000 a month by the Center for Studies and Media Affairs at the Saudi Royal Court
.. “You try to help people tell their story, and you try to make them better. I think that’s all to the good.”
.. Podesta and the other firm, Mercury Public Affairs, say that they were hired by the European Center for a Modern Ukraine, a nonprofit group based in Brussels, to boost Ukraine’s reputation in the United States and increase its chances of joining the European Union.
.. the question among lobbyists in Washington is why someone at the top of his game like Tony would have anything to do with Manafort, whom one Republican lobbyist described as a “shady businessman advocating for murderers, thugs and thieves — even if those criminals were heads of states.
Dr. Sebastian Gorka, chief strategist for the MAGA Coalition and former deputy assistant to President Trump, told SiriusXM hosts Steve Bannon and Raheem Kassam on Wednesday’s Breitbart News Daily that Roy Moore’s victory in the Alabama Senate primary “changed American politics.”
.. For me it’s a reassertion of sovereignty and a reassertion of democracy, where the wishes of the people are actually expressed in a way that the money and the influence of the establishment totally fails.”
.. “When you look at, what’s the latest count? $30 million spent by the Swamp. For the local people’s voices just to reject that attempt by the establishment to hijack that primary, I think it really, truly is a revolutionary moment in American politics.”
.. “If you think that the Swamp is going to give back our nation without a fight, then you’re sorely mistaken.”
.. this isn’t just about the lobbyists. It’s not just about the people on Capitol Hill. The Swamp – I don’t like the phrase ‘Deep State’; I like the phrase ‘the permanent state’ – is also largely about the bureaucrats who just think they know better than anybody else,” Gorka said.
.. When you’ve got somebody who’s a GS-14 who thinks, ‘Nope, I’ve been here for 20 years, I’m going to be here after the president leaves, and I know better, and I’m just going to do my own thing,’ that’s what we have to fight as well – the idea that there’s this entrenched political elite that’s not just politicians, but also bureaucrats that think they know better,” he said.
.. Gorka agreed with Bannon’s critique that too much of the Republican consultant class thinks big campaign money is the only necessary ingredient for political victory.
“They think the politics of personal assassination, of political assassination and triangulation, is it,” Gorka said. “They’re just going to throw more money at it. They don’t need to convince you of anything. They don’t need to argue their policies. They just wish to destroy you. They just don’t get it.”
.. “As long as they don’t understand that, we are going to win every single time because you cannot buy Americans.”
as insurers themselves have been explaining, the problem is the uncertainty created by Trump and company, especially the failure to make clear whether crucial subsidies will be maintained. In North Carolina, for example, Blue Cross Blue Shield has filed for a 23 percent rise in premiums, but declared that it would have asked for only 9 percent if it were sure that cost-sharing subsidies would continue.
.. So why hasn’t it received that assurance? Is it because Trump believes his own assertions that he can cause Obamacare to collapse, then get voters to blame Democrats? Or is it because he’s too busy rage-tweeting and golfing to deal with the issue?
..Or take the remarkable decision to take Saudi Arabia’s side in its dispute with Qatar .. there are no good guys in this quarrel, but every reason for the U.S. to stay out of the middle.
.. So what was Trump doing? There’s no hint of a strategic vision; some sources suggest that he may not even have known about the large U.S. base in Qatar and its crucial role.
.. The most likely explanation of his actions .. is that the Saudis flattered him — the Ritz-Carlton projected a five-story image of his face on the side of its Riyadh property — and their lobbyists spent large sums at the Trump Washington hotel.
.. it’s worth considering that Trump apparently ranted to European Union leaders about the difficulty of setting up golf courses in their nations. So maybe it was sheer petulance.
President Trump is populating the White House and federal agencies with former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants who in many cases are helping to craft new policies for the same industries in which they recently earned a paycheck.
.. In at least two cases, the appointments may have already led to violations of the administration’s own ethics rules. But evaluating if and when such violations have occurred has become almost impossible because the Trump administration is secretly issuing waivers to the rules.
Michael Catanzaro .. was working as a lobbyist for major industry clients such as Devon Energy of Oklahoma, an oil and gas company, and Talen Energy of Pennsylvania, a coal-burning electric utility, as they fought Obama-era environmental regulations, including the landmark Clean Power Plan.
.. Chad Wolf, who spent the past several years lobbying to secure funding for the Transportation Security Administration to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a new carry-on luggage screening device.
two officials joined the agency from the K Street lobbying corridor .. where they fought some of the Obama administration’s signature labor rules, including a policy requiring financial advisers to act in a client’s best interest
.. the president eliminated an ethics provision that prohibits lobbyists from joining agencies they lobbied in the prior two years.
.. Mr. Trump’s appointees are also far wealthier and have more complex financial holdings and private-sector ties
.. comply with federal ethics laws, such as a prohibition on using a government post to personally profit.
.. made it easier for former lobbyists in the government to get waivers that would let them take up matters that could benefit former clients.
.. sharing them is no longer required.
.. D. J. Gribbin, the council’s infrastructure specialist, previously worked for Macquarie, a bank that specializes in infrastructure deals
.. Shakira Knight .. as a lobbyist for Fidelity
.. she was registered to work on retirement issues, including the so-called fiduciary rule
.. under Mr. Trump’s executive order, Ms. Knight should probably be barred for two years from participating in decisions that would affect the fiduciary rule.
Geoffrey Burr .. who was a lobbyist for the Associated Builders and Contractors, which pressed the agency on its overtime pay rule, wage requirements for government contracts and an additional half-dozen or so other regulations
.. Mr. Burr would probably not have been able to join the Labor Department.
.. Such potential conflicts are showing up across the federal government.
.. Executives at Anagogic Corp .. CT scans, which are already used broadly in the medical field and on checked baggage. The company now wants the T.S.A. to use them in the nation’s 2,400 airport checkpoint security lanes, a move that could be worth at least $500 million in equipment sales.
.. Mr. Wolf’s Twitter account on Friday still identified him as a lobbyist and displayed posts from last year urging the T.S.A. to buy the devices.
.. A T.S.A. spokesman agreed to arrange an interview with Mr. Wolf — who worked at the agency during the Bush administration before becoming a lobbyist — but canceled it when told about the topic in detail.
.. Lance Leggitt, who serves as chief of staff to Tom Price, the health and human services secretary, worked last year as a lobbyist for 10 different health care companies
treatments .. carry list prices of more than $250,000 a year.
.. We know people coming in who have conflicts, and we cannot see what restrictions they are under, if any.”
.. Even if the rules are enforced, so many senior officials will be required to recuse themselves that “they will have a hard time getting their job done.”