Two men stand at the center of years of controversy. From draconian and heartless immigration policies to indifference towards the Bill of Rights, Attorney General William Barr and Acting Department of Homeland Security Director Chad Wolf have spent decades preparing for this moment. Today, they are testing the waters for all out authoritarian rule and the end of representational democracy in the United States.
Wolves at the Door
Even before Chad Wolf was appointed as the acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Strategy, Policy, and Plans, he was well known in Washington. He had been a lobbyist and Assistant Administrator for Transportation Security Policy under Bill Clinton. The swamp never quite drains with each new administration, just dredges bureaucrats into new roles.
One of the roles Wolf held was with the small group of security thought leaders who crafted the infamous family separation policy that had displaced over 2,500 children with 1,500 still unaccounted for. And on the streets of Portland, Oregon, his federal coalition of troops is terrorizing American citizens using what he calls “preemptive” arrests without Due Process.
It is exactly this disregard for the law that made Wolf the perfect foil to help William Barr realize his intentions for the country.
Wolf’s career and penchant for ignoring legality made him the right prospect to enact policy crafted by Attorney General William Barr. Barr has succeeded in folding the entirety of the Justice Department and the White House Office of Legal Council into a singular entity that he effectively leads. Both offices had been a counterbalance to each other, but as Barr led both offices under various administrations, it was naturally easier to consolidate them in principle and mission, with his direction driving operations across both organizations.
Moral and legal questions aside, Barr has succeeded there and in neutralizing opposition from the Department of State, an entity with numerous unfilled vacancies after a massive exodus of leaders and key staffers who resigned early in the Trump presidency. During the 2019 impeachment trial, even more diplomats and foreign service workers resigned as Trump himself seemed intent on gutting the entire foreign service corps.
At the core of this cabal is a small army of high-level appointees, mere agency figureheads, to enact the policies Barr has imagined for decades; policies that are clearly unconstitutional and on full display in Portland, Oregon today.
The warning signs have been evident for decades. Even as this administration grew bolder, the evidence was there. James Risen wrote for the Intercept in June 2020 with a clear understanding of Barr’s obvious intent:
“Under Barr, the Department of Justice has two objectives: to suppress any investigation of President Trump and his associates, and to aggressively pursue investigations of his political rivals. The attorney general has turned the Justice Department into a law firm with one client: Donald Trump. Barr doesn’t even hide his intentions any longer.”
Risen points to the Flynn case and the firing of Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Both are evidence to support the operational merger Barr had orchestrated instead of the measured check on executive power. Yet the installation of figurehead appointees has encompassed nearly every federal agency in the country with some, like Chad Wolf and his second at DHS, now serving illegally.
Washington’s Revolving Door
Wolf has long been a beneficiary of the revolving door in Washington, D.C. He served former Defense Secretary and former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska), Senators Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas) and Phil Gramm (R-Texas) before being appointed to the Transportation Security Administration to help implement security policy there.
Wolf has also been a frequent guest on MSNBC and CSPAN to comment on TSA policy and security measures during a time when he served as an executive at a lobbyist firm. Neither he nor the networks disclosed this to viewers although he spoke on policy while representing the interests of his firm, Wexler & Walker. This firm shuttered in 2018, but had been owned and created by former Republican and Democratic Congressional staffers for foreign partners and a foreign conglomerate who still owns several lobbying firms in Washington, D.C.
Wolf marched back through the revolving door in 2018, taking a role at the Department of Homeland Security under acting Homeland Security Secretary, Kevin McAleenan. McAleenan was appointed by Trump to head the department on April 8, 2019, but resigned within six months, reportedly for disagreements with the Trump Administration’s ‘Zero Tolerance Policy’ for immigration and family separation. However, it was McAleenan who helped oversee expansion of part of this program that paid Mexico to set up internment camps for the United States on the Mexico side of the border. This area has become a killing field for immigrants who are being preyed upon by gangs and sometimes Mexican border agents.
Wolf never took issue with the draconian policy against immigrant families. In fact, he helped craft the policy himself. His tenure at various quasi law enforcement agencies coupled with an apparent lack of legal acumen, made him particularly apt to enact nationalistic policy. Wolf was the obvious choice to step into the leadership role, despite objections from some in Congress, such as Representative Torres (D-CA) who penned a public statement about her objections.
Chad Wolf supported separating immigrant families who were legally seeking asylum at the southern border. Wolf argued that this harsh deterrent for the mass immigration influx from South America was effective and viable. Asylum seekers were leaving countries where civil unrest and authoritarian rule had become violent and starvation was a risk, along with threats of kidnapping and gang violence.
None of that mattered in a Trump Administration supported by the ideals of white nationalists who abhorred the idea of more Latinos coming into the country. Democrats could only make passing objections themselves as they had built the camps that were now full of asylum seekers while representatives like Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) were courting donors who profited from these facilities.
Wolf was a proponent of extraordinary measures, which ultimately amounted to taking the one valuable thing parents had left – their children – as it would theoretically deter people from attempting to seek asylum in the United States. He and his colleagues argued that removing children from their parents made them “unaccompanied minors” and stripped them of any legal status. This effectively enabled state-sanctioned kidnapping to remove the rights of parents as guardians and deny children any legal asylum status.
When questioned by Congress about the policy he helped create, Wolf said, “My job wasn’t to determine whether it was the right or wrong policy. My job, at the time, was to ensure that the secretary had all the information.”
To make matters worse, children have been deported back to their home countries without their parents’ knowledge or shipped off to adoption agencies profiting from legal adoptions.