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White House eyes Cuccinelli as acting DHS secretary: report

The White House is eyeing Ken Cuccinelli to serve as acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary, The Wall Street Journal reported.

President Trump has told allies that he wants Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, to take on DHS leadership, people familiar with the matter told the newspaper.

Cuccinelli is ineligible to be appointed DHS secretary, however, under a federal statute on governing vacancies.

The New York Times first reported that the Trump administration is hunting for a way to avoid the vacancies statute in order to appoint Cuccinelli.

A source familiar with the plan to bypass the statute told the Journal that the White House has requested help from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to determine the legality of the plan.

To execute the White House’s desired plan, the administration would need to appoint an official to the fourth highest position in the department. Then, the White House would appoint this person as acting secretary of DHS, according to the Times.

Normally, the line of succession requires the White House to nominate one of the top three leaders of the department, but all three of those positions are vacant. 

This arrangement would avoid a confirmation struggle as some Republicans oppose Cuccinelli after he launched a campaign against incumbent GOP lawmakers.

Officials told the Journal that the president has not made a final decision. 

The White House personnel chief also reportedly listed acting Customs and Border Protection commissioner Mark Morgan as a top choice, but he would also be ineligible under the statute.

Both Cuccinelli and Morgan have vehemently promoted the president’s immigration policies.

Acting DHS Director Kevin McAleenan announced his resignation last week, saying Thursday will be his last day.  

 

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