“Rhetoric and political ideology cannot lead to intelligence reports and they should not predetermine the actions of a federal department,” said Senator Gary Peters, top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security Committee at the start of the hearing.
Wolf appears to have strong Republican support on the committee, but it’s unclear whether the full Senate will vote on his confirmation ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
The whistleblower’s complaint released this month is under investigation by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of DHS. Wolf strongly rebuffed the claims, which included claims that he sought to downplay the threat posed by Russia and white supremacists, made by Brian Murphy, who was a senior official in the agency’s intelligence division until what the acting secretary reassigns him at the beginning. August.
“This is clearly wrong. It’s a fabrication, completely, ”Wolf told the committee.
Wolf said Murphy was reassigned due to “credible allegations” that he led the collection of information about American journalists covering the DHS deployment of federal agents to Portland, Ore., During the protests of summer.
In his whistleblower complaint, Murphy said that, as far as he is aware, DHS’s intelligence division “never knowingly” gathered information on reporters although it followed media reports that appeared to be. include leaks.
Murphy plans to challenge Wolf’s claim after his legal team obtains permission from DHS to review classified information, attorney Mark Zaid said.
“We take issue with Mr. Wolf’s testimony outright and look forward to the opportunity to provide confidential testimony to Congressional and OIG supervisory authorities to describe details to the contrary,” Zaid said in an email.
White supremacists’ deadliest domestic threat
Wolf was also questioned about an ABC News report that he refused to publish an intelligence bulletin warning law enforcement officials about a Russian disinformation effort to promote false claims about Biden’s mental health. .
Wolf said he suspended the two-page document in July so it could be “improved” with additional context. It was then released in September.
Peters wondered why it had taken so long, only coming out after the media coverage that he was withheld.
Reaction of a Democratic MP and former CIA analyst:
Under Wolf’s leadership, we have witnessed the deployment of unmarked security forces without the consent of local authorities, attempts to censor Russian intelligence and other electoral threats, and the refusal to participate in surveillance, as recently as last week.
Wolf also rejected a report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that neither he nor his deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, are legally able to hold office due to a violation of succession rules, a finding that could jeopardize certain agency actions on immigration and other matters.
Wolf noted that DHS attorneys challenge GAO’s conclusion, which he says is by no means binding.
“We will continue to operate as we have done,” he said.
Homeland Security has not had a permanent chief since Kirstjen Nielsen left in early 2019.
Trump and Attorney General William Barr have spoken at length about the violence that has occasionally erupted during a summer of protests in Portland and elsewhere over police and racial justice shootings, frequently blaming left-wing and Antifa crowds.
But Peters pointed out to Wolf that the department’s intelligence assessment considers white supremacists, who are overwhelmingly on the far right of the political spectrum, to be the most serious threat.
“I think when you talk about domestic terrorism … certainly the lethal white supremacist extremists over the past two years, especially when you look at 2018 and 2019, are definitely the deadliest and most persistent threat. when we are talking about violent national extremists. ”
Wolf did not attend a Democratic-led House committee hearing last week in which his presence was requested, but he echoed the words of FBI Director Christopher Wray at that hearing , that Antifa is not a formal organization but a looser ideological movement that has adherents who espouse the use of violent tactics.
At last week’s hearing, Wray also spoke of Russia’s continued efforts to try to defeat the presidential election, which drew an angry rebuke from Trump the next day.
“I didn’t like his responses yesterday,” Trump told reporters.
Allegations of improper medical procedures investigated
Wolf also said the department’s internal watchdog was investigating a migrant detention center in Georgia related to allegations of inappropriate hysterectomies and other gynecological procedures.
Wolf said the DHS inspector general would interview people at the facility on Wednesday and Thursday, but warned that “some of the facts on the ground” did not corroborate the allegations.
“At this point, these are allegations, and we need to make sure they fully investigate them so that all parties have a chance to be heard,” Wolf said during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee. internal security and government affairs.
The allegations were made by Dawn Wooten, a former nurse at the Irwin County Detention Center, in a complaint filed with the Inspector General last week.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has denied the allegations, which shocked people across Latin America, where many American immigrants come from, and sparked an uproar among Democratic lawmakers.