President Donald Trump violated federal law with his picks to lead the Department of Homeland Security, the Government Accountability Office announced on Friday.
Both acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf and acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli do not fit the requirements to temporarily fill positions that require Senate approval as outlined in the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998.
The GAO, a watchdog agency that reports to Congress, determined that Wolf and Cuccinelli are serving under an invalid order of succession, following the departure of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in April 2019.
Kevin McAleenan was named acting secretary in Nielsen’s wake, but the GAO said the next appointee should have been the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, who was Christopher Krebs at the time. McAleenan’s appointment made his successors’ positions invalid as well.
The legality of Wolf and Cuccinelli’s actions while in office is now under question, and has been referred to the DHS inspector general for review. The two men have been leading the department since November.
“We wholeheartedly disagree with the GAO’s baseless report,” a spokesman for DHS told Politico shortly after the agency’s assessment was published.
Wolf has featured prominently in the controversial federal response to some anti-racism protests across the country, including demonstrations in Portland, Oregon. Federal officers stationed there earlier this summer repeatedly clashed violently with civilian protesters, firing tear gas and rubber projectiles that resulted in at least one very serious injury to a protester’s head.
Although the federal forces were opposed by local and state leaders, Wolf argued that their presence was necessary to protect federal property, outlining dozens of alleged offenses by protesters that were primarily vandalism. The unpopular officers were compelled to start leaving Portland late last month.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.