“Mr. Wolf may attempt to evade oversight and the Department may try silly stunts to distract from this hearing, but we will not waiver,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, the committee’s chairman, said in his opening remarks at the hearing. “The stakes are just too high.”
As Thompson noted at the time, Wolf’s department has been marred by recent allegations by two whistleblowers. Last week, a complaint submitted to the Homeland Security inspector general alleged “jarring medical neglect” and mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis at an ICE facility in Georgia. The complaint included comments from detainees and a nurse, Dawn Wooten, employed at the facility until July 2020, who alleged that hysterectomies were conducted on women without proper consent.
The complaint has prompted calls by House and Senate Democrats for an expedited investigation into the matter. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is also leading a delegation this week to inspect the Georgia facility.
Another whistleblower complaint, made public Sept. 9 by the House Intelligence Committee, alleged that top DHS officials interfered with intelligence gathering to safeguard the president’s political image and promote his immigration agenda. Brian Murphy, who was a senior intelligence officer at the department until he was reassigned on July 31, complained that Wolf ordered him to “hold” an intelligence report on the threat of Russian interference in the 2020 elections because it would make Trump “look bad.”
Wolf’s appointment to his current role has also been under scrutiny. On Sept. 11, a federal judge in Maryland ruled that Wolf was likely appointed to his acting role unlawfully, because proper rules of succession were not followed when he was moved up to that position after the resignations of his predecessors.