WASHINGTON – At the heart of President Donald Trump’s election campaign is Chad Wolf, acting secretary of state who has defied critics by backing Trump’s message with harsh words, sending US government troops to other cities and extending his cabinet posts.
Little known outside of Washington so far, the Wolf has become one of Trump’s most visible aides. Echoing the president of the Republic, he paints a dark portrait of Portland, Oregon, a city ruled by rival Democrats, as it is rife with looters during the summer protests against apartheid and police violence.
Repeatedly appearing on the Fox News Channel, Wolf, 44, defended Trump, demanded that the police bring back “violent anarchists” and dismissed Democratic Alliance nominee Joe Biden as “fraudulent” according to Trump’s re-election in November. to encourage more violence.
Wolf caused an uproar by being sent by government officials to quell unrest in Portland over their unmarked uniforms and the use of unmarked vehicles to pull protesters off the streets.
In Wolf’s defense Alexei Woltornist, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), wrote in a statement sent to that DHS officers were being attacked and local leadership in Oregon had refused to intervene.
“(The Acting Secretary) Wolf would have been incompetent in his work so that he would not speak and take action,” he wrote.
Wolf’s appearance as Trump’s legal envoy and orders surprised some of his current DHS colleagues who said they considered Wolf to be a non-partisan man before Trump appointed him secretary in November 2019, the fifth person to run for office during Trump’s tumultuous time.
Trump’s previous security chiefs have used his system, especially for foreigners, but have not always welcomed his fervent language or promoted it as usual in the media. Trump last week said he would like to include the Wolf permanently in this role.
But Democrats accuse Wolf of politicizing the electoral security department and playing a key role in the November 3 election in which Trump, following Biden by voting, hopes to run for a second term.
Protests have engulfed the United States since late May when George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt down for about nine minutes. Occasional violence and looting are accompanied by other protests.
Angered by Wolf’s actions, Trump wants to portray himself as a criminal in the crime scene and the only person who can stop the decline. Wolf sent envoys from his department to Portland, Seattle and Washington, D.C., where some local Democratic Alliance leaders said they were not welcome.
Despite Trump’s focus on violence, only 8% of Americans consider crime to be the country’s biggest problem and 53% of them remain sympathetic to anti-apartheid protests, according to a Ipsos poll released on Wednesday.
Wolf previously served as head of the DHS strategic, policy and programs office. Prior to that, he was the chief of staff for former secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who resigned in 2019 during a dispute with Trump over border security.
After serving as a guest post before joining the Trump administration, Wolf never led a large organization and lacked the qualifications and experience of other former DHS secretaries.
“My view of working with him was that he was an expert in technology, he was an expert on topics,” said David Lapan, a DHS spokesman at the beginning of Trump’s administration who worked closely with Wolf.
“I didn’t see him as a theologian,” said Lapapan, now vice-president of communications and the Washington-based Bipartisan Policy Center. “But I really see him like that today.”
Wolf did not involve politics in staff meetings while working in the DHS policy office, according to a current official who requested anonymity to discuss the matter.
“My view of him has always been part of the ‘adults in the room’ camp, even though it was a kind of minority,” the official said. “I’m amazed at all of his Portland thing.”
Wolf has maintained a very low public profile in his first few months working in the Department, as DHS has been instrumental in responding to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
He got his moment as racial justice protests intensified across the country.
Wolf sent DHS staff to Portland in July as part of Trump’s mandate to protect monuments and state buildings from “violent mobs.”
Videos posted online show hidden behind clear identification badges using unmarked power and vehicles to transport arrested protesters, which insulted Democrats and led to DHS withdrawal.
Last weekend Portland mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, blamed Trump for the violence in the city following the death of a protester linked to the right-wing Patriot Prayer group.
Wolf then sent a sharpened letter to Wheeler accusing him of doing nothing and allowing “senseless violence and destruction night after night.”
Wheeler called this “good” in a statement sent on Thursday.
A senior DHS official close to Wolf said his sharp language was not driven by ideas.
“It’s just about doing the job,” the official said. “It’s not like he wanted to stand out here, it’s just that violent and violent people want to attack cities.”
Democrat Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, opposed Wolf’s actions and urged him to step down.
“Of all the secretaries I’ve worked for – and I’ve been on the committee since its inception – he’s the most involved, he’s not the truth and he’s not very opposed to oversight,” Thompson said in an interview.