So shocking that I can’t bring myself to believe it. Chad Wolf, the acting head of DHS, is Trump’s boy. At a moment when other loyalists like Bill Barr are doing what they can to prop up the big “I was cheated!” performance, Wolf is the last guy anyone would have picked to push back.
Until I saw this New York Post story, I’d have been more likely to believe that “Hammer” and “Scorecard” changed 80 million Trump votes to Biden or whatever than that Wolf would tell Trump to go do his own dirty work. But here we are.
I wrote about Chris Krebs, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, in this post last night. CISA is an arm of DHS charged with protecting critical infrastructure from cyberattacks. They’ve been posting debunkings of misinformation related to cybersecurity since Election Day, very much including the Dominion “Hammer” and “Scorecard” conspiracy. The White House didn’t like that and reportedly told CISA to remove that debunking because it was messing with Trump’s narrative. Krebs wouldn’t do it and told friends that he expected to be fired and didn’t care.
He was right to expect that, according to the Post. But then the plan hit a very unlikely snag.
The White House on Wednesday evening instructed Wolf to fire Krebs after he openly dismissed claims of voter fraud in the Nov. 3 election.
“He gave us a bunch of reasons why he didn’t want to do it and he said no,” a senior White House official told The Post about Wolf’s refusal.
“If anything, Chad is carrying Krebs’ water,” the source added…
“Chad was asked by the president to fire Anonymous’ best friend and he’s refusing,” the administration official said. “He is not managing his agency but that should not surprise anyone because he is a [former DHS Sec. Kirstjen] Nielsen lackey.”
It *did* seem strange that that joint statement last night assuring the public that there was no evidence of widespread fraud in U.S. elections systems was issued on DHS letterhead. One would think Wolf could have stopped that. It seems he didn’t want to.
The effort to discredit him and Krebs is now in full swing, with sources telling the Post that Krebs is friends with Miles “Anonymous” Taylor (a former DHS official himself), that Krebs has an Obama appointee as a senior advisor, and that Krebs hosted what’s described as a “watch party” on election night at an office in northern Virginia that was attended by — dun dun dun — two employees of Dominion software. Krebs is part of the conspiracy.
Well, either that or the “watch party” was just the agency monitoring the vote in case any cyberattacks happened requiring them to intervene. Go figure that people from Dominion, which provided software for the election in some states, might be on hand for that eventuality.
The real mystery remains unsolved, though: Why doesn’t Trump just fire Krebs himself? He’s a political appointee. The president doesn’t need Wolf to carry out the hit for him in this case.
I’m curious to know more about Wolf’s motives in defending Krebs. As hard as it is to believe, maybe he feels strongly that firing Krebs for behaving ethically by debunking misinformation would be morally wrong. Maybe it’s a leadership thing, believing that he’s duty-bound as the head of the department to go to bat for an employee who’s done no wrong. Or maybe he’s just buds with Krebs and doesn’t want to be the one to drop the axe.
Alternately, this might be about his future employment. Making a big show of standing up to Trump is a way — in theory — to reingratiate himself to post-Trump Washington, although the fact that he leads the agency charged with carrying out Trump’s immigration policies will make him persona non grata to the left forever. And the fact that he’s refused to show loyalty to Trump by canning Krebs will make him persona non grata to the Trumpy right forever, not to mention putting his own job as acting head of DHS at risk.
Although … that may be more complicated than we think. Remember that, due to the dubious way in which he and Ken Cuccinelli were appointed to their jobs at DHS, there’s a legal cloud over whether Wolf has ever been the lawful director of the department. CNN reported this morning that the White House is looking to get Wolf confirmed by the Senate before Biden’s inauguration essentially in hopes of removing that legal cloud, which could otherwise be used to undo orders issued by the department via litigation. That is, Trump can’t afford to dump Wolf right now. If he wants his immigration policies to stand up in court, he needs Wolf confirmed. Maybe Wolf understands that he has some leverage over the president as a result and thinks he can get away with not being a toady.
Whatever the explanation, Wolf and Krebs are still employed as I write this. As is CIA director Gina Haspel, although she may end up in a largely ceremonial role for the rest of her tenure:
Amid speculation she'll be fired, CIA Director Gina Haspel was not invited to an intelligence briefing at the White House this afternoon, per @vmsalama and @ZcohenCNN. Meeting involves Trump, Director of National Intelligence Ratcliffe and other senior intel officials.
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) November 13, 2020
In lieu of an exit question, read this Daily Beast piece from a few days ago about how angry some Trump aides were with Bill Barr’s order to the DOJ authorizing U.S. Attorneys to investigate voter fraud even before state results are certified. That’s nothing but window dressing, they complained to the Beast. Just like with the Durham probe, Barr’s not doing anything meaningful at a moment when it matters to the White House politically.