Washington, D.C. –The House Freedom Caucus today released podcast episode 38 entitled “House Freedom Caucus Conversation With DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf.”
Hosted by HFC Communications Chair Representative Jody Hice, podcast guest Acting Secretary Wolf covers the riots, chaos, and anarchy disguised as “peaceful protests” by Democratic election officials.
Podcast video is available on Facebook and audio is available on SoundCloud and iTunes. Full transcript is available below.
HICE: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Freedom Caucus podcast. We are thrilled to have everyone on board with us today and extremely excited to have the Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf.
From working as a staffer in the Senate to running one of the largest federal agencies, Mr. Wolf has spent more than 20 years working on policy development and management in both the public and private sectors.
On November 13, 2019, Mr. Wolf was designated as the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security by President Donald J. Trump. As such, he is in charge of a large array of duties, including pushing to secure the southern border of the United States, combatting international and domestic terrorism, preventing terrorist travel, a host of things that fall under the secretary.
Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. We are honored to have you on the podcast today.
WOLF: Well, thank you for having me, it is good to be here.
HICE: Well, you have so much on your plate right now and massive duties. If we can, let’s begin with what is happening in our streets and our communities. We have over 80 days of riots, homicides going up, businesses being lost. Just from your perspective, where do we stand now in Portland and other cities across the country?
WOLF: That is a great question. Let’s just say, you know, overall, the violence we continue to see in a number of our major cities continues to be unacceptable. The president has been very specific about that and vocal about that. I have been, as well. When we look at Portland we see an atmosphere in that city that unfortunately local and state officials have created that breeds this lawlessness. That breeds the ability for individuals to come in -- night after night after night -- conduct criminal activity with little accountability there. That is what we saw. that is what DHS saw back in July and into August regarding the protection of the federal courthouse. Over 60 days trying to protect a federal courthouse we had local police doing almost absolutely nothing regarding arrests and other measures to keep our law enforcement officers safe. Over the course of 60 days we defended the federal courthouse and we had to make arrests. Normally we rely on local officials and local law enforcement to make those arrests, that didn’t occur in this case. You saw some pretty dangerous situations at night; anywhere from 1,000 individuals up to 5,000 individuals there targeting a federal courthouse, targeting law enforcement with little to no help from state and local officials. After 60 days the governor stepped in and said, you know, the violence might be getting out of hand. To be clear, it shouldn’t have occurred on day 60, it should have occurred on day one or day two. I have been very vocal about that. DHS sort of pulled back at the end of July, since that night we’ve seen over 240 arrests by local law enforcement over 23 different times a riot has been declared in Portland, so this idea that DHS brought with it the violence is just kind of one of the myths that is out there.
We have a district attorney out there who is advertising if you get arrested for certain crimes, she is not going to prosecute you. That includes interfering with a police officer, criminal trespass, or any number of other crimes and that is very dangerous. It is a signal to these individuals that they can commit these crimes.
HICE: What would you say is unacceptable versus, I mean you look at these types of things and it feels like you’re not even watching America. It’s just so insane at the hands of our law enforcement. What are you hearing from our law enforcement on the ground when they themselves have been under attack by the media and the left; how are they holding up in terms of morale?
WOLF: Well this is a hard time for them just from what I’ve heard, and let’s be clear: they are under assault. Our law enforcement officers, men and women across the country, not just in Portland but across the country are under assault today. Some of it local, state, and even national policymakers and officials, but also by the media – and it’s starting to wear on them. I’m concerned about long-term effects, you know we talk about retention, we talk about recruitment. We want the best and brightest coming into law enforcement, and I’m concerned about the national narrative out there that is being pushed by fringe groups that law enforcement is not a noble profession to go into. It’s very concerning. These are patriots. Our law enforcement officers by and far as you know congressman are patriots and heroes that put on the badge and they do so at great risk to themselves so they can protect their communities. So instead of nullifying them, we should be supporting them. We need to hold them accountable. We need to make sure we don’t go too far by painting law enforcement with the wrong brush, calling them all racist. They are tired of being labeled as such, and I think we’re going to see serious consequences from the narrative that is out there.
HICE: Could not agree with you more. Final question before I hit on another topic: Where are we going from here? What is going to happen? Are we going to see this come to an end? Or is the leadership in Portland and other cities just going to let this play out?
WOLF: Well, the governor is worried that the Oregon State Police will pick up the number of actions, unfortunately it’s almost too little too late because you have an environment there that individuals are going from Seattle down to Portland. They created this environment that is used to foster itself and build upon itself there in Portland. What we see in other cities is the beginning of violent rioting. I think we all agree that individuals have their first amendment rights to peacefully protest and voice their concerns. No concern from the DHS on that front. What we draw the line on however is that violent rioting and looting of places across the country; whether it’s Kenosha, Seattle, Portland. The President has been very clear that state and local officials need to address this violent activity very quickly. If they can’t, if they don’t have the resources, they don’t have the capabilities, all the federal government – we will help you. We have done that in Kenosha, I believe we reduced the violence. It absolutely worked. We are encouraging others to do the same. They need to protect their communities, they need to put public safety over politics, protect small businesses in their communities, protect their citizens, their constituents in their communities and not let this mob mentality take over their community.
HICE: What’s the chance of these people being designated as domestic terrorists?
WOLF: Well, we are certainly taking a look at the number of violent extremist groups across the spectrum as we look at domestic terrorism. Domestic terrorism has a specific connotation when we talk about really going after groups, investigating, then charging them – and that is certainly the place of the Department of Justice. We are taking a look at these anarchist, extreme anarchist movements that we’ve seen over the past several months encountered by our law enforcement. They certainly feel and look like domestic terrorists wanting to overthrow the government, wanting to harm law enforcement, targeting law enforcement, and injuring law enforcement. That is the definition of a domestic terrorist. Groups and movements such as Antifa and others are very difficult, as you know they don’t have a hierarchy, they don’t have membership, its just very hard to get our arms around. The Department of Justice is certainly investigating criminal activity and coordinated criminal activity that we’ve seen in rioting and the destruction of property.
HICE: Well I’m really glad to hear that. Its one of the biggest concerns and issues certainly here in our district. They want these Sheriffs to be dealt with and unfortunately the lack of cooperation from local leaders as well and thank you so much for the role that you’re playing Secretary Wolf on all that.
If I could quickly shift – I know a big issue for the President has been securing the southern border, of course we’ve got over 300 miles of wall that from my understanding has been completed. Where do we stand now with the southern border? Where do we stand on dealing with the cartel issue that has been so severe for so long and all the other horrible things that have been happening on the border? Where do we stand on the southern border issue?
WOLF: Sure, let me start with the border wall system. We have about 300 miles built and building more miles every single day – we’re supposed to be at 400 miles of border wall system by the end of October and 450 by the end of the calendar year, so that is a significant achievement. It gives our border patrol agents along that south west border new capabilities. It’s not only the physical infrastructure of the wall, but it’s the light, the cameras, the roads, the fiber optics, everything that goes into that border wall system. But we’re not just stopping there when we talk about border security, over the past year and a half we have secured some agreements with the northern triangle. Theses are security agreements; these are asylum agreements, biometric agreements. Nobody can stop that illegal, or irregular migration flow from South America, from Central America up through Mexico into our south west border, so we have built some pretty good partnerships in the northern triangle with our Mexican counterparts on stopping that, but look. At the end of the day the US has the best economy and hemisphere in the world so people will continue to be drawn to the US and they’re just trying to get here both legally and illegally and for me it really matters what we do with the individuals that we catch illegally. Can we assign a consequence to that illegal behavior so it’s not catch and release? As you know we have effectively ended catch and release. Very difficult to do and we are returning individuals that cross that border illegally in that covid environment within 90 minutes back to Mexico. Making sure that our borders remain secure particularly in the middle of a worldwide pandemic is vitally important.
HICE: Wow. That is great news, I’ve been to I think 6 of the sectors myself and I’ve personally seen unbelievably horrible things take place and the progress that has been made under this administration has just been spectacular. Let me just end with this because I know that you’ve got to run, but we all saw an amazing naturalization ceremony that took place with President Trump and you took a little bit of backlash from that from some Democrats who claim you were somehow violating the HATCH Act. What do you have to say to them on that issue?
WOLF: Well I think most reasonable Americans saw the naturalization ceremony whether the ones that DHS does, UFCIS do naturalization ceremonies every day. We do hundreds of thousands of them a year. Americans are seeing those ceremonies, they are the ones they saw at the RNC, as well. Because Americans are proud that individuals want to come to the US, want to come the right way, the legal way, work through the process and at the end of the day take that oath of allegiance. These are public events. I am performing my official duty as the acting secretary swearing these individuals in. The event that we saw again was official business at the White House I participated in another with the Vice President regarding naturalization ceremonies. That event was uploaded to a public platform -- YouTube’s website. Anyone can pull that information. Can pull that video. Whether that is Republicans or Democrats independents or anyone else, they can pull that information and use it if they want. That is public information. This idea that we somehow violated a certain law – the Hatch Act – is nonsense. That is of course not what we did. White House counsel approve it. DHS general counsel approved it. We talked with OMB, which monitors the effects of things. All approved This idea that we somehow skirted the law or went around it is just not true. The previous administration before President Trump’s involvement used footage during the Democrat convention. This is about politics, more than anything else at the moment.
HICE: That is exactly what it is. And we have all seen this president, this administration, under unprecedented attack even before he was inaugurated. The calls for impeachment, the impeachment process, the Russia collusion nonsense … it is literally one thing after another that the Democrats have just simply tried to attack this president. And create issues. Now the Postal Service. While all the while, they are the ones attempting to alter the election. Now that is a topic for another time. You have been there now a little bit less than a year. I think what people love about this president, this administration, is this that they do what they said they were going to do. It is an administration of action. What has your experience been serving as Sec. of Homeland Security and working with this administration?
WOLF: To continue that congressman, this president is a man of action. He is very clear on his expectations. And a lot of things he has said, whether it is going back to 2016 and 2018, all the way through this administration, when he makes a promise to the American people, he expects his administration, DHS to fulfill those promises. We will continue to do them. We take on very difficult issues that past administrations didn’t want to deal with. We’ve talked about a couple of them here this morning. Border security is very, very difficult. Restoring integrity to our immigration system. That is very, very difficult. He’s taken these difficult issues head on. He is challenging the men and women in his administration to tackle these. And I think we are having great success doing so.
HICE: Mr. Secretary let me ask you one other thing that I know a number of people are talking about. We’ve seen some reports about a specific a report coming out of a division of DHS. If you would just share with us a little about what that report is and how this division is supposed to function? And the significance of the issues you’ve been dealing with on this issue?
WOLF: I appreciate that question. The intelligence and analysis division produces a number of unclassified reports every day, every week that we push out to our state and local partners, mainly through our fusion centers. And again, they do that on a wide variety of subjects to report this. [inaudible] A lot of this has to do with election security, has to do with actions by the state of Russia, specifically. Let me just back up again and say election security continues to be a top priority for this department. We have worked very hard over the last four years to make our election systems, our election infrastructure, as secure and hardened as possible. We continue along with the intelligence community to call out malign actors, like Russia, Iran, and China. The report specifically came, was produced and – in a word – very poor quality. It was completely based on open source information, so no classified information. It was something you could Google and pull down off of the internet. To provide some context, why we were putting it out to state and local law enforcement. When I brought this concern up to career officials in our intelligence analysis division, not only did they agree with me, but they admitted to me that they had not actually reviewed the report. So they agreed to take it back and rework it. They continue to rework it. I have no concerns with the stuff that is in the report. It is has been reported on several times. It was open-sourced news reporting. The DNI has reported on this. This is about making sure that the products coming out of the DHS are top-level products, and that we are not just pushing out inferior information to our state and local partners. Our law enforcement officers around the country rely on the Department to gather pertinent information so that they can do their jobs. To put that information out, we want to make sure that is up to par and up to our standards. This is vey similar to another issue that we had unfortunately with this specific office within the Department…pushing information out regarding journalists. In fact, at the beginning of August, I had concerns then. I continue to have concerns. We are doing a review of the office. This is nothing more than a continuation of that in June. Unfortunately, the media and others are trying to making it into something that is much larger than that. There is nothing there. We expected a few additional reports on election security on some of these state threats that continue to target our elections.