‘Surprised’ And ‘Disappointed’: Kevin McAleenan Rejects Democrats’ House Subpoena

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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  • Outgoing DHS chief Kevin McAleenan criticized Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson for ordering him to testify before his committee a day before he is due to vacate his position. 
  • Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, is holding a terrorism-related hearing Oct. 30, but McAleenan is stepping down from his position Oct. 31. 
  • The DHS chief also accused Thompson of possibly violating committee rules by not giving proper notice, but the committee chairman rejected the accusation. 

Kevin McAleenan, the outgoing leader of the Department of Homeland Security, is rejecting a subpoena by House Democrats to testify before a congressional committee a day before he vacates his position.

Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan’s last official day in office is Oct. 31. However, that did not stop Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, from ordering him to be a witness before his committee Oct. 30 to discuss terrorist threats facing the U.S.

In a sharp response, the outgoing secretary said he would not be attending, and instead focus on an “effective transition” for the next DHS leader.

“I was disappointed, and extremely surprised, to receive a subpoena from you for testimony at the Committee’s worldwide threats,” McAleenan wrote in a letter to Thompson on Friday, which the Daily Caller News Foundation obtained. “The resort to compulsory process, precipitously and without notice, was particularly disappointing given the productive working relationship we have enjoyed during my tenure as Acting Secretary.”

“We respect your oversight needs regarding worldwide threats, but it is also important that you respect the Department’s need that I devote my final week as Acting Secretary to ensuring an effective transition in the leadership of the Department,” the DHS chief continued. 

Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Thompson (D-MS) listens as DHS Secretary Nielsen testifies on border security on Capitol Hill in Washington

Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Bennie Thompson (D-MS) listens as U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen testifies on border security on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

McAleenan also suggested Thompson’s subpoena might have violated committee rules. Neither McAleenan’s staff nor committee Ranking Member Mike Rogers received a prior notice about the subpoena, according to the DHS chief’s letter.

“This irregular process … underscores the inappropriateness of demanding that I appear before the Committee on my penultimate day of public service as I seek to orderly transition the Department to my successor,” he wrote.

In his place, McAleenan offered Homeland Security Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis David Glawe, calling him the person “best positioned” to discuss terrorist threats facing the country. However, it’s not clear if Thompson will accept Glawe as a witness.

In a response issued Friday, the committee chairman denied any wrongdoing and accused McAleenan of simply not wanting to testify.

“To be clear, no rules were broken by the Committee and his appearance remains legally required,” Thompson said Friday, according to CNN. “It seems he just doesn’t want to testify. But it should be no surprise that a Trump Administration official would deliberately mislead the American public.”

The back-and-forth between McAleenan and Thompson could potentially escalate dramatically. Should McAleenan defy the subpoena, he could be held in contempt and referred to the Department of Justice for prosecution, but this sequence of events is not likely to happen. (RELATED: Trump Administration Testing Out A Program That Quickly Deports Migrants Who Arrive At The Border)

McAleenan is due to step down from his position Oct. 31, following roughly six months on the job.

It’s not yet known who President Donald Trump will tap to fill the position. USCIS acting director Ken Cuccinelli and Customs and Border Protection acting commissioner Mark Morgan were both considered top contenders, but have since been deemed by the White House as ineligible. DHS assistant secretary Chad Wolf and Transportation Security Administration chief David Pekoske are being heavily considered.

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