Transcript: Acting Secretary Chad Wolf on "Face the Nation," June 21, 2020

DHS' Chad Wolf: DACA will continue following SCOTUS ruling
DHS' Chad Wolf: DACA will continue following ... 07:18

The following is a transcript of an interview with Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf that aired Sunday, June 21, 2020, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to go now to the acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf. He joins us from department headquarters here in Washington. Good morning to you. 

ACTING DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY CHAD WOLF: Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: A lot to get to with you, but I want to ask you about something the president said twice. He said that National Security Adviser John Bolton "likes dropping bombs on people and killing them. Now he will have bombs dropped on him." If a private citizen said something like that, I feel like there'd be some security concerns. What was the president trying to say? Is this a threat?

WOLF: Well, MARGARET, I'm going to let the president speak for himself. I did not have the chance to work closely with Ambassador Bolton before I came into this position. So I'm going to let the White House speak for- for themselves. But I think what the president- the frustration that he has with Ambassador Bolton is we all serve at the pleasure of the president. And if you disagree with the president, then you have the ability to resign. And that didn't occur in this case. As you know, Ambassador Bolton was fired. And so I think what you see here is some frustration on an individual writing a book for profit. And so I think that's- that's what I take from those comments. But again, I would refer you back to the White House.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Bombs dropped on him. You don't take that as concerning?

WOLF: No, I think, again, I think if you listen to the president in a variety of different remarks, a lot of some of his comments are taking from a humor standpoint, a joking standpoint. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: I also want to ask about something else the president said last night. Are you aware of the president telling officials to slow down testing as it relates to coronavirus?

WOLF: No, again, I heard those comments as well. I think that what you- what you heard from the president was frustration, frustration in the sense of that we are testing, I believe we've tested over 25 million Americans. We've tested more than any other country in this world. Instead, the press and others, all they want to focus on is an increasing case count. And we know that that's going to occur when you test individuals more and more and more.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about something that falls directly under your portfolio, and that is the TSA. Homeland Security has been ordered to open an investigation in regard to a whistleblower's accusations that there wasn't uniform guidance given to those individuals who are conducting searches at airports. There wasn't training or procedures on protective equipment to deal with COVID. That poses a risk not just to those officers, but obviously to the public that interacts with them. 

WOLF: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Specifically, no mandates for gloves to be changed, no thermometers for passenger temperature checks. What's the status of the investigation?

WOLF: Well, as you indicated, it's an open investigation, so I'm not going to comment specifically, but what I can tell you is that from day one, we have provided transportation security officers, those TSA officers at checkpoints, screening individuals, all of the guidance, all of the standards and all of the PPE that they need to do their job. So we'll continue to work with the investigation, but I feel very confident in what we have provided the TSAs. But I will tell you that as- over--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does that concern you though? Is it safe to fly at current levels?

WOLF: Absolutely. Absolutely. It is safe to fly. I will tell you, though, over the course of three or four months, as this virus has continued to evolve and as the CDC health strategies continue to evolve so has DHS operations. We have a number of frontline officers not only at airports, but on our borders, making sure that we are screening individuals as they come into this country. They can't social distance, as you indicated. And so they have to touch individuals. They have to make sure that individuals are resolved. But we'll continue to provide all of the PPE, all of the resources as we have since day one to all of our frontline officers.

MARGARET BRENNAN: This week as- as you well know, the Supreme Court issued it- its ruling and rejected the administration's attempt to cancel the DACA program. You said that decision doesn't provide a lot of clarity for the 700,000 or so--

WOLF: Right.

MARGARET  BRENNAN: --recipients on the program. Can you assure them that they will still get their work visas renewed, that they won't be forcibly deported from this country?

WOLF: Well, what I would tell you is that we know that the DACA program is unlawful. The Supreme Court even this week did not say that the program was lawful. And in fact, they said that the department has the ability to rescind the program. What they didn't like is the rationale in the way in which we propose to do that. And I- I find that a little concerning because what we know is the Obama administration created this program out of thin air, did not provide notice and comment before the American public to comment on such a- a monumental decision. Instead, the president and this administration has laid out a six month phase out program, been very upfront with the American people about how to do that. So we'll continue to take a look at that and- and--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So what- those work visas--

WOLF: --see how we go from day-- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: --will continue to be renewed and there won't be forcible deportations. Is that what you're saying?

WOLF: Absolutely. We'll continue the program as we have over the past two years, continuing to renew those. But the president's been very clear about wanting to find a lasting solution for these individuals. He's also directed the department to take a look at the court opinion, take a look at our rationale, and we're doing that as well so that we can, again, wind down this program. I think it's important to- to remind your viewers this is an unlawful program. And as the acting secretary of Homeland Security--

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's an incredibly popular program, including with Republicans. 

WOLF: I don't- I don't disagree that it's popular, but I think you have to- you have to separate those two. Is it popular and is it lawful? And as acting secretary, I don't have the luxury of ignoring the law and running a program that's unlawful. And so what the president's been very clear about is asking Congress to find a solution for these individuals.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That means a path to citizenship, one would assume. Just to button up on something you referred to earlier when you talked about the increase in testing that is available to those who- who may have COVID-19. I'm sure you know that there are spikes in actual hospitalizations, people actually getting sick, particularly in Arizona and in Te- in Texas. It's not just increased testing.

WOLF: Absolutely. And again, the White House Coronavirus Task Force is on top of all of these outbreaks, looking state by state, county by county. Whether it's Arizona, Texas, Florida, a number of these states that are having hot spots, that are having those upticks. So we're surging resources, medical individuals and the like, even individuals from the Department of Homeland Security. We're surging into those to- areas to understand what is the cause of that outbreak and address that proactively.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you don't know yet what the cause of the outbreaks in all of those Sunbelt states is?

WOLF: They're all different. They're all for various different reasons. What we see is some of the outbreaks along the southwest border in Arizona, particular parts of Texas, we have about one point five U.S.- U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents living in Mexico, coming back over for medical treatment. So there's a variety of different reasons on why you would have different outbreaks in different states. And again, we have medical professionals, CDC has sent teams into these individual areas, the Department has as well. And we're continuing to address that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Mr. Secretary, thank you for your time this morning. 

WOLF: OK. Thank you. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION. Stay with us.


Below is a complete transcript of Wolf's appearance on  "Face the Nation"

MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to go now to the acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf. He joins us from department headquarters here in Washington. Good morning to you. 

ACTING DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY CHAD WOLF: Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: A lot to get to with you, but I want to ask you about something the president said twice. He said that National Security Adviser John Bolton "likes dropping bombs on people and killing them. Now he will have bombs dropped on him." If a private citizen said something like that, I feel like there'd be some security concerns. What was the president trying to say? Is this a threat?

WOLF: Well, MARGARET, I'm going to let the president speak for himself. I did not have the chance to work closely with Ambassador Bolton before I came into this position. So I'm going to let the White House speak for- for themselves. But I think what the president- the frustration that he has with Ambassador Bolton is we all serve at the pleasure of the president. And if you disagree with the president, then you have the ability to resign. And that didn't occur in this case. As you know, Ambassador Bolton was fired. And so I think what you see here is some frustration on an individual writing a book for profit. And so I think that's- that's what I take from those comments. But again, I would refer you back to the White House.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Bombs dropped on him. You don't take that as concerning?

WOLF: No, I think, again, I think if you listen to the president in a variety of different remarks, a lot of some of his comments are taking from a humor standpoint, a joking standpoint. So, again, I'm not going to speak for the president--

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

WOLF: --or try to explain what he was saying in that tone. But I think the frustration is there, which is as an individual that had every ability to resign if he didn't like the way the president was operating. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

WOLF: But in this case, he did not do that. Instead, he's writing a book for profit.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I also want to ask about something else the president said last night. Are you aware of the president telling officials to slow down testing as it relates to coronavirus?

WOLF: No, again, I heard those comments as well. I think that what you- what you heard from the president was frustration, frustration in the sense of that we are testing, I believe we've tested over 25 million Americans. We've tested more than any other country in this world. Instead, the press and others, all they want to focus on is an increasing case count. And we know that that's going to occur when you test individuals more and more and more. But instead of focusing on the actual progress that this administration has made in revamping and ad- an antiquated testing system and testing record millions of Americans, they're focused just on the- the rising case numbers. So I think what you heard there from the president was frustration.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about something that falls directly under your portfolio, and that is the TSA. Homeland Security has been ordered to open an investigation in regard to a whistleblower's accusations that there wasn't uniform guidance given to those individuals who are conducting searches at airports. There wasn't training or procedures on protective equipment to deal with COVID. That poses a risk not just to those officers, but obviously to the public that interacts with them. 

WOLF: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Specifically, no mandates for gloves to be changed, no thermometers for passenger temperature checks. What's the status of the investigation?

WOLF: Well, as you indicated, it's an open investigation, so I'm not going to comment specifically, but what I can tell you is that from day one, we have provided transportation security officers, those TSA officers at checkpoints, screening individuals, all of the guidance, all of the standards and all of the PPE that they need to do their job. So we'll continue to work with the investigation, but I feel very confident in what we have provided the TSAs. But I will tell you that as- over--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does that concern you though? Is it safe to fly at current levels?

WOLF: Absolutely. Absolutely. It is safe to fly. I will tell you, though, over the course of three or four months, as this virus has continued to evolve and as the CDC health strategies continue to evolve so has DHS operations. We have a number of frontline officers not only at airports, but on our borders, making sure that we are screening individuals as they come into this country. They can't social distance, as you indicated. And so they have to touch individuals. They have to make sure that individuals are resolved. But we'll continue to provide all of the PPE, all of the resources as we have since day one to all of our frontline officers.

MARGARET BRENNAN: This week as- as you well know, the Supreme Court issued it- its ruling and rejected the administration's attempt to cancel the DACA program. You said that decision doesn't provide a lot of clarity for the 700,000 or so--

WOLF: Right.

MARGARET  BRENNAN: --recipients on the program. Can you assure them that they will still get their work visas renewed, that they won't be forcibly deported from this country?

WOLF: Well, what I would tell you is that we know that the DACA program is unlawful. The Supreme Court even this week did not say that the program was lawful. And in fact, they said that the department has the ability to rescind the program. What they didn't like is the rationale in the way in which we propose to do that. And I- I find that a little concerning because what we know is the Obama administration created this program out of thin air, did not provide notice and comment before the American public to comment on such a- a monumental decision. Instead, the president and this administration has laid out a six month phase out program, been very upfront with the American people about how to do that. So we'll continue to take a look at that and- and--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So what- those work visas--

WOLF: --see how we go from day-- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: --will continue to be renewed and there won't be forcible deportations. Is that what you're saying?

WOLF: Absolutely. We'll continue the program as we have over the past two years, continuing to renew those. But the president's been very clear about wanting to find a lasting solution for these individuals. He's also directed the department to take a look at the court opinion, take a look at our rationale, and we're doing that as well so that we can, again, wind down this program. I think it's important to- to remind your viewers this is an unlawful program. And as the acting secretary of Homeland Security--

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's an incredibly popular program, including with Republicans. 

WOLF: I don't- I don't disagree that it's popular, but I think you have to- you have to separate those two. Is it popular and is it lawful? And as acting secretary, I don't have the luxury of ignoring the law and running a program that's unlawful. And so what the president's been very clear about is asking Congress to find a solution for these individuals. Congress is the appropriate entity to do that and not the executive branch. And I believe President Obama even made that same point himself, that he doesn't have the authority to do this himself. What we've found out is he did it anyway. But again, we're not going to continue to operate an unlawful program. We need to find a lasting solution for these individuals.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That means a path to citizenship, one would assume. Just to button up on something you referred to earlier when you talked about the increase in testing that is available to those who- who may have COVID-19. I'm sure you know that there are spikes in actual hospitalizations, people actually getting sick, particularly in Arizona and in Te- in Texas. It's not just increased testing.

WOLF: Absolutely. And again, the White House Coronavirus Task Force is on top of all of these outbreaks, looking state by state, county by county. Whether it's Arizona, Texas, Florida, a number of these states that are having hot spots, that are having those upticks. So we're surging resources, medical individuals and the like, even individuals from the Department of Homeland Security. We're surging into those to- areas to understand what is the cause of that outbreak and address that proactively.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you don't know yet what the cause of the outbreaks in all of those Sunbelt states is?

WOLF: They're all different. They're all for various different reasons. What we see is some of the outbreaks along the southwest border in Arizona, particular parts of Texas, we have about one point five U.S.- U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents living in Mexico, coming back over for medical treatment. So there's a variety of different reasons on why you would have different outbreaks in different states. And again, we have medical professionals, CDC has sent teams into these individual areas, the Department has as well. And we're continuing to address that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Mr. Secretary, thank you for your time this morning. 

WOLF: OK. Thank you. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION. Stay with us.