The Government Accountability Office says that the acting leaders of the Department of Homeland Security, who have been serving in their roles without Senate confirmation, were not appointed through a valid process.

Since November, Chad Wolf has been serving as "acting secretary" of DHS and Ken Cuccinelli has been "senior official performing the duties of deputy secretary." Neither of those appointments is legitimate, because the two men were appointed by officials who were themselves not in valid positions of power, the GAO found.

"We are referring the question as to who should be serving as the Acting Secretary and the Senior Official Performing the Duties of Deputy Secretary to the DHS Office of Inspector General for its review," Thomas H. Armstrong, general counsel for the GAO, wrote.

The Trump administration has relied heavily on temporary appointments rather than permanently filling key posts. President Trump has said he prefers acting appointments for the speed and flexibility they offer. Because they do not require Senate confirmation, such postings bypass a layer of legislative oversight over the executive branch.

Under the leadership of Wolf and Cuccinelli, Homeland Security has attracted intense scrutiny for such actions as deploying federal agents to protests in Portland over the opposition of local and state leaders.

The GAO says its review only focused on the legality of the appointments themselves — and not on what this means for actions taken by DHS officials. That matter is being referred to another government watchdog for review.

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