Trump's acting head of homeland security Chad Wolf resigns

As security forces in the United States brace for the possibility of armed protests across the country around president-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20, the acting secretary of homeland security is stepping down.

FBI warns of plans for armed protests across U.S. before Biden's inauguration

Acting secretary of homeland security Chad Wolf is seen before he testifies before a U.S. Senate committee during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 23. Wolf said Monday he is stepping down. (Greg Nash/Pool via Reuters/File Photo)

As security forces in the United States brace for the possibility of armed protests across the country around president-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, the acting secretary of homeland security is stepping down.

Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said he had intended to stay in the post until the Jan. 20 inauguration but was compelled to resign by "recent events," including court rulings that found he could not legally hold the position.

Wolf had been serving in an acting capacity since November 2019 and was never confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Other than the court decisions, which he called "meritless," he did not specify what other factors prompted the resignation beyond referencing "recent events."

"These events and concerns increasingly serve to divert attention and resources away from the important work of the department in this critical time of a transition of power," he said in a written message to DHS employees.

Wolf's departure follows the abrupt resignation of other cabinet officials angered by President Donald Trump's role in encouraging his supporters to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6 over false claims of election fraud.

Last week, Wolf asked Trump and all elected officials to "strongly condemn the violence" that took place at the Capitol. Five people died, including a police officer.

Wolf said he has condemned violence on both sides of the political aisle, specifically directed at law enforcement. He tweeted, "We now see some supporters of the President using violence as a means to achieve political ends" and called it unacceptable.

The White House had no immediate comment on Wolf's departure.

FBI warn of further protests

Peter Gaynor, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will serve as acting head of the Department of Homeland Security until the Biden administration takes over.

Meanwhile, the FBI is warning of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington, D.C., in the days leading up to Biden's inauguration.

An internal FBI bulletin warned that the nationwide protests may start later this week and extend through Jan. 20, according to two law enforcement officials who read details of the memo to The Associated Press. Investigators believe some of the people are members of extremist groups, the officials said. The bulletin was first reported by ABC News.

"Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the U.S. Capitol from 17 January through 20 January," the bulletin said, according to one official. The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Southwest Airlines also said 101 people had been evacuated from a flight at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport on Monday night after crew found a written threat upon arrival.

Security forces bolster plans

Trump approved an emergency declaration for Washington late Monday that will be in place from now until Jan. 24.

The head of the National Guard says at least 10,000 troops will be deployed in Washington by Saturday, and an additional 5,000 could be requested from other states as officials brace for more, possibly violent, protests surrounding president-elect Biden's inauguration.

The U.S. National Park Service announced Monday it would shut down public access to the Washington Monument until Jan. 24, citing threats surrounding the inauguration.

The U.S. Secret Service will also begin carrying out its special security arrangements for the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration on Wednesday, almost a week earlier than originally planned. 

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser on Sunday sent a letter to Wolf saying she is "extremely concerned" about the upcoming inauguration in light of the "unprecedented terrorist attacks on the U.S. Capitol."

Trump himself is skipping Biden's inauguration, a decision Biden said was a "good thing," though Vice-President Mike Pence and his wife plan to attend.

Biden's team hopes the event will help bring a fractured country back together. The theme will be "America United" — an issue that's long been a central focus for Biden but one that's taken on added weight in the wake of the violence in the Capitol.

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The presidential inaugural committee said that the theme "reflects the beginning of a new national journey that restores the soul of America, brings the country together and creates a path to a brighter future."

It will be one of Biden's first acts as president and a show of bipartisanship at a time when the national divide is on stark display.

The focus on unity has characterized Biden's presidential run from the start, and he's said repeatedly since winning the White House he sees unifying the country as one of his top priorities as president. But the scope — and urgency — of the challenge Biden faces became even clearer after Trump inspired a riot at the Capitol last Wednesday, spurred by his repeated attempts to delegitimize Biden's win.

U.S. president-elect Joe Biden said Monday he plans to focus on bringing the country together once he's sworn in on Jan. 20. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

There are already signs of increased tension outside of Washington, D.C., as state lawmakers return to work. 

In Olympia, Wash., members of the National Guard defended security fencing outside of the Capitol building as the 2021 legislative session got underway. There were concerns armed groups might try to occupy the building. Last Wednesday, hours after the siege in Washington, D.C., people broke a gate outside the governor's mansion in the state of Washington and made it to the porch and front yard.

With files from Reuters