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Former homeland security secretary defends Mayorkas amid impeachment push

A former secretary of homeland security has come out in stalwart support of current Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who is soon set to face a historic impeachment vote by House Republicans.

In an interview with ABC News Live anchor Kyra Phillips on Tuesday, Michael Chertoff characterized the impeachment probe against Mayorkas as "a disagreement about policy."

Chertoff, who ran the Department of Homeland Security from 2004 to 2009 under then-President George W. Bush, said there was "grim irony" in House Republicans attacking Mayorkas for his handling of the southern border when the secretary has actively been advocating for higher congressional funding to confront the issue -- something conservatives say must be accompanied with sweeping immigration changes.

"At the same time they won't give Secretary Mayorkas tools to increase his ability to control the border, they're complaining that therefore he should be impeached, and that really is, almost by definition, a comedy," Chertoff told ABC News.

Chertoff published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal on Sunday in which he urged against an impeachment. "I can say with confidence that, for all the investigating that the House Committee on Homeland Security has done, they have failed to put forth evidence that meets the bar [for impeachable offenses]," he wrote.

The House Committee on Homeland Security is pushing to impeach Mayorkas while claiming he failed to enforce the law at the U.S.-Mexico border, an allegation he has called "false."

"I have adhered scrupulously and fervently to the Oath of Office I have taken six times in my public service career," Mayorkas wrote in a letter to the committee, published on Tuesday morning, ahead of a hearing to review two new impeachment articles against him.

PHOTO: In this Sept. 23, 2019, file photo, Michael Chertoff, Executive Chairman and Co-Founder of The Chertoff Group, speaks onstage during the 2019 Concordia Annual Summit in New York. (Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit, FILE)
PHOTO: In this Sept. 23, 2019, file photo, Michael Chertoff, Executive Chairman and Co-Founder of The Chertoff Group, speaks onstage during the 2019 Concordia Annual Summit in New York. (Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit, FILE)

In his Wall Street Journal op-ed, Chertoff defended Mayorkas' record, characterizing the committee's accusations as "unsupported argument" and calling for House Republicans to "drop the impeachment charade." He also said Congress had inadequately supported and refined existing immigration systems.

Leading Republicans disagree with that view.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green, a Tennessee Republican, opened Tuesday's hearing by saying Mayorkas "put his political preference above the law" and that his "actions have forced our hand" because "we cannot allow this border crisis to continue. We cannot allow fentanyl to flood our border."

Mayorkas is accused in the two impeachment articles of "willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law" and "breach of public trust."

Only one Cabinet secretary has ever been impeached -- in the 1800s.

Chertoff stressed to ABC News Live on Tuesday that he believes Congress needs to consider the reasons why people are being pushed to migrate to the United States, citing examples like climate change and autocratic rule in other countries.

"And those are issues which can't simply be resolved by putting people at the border. We've got to work to alleviate the conditions that are chasing people to leave their homes and flee into the United States," Chertoff said.

On Tuesday afternoon, House Republicans were continuing to push for Mayorkas' impeachment during a hearing on Capitol Hill, with a vote expected by end of day that would put Mayorkas one step closer to a historic removal.

The full House would need to approve the impeachment articles in order to lead to a Senate trial. House Speaker Mike Johnson has said that vote will be held soon.

ABC News' John Parkinson contributed to this report.

Former homeland security secretary defends Mayorkas amid impeachment push originally appeared on abcnews.go.com