Donald Trump's Pick to Lead Immigration Agency 'Like Putting Putin In Charge of Election Security,' Presidential Hopeful Steve Bullock Says

2020 Democratic presidential hopeful, Governor Steve Bullock of Montana, slammed President Donald Trump's nominee to lead the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency, comparing Ken Cuccinelli's selection to having Russia's president oversee America's election security.

Pointing out that he and Cuccinelli, a Virginia Republican, had both served as attorneys general of their respective states at the same time, Bullock harshly criticized Trump's pick during an interview with Fox News Sunday. "Putting him in charge of immigration would be like putting [Russian President Vladimir] Putin in charge of election security," Bullock said.

Multiple U.S. intelligence agencies and special counsel Robert Mueller all concluded that the Russian government engaged in a campaign to influence and manipulate the 2016 presidential election. The primary goal of the operation was to favor Trump and disparage his Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Lawmakers and intelligence agencies have warned that Russian efforts to spread disinformation and influence U.S. elections are ongoing.

Gov Steve Bullock (D-MT) @GovernorBullock talks to Dana about immigration "I served with Ken Cuccinelli when he was Attorney General, Putting him in charge of immigration would be like putting Putin in charge of election security"

— FoxNewsSunday (@FoxNewsSunday) August 18, 2019

The Montana governor then criticized the Trump administration's highly controversial immigration policy.

"What I disagree with is, we're using immigration to essentially divide this country," he said. Bullock said Trump has been using his hard-line policies to "not only rip families apart, but this country apart."

Trump appointed Cuccinelli to be the acting director of the USCIS's back in June, but he has not been confirmed by the Senate. It's unclear if the controversial conservative would be able to win the support of GOP senators for his nomination to clear the legislative body. The immigration chief has previously attacked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, and other Republicans, promoting even more conservative positions.

"He's spent a fair amount of his career attacking Republicans in the Senate, so it strikes me as an odd position for him to put himself in to seek Senate confirmation," Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, who led his party's campaign arm for two election cycles, told Politico in early June, before Trump formally tapped Cuccinelli for the role ."It's unlikely he's going to be confirmed if he is nominated," Cornyn said.

Last week, Cucinnelli introduced the Trump administration's new rule that would strongly favor wealthier immigrants aiming to secure green cards and visas to the U.S. The policy would scrutinize applicants' finances and disqualify individuals the USCIS deem would potentially use social security services that are currently legally available to immigrants, such as food stamps, healthcare and housing subsidies.

Ken Cuccinelli
Acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Ken Cuccinelli pauses while speaking during a naturalization ceremony inside the National September 11 Memorial Museum on July 2 in New York City Drew Angerer/Getty

As many critics pointed out that the new hard-line immigration policy went counter to the iconic sonnet embossed below the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, Cucinnelli argued that the poem was only intended to welcome European immigrants to the U.S.

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me," the poem, penned by Emma Lazarus in 1883, says. It was first placed on a plaque below the iconic New York statue, which has long been associated with welcoming immigrants to the country, back in 1903.

"Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet, and who will not become a public charge," Cucinnelli revised the poem's words in an interview with CNN on Tuesday.

"Of course that poem was referring back to people coming from Europe where they had class-based societies," he said later in the segment.