President Trump announced on Thursday that Alexander Acosta, a lawyer and former U.S. attorney, is his new nominee for secretary of labor.
“I just wanted to begin by mentioning that the nominee for secretary of the Department of Labor will be Mr. Alex Acosta,” Trump said at a hastily called press conference in the East Room of the White House. “He has had a tremendous career.”
Trump’s announcement of Acosta came a day after Andy Puzder, Trump’s first nominee for labor secretary, withdrew his name from consideration amid reports that he lacked the votes needed to be confirmed.
Acosta served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida (successfully prosecuting lobbyist Jack Abramoff, among others) until 2009, when he became dean of Florida International University’s College of Law.
He also served as a member of the National Labor Relations Board under former President George W. Bush. Acosta clerked for Judge Samuel Alito on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upon graduation from Harvard Law School before going on to work at the Washington, D.C., law firm Kirkland & Ellis.
If confirmed, Acosta, who was twice named one of Hispanic Business Magazine’s 50 most influential Hispanics, would be the first Hispanic-American member of Trump’s Cabinet.
Trump had been criticized for being the first president since Ronald Reagan to not have a Latino or Hispanic member of his Cabinet.
Last month, White House press secretary Sean Spicer defended the president’s picks, citing Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao (who is Asian-American), Housing Secretary Ben Carson (who is African-American) and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley (who is Indian-American) to highlight the diversity of Trump’s choices.
“I think when you look at the totality of his administration, the people that he’s talked to, the people that he’s met with, the people that he’s appointing, you see a president that’s committed to uniting this country, who’s bringing the best and the brightest together,” Spicer said. “The No. 1 thing that Americans should focus on is, is he hiring the best and the brightest? Is he hiring people who are committed to enacting real change?”
Puzder — the chief executive of CKE Restaurants, the parent company of the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. fast-food chains — faced a series of hurdles that resulted in the most Republican resistance to date in Trump’s Cabinet picks. Among other things, Puzder’s ex-wife reportedly leveled abuse allegations in 1990 on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and he admitted to employing an undocumented worker.
After Trump announced Acosta as his pick, he quickly pivoted to disparage the media coverage of his first month in office.
“I see stories about chaos. Chaos!” Trump said. “It is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine — despite the fact that I can’t get my Cabinet approved.”
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