New pick for la­bor sec­re­tary:

Alexan­der Acosta would be Trump’s first His­panic Cabi­net mem­ber

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY JON­NELLE MARTE

Alexan­der Acosta was a U.S. at­tor­ney in Florida and an as­sis­tant at­tor­ney gen­eral.

A day af­ter the dra­matic exit of one of his Cabi­net nom­i­nees, Pres­i­dent Trump on Thurs­day named for­mer U.S. at­tor­ney Alexan­der Acosta as his next pick for la­bor sec­re­tary.

Acosta served as an as­sis­tant at­tor­ney gen­eral in the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s civil rights di­vi­sion un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush and is a for­mer U.S. at­tor­ney for the South­ern District of Florida. He was on the Na­tional La­bor Re­la­tions Board and is the dean of the law school at Florida In­ter­na­tional Univer­sity. Acosta also was a clerk to Supreme Court Jus­tice Samuel A. Al­ito Jr. when he was a judge on the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the 3rd Cir­cuit.

“He has had a tremen­dous ca­reer,” Trump said Thurs­day, adding that Acosta had “been through Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion three times.”

Acosta re­ceived his un­der­grad­u­ate and law de­grees from Har­vard. He worked at the law firm Kirkland & El­lis and taught at Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity law school.

If con­firmed, the Cuban Amer­i­can would be the first His­panic mem­ber of Trump’s Cabi­net.

Trump’s an­nounce­ment came on a day when sen­a­tors were sup­posed to be grilling his first choice for the job, fast-food chief ex­ec­u­tive An­drew Puzder. The nom­i­nee with­drew his bid Wed­nes­day amid wa­ver­ing Repub­li­can sup­port and scru­tiny of his per­sonal life, in­clud­ing do­mes­tic-vi­o­lence al­le­ga­tions that his ex-wife later re­tracted.

Acosta re­ceived early sup­port from some top Repub­li­cans. “He has an im­pres­sive work and aca­demic back­ground,” Sen. La­mar Alexan­der (R-Tenn.), chair­man of the Se­nate Health, Ed­u­ca­tion, La­bor and Pen­sions Com­mit­tee, said in a state­ment.

How­ever, some of Acosta’s views may be at odds with Trump’s push to re­duce reg­u­la­tions and rule­mak­ing by agen­cies. In 2010, Acosta wrote an ar­ti­cle for the Florida In­ter­na­tional Univer­sity Law Re­view ad­vo­cat­ing that the NLRB shift from a “preWorld War II quasi-ju­di­cial ad­min­is­tra­tive agency model” to one in which it would is­sue rules.

Un­like Puzder, Acosta would come to the role with some pub­lic ser­vice ex­pe­ri­ence. Unions and la­bor groups, who had been con­cerned that Puzder would put cor­po­rate in­ter­ests be­fore those of work­ers, cau­tiously ap­plauded Trump’s move Thurs­day.

“Work­ing peo­ple changed the game on this nom­i­na­tion,” Richard Trumka, pres­i­dent of the AFLCIO, said in a state­ment. “In one day, we’ve gone from a fast-food CEO who rou­tinely vi­o­lates la­bor law to a pub­lic ser­vant with ex­pe­ri­ence en­forc­ing it.”

But Trumka, con­sumer ad­vo­cates and Democrats said that they still plan to vet Acosta.

“Peo­ple across the coun­try have sent a very clear mes­sage that they want a true cham­pion for work­ers as sec­re­tary of la­bor,” Sen. Patty Mur­ray ( Wash.), the rank­ing Demo­crat on the Health, Ed­u­ca­tion, La­bor and Pen­sions Com­mit­tee, said in a state­ment, adding that she has “some ini­tial con­cerns about his record” that she would be look­ing into.

On Thurs­day, a civil rights group pointed to a con­tro­versy Acosta faced while he was at the Jus­tice Depart­ment. An in­ves­ti­ga­tion from the depart­ment’s in­spec­tor gen­eral con­cluded that Acosta “did not suf­fi­ciently su­per­vise” a for­mer se­nior di­vi­sion of­fi­cial who fa­vored hir­ing peo­ple with “con­ser­va­tive po­lit­i­cal or ide­o­log­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tions” over those with more civil rights ex­pe­ri­ence. “It is hard to be­lieve that Mr. Acosta would now be nom­i­nated to lead a fed­eral agency tasked with pro­mot­ing law­ful hir­ing prac­tices and safe work­places,” said Kris­ten Clarke, pres­i­dent and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Lawyers’ Com­mit­tee for Civil Rights Un­der Law.

Acosta may also face ques­tions about a high-pro­file case he over­saw as a U.S. at­tor­ney in South Florida. In 2008, fed­eral prose­cu­tors ne­go­ti­ated what some crit­ics cat­e­go­rized as a sweet­heart plea deal for a bil­lion­aire hedge-fund man­ager ac­cused of hav­ing sex with un­der­age girls.

Jef­frey Ep­stein avoided fed­eral charges and served 13 months in county jail af­ter he pleaded guilty to state charges of so­lic­it­ing pros­ti­tu­tion, an out­come that was highly crit­i­cized by the al­leged vic­tims. Years later, ac­cord­ing to a 2011 let­ter posted on­line by the Daily Beast, Acosta said the pros­e­cu­tion faced a “year-long as­sault” from the de­fense team. “Some may feel that the pros­e­cu­tion should have been tougher,” he wrote, adding that more phys­i­cal ev­i­dence had been dis­cov­ered since the deal.

John Wag­ner and Steven Muf­son con­trib­uted to this re­port.


Alexan­der Acosta was an as­sis­tant at­tor­ney gen­eral in the Jus­tice Depart­ment.

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