Andy Puzder was President Trump’s first choice to be Secretary of Labor. Puzder, an extraordinarily wealthy man, agreed to take the job because he had a mission: to reverse the left-wing policies and practices of the Obama-Tom Perez DOL.
When Puzder’s nomination failed, Trump turned to Alex Acosta. Acosta too had a mission, but a very different one: to position himself for a better job, e.g., as a court of appeals judge or Attorney General.
To maintain his viability for future office, Acosta doesn’t want to alienate Democrats. Reversing substantial pieces of the Obama-Perez legacy would risk this consequence. Thus, Acosta’s mission is inconsistent with the mission Trump selected Puzder for — to “drain the swamp.” Consequently, as I have reported in a series of posts, the DOL swamp was not drained.
Why did Puzder’s nomination fail? It encountered two problems.
First, in the 1980s, his wife alleged that Puzder engaged in domestic violence. However, she withdrew this accusation decades ago. While Puzder’s nomination was pending she wrote Senators to say:
Andy is not and was not abusive or violent. He is a good, loving, kind man and a deeply committed and loving father.
The ancient and withdrawn allegation of domestic abuse did not constitute a fair or rational basis for killing Puzder’s nomination.
The second problem was that Puzder and his wife had once inadvertently employed an illegal immigrant as their housekeeper (as I understand it, he fired her as soon as he learned of her illegal status). This is a serious matter — one that has caused Cabinet nominations to fail in the past. Reasonable people can disagree about whether it should.
But let’s compare Puzder’s problems with those of the man who became Secretary of Labor because of them. As a prosecutor, Alex Acosta gave a sweetheart deal to Jeffrey Epstein, a pedophile who victimized at least three dozen underage girls. And now, a federal judge has found that Acosta violated federal law in the process because he did not give the victims a chance to be heard.
Which offense is worse, inadvertently hiring an illegal immigrant or selling out the victims of serial pedophile and, as a federal prosecutor, violating federal law designed to protect the interests of crime victims?
For me, the answer is easy — Acosta’s offense is worse. Some may disagree, but they will be hard-pressed to explain why, whichever offense is worse, Acosta’s conduct shouldn’t lead to his removal from the top job at the Labor Department. Remember, the DOL is charged with combating human trafficking.
The equities clearly demand Acosta’s removal. So does political reality. Does President Trump really want to head into the 2020 election vulnerable to charges of being soft on someone who was soft on a despicable pedophile? I hope not.
When news of Acosta’s sweetheart deal with Epstein broke, Democrats called for his resignation. Lately, we haven’t heard many such calls. My guess is that the Dems would be quite content for Acosta to remain at DOL, and not just because he’s maintaining many of the aggressive leftist policies of Obama-Perez. Democrats surely are itching to use Acosta against Trump in the presidential campaign.
So far, Trump seems content to let this happen. The judge’s ruling that Acosta violated federal law gives Trump the perfect occasion to sack Acosta. But today he repeated his baseless, mindless mantra that Acosta has “done a great job as labor secretary” and has been “a fantastic labor secretary.”
Trump added that Acosta’s deal with Epstein and accompanying violation of federal victims rights law “seem like a long time ago.” I hope Trump doesn’t plan to use this defense if Acosta’s illegal mistreatment of Epstein’s victims comes up during the presidential debates next year.
Sarah Sanders was equally lame today. She defended Acosta today by saying, “My understanding is [the Epstein matter was] a very complicated case … but that they made the best possible decision and deal they could have gotten at that time.”
I have two question. First, who said there had to be a deal? When 13 months of ridiculously easy time is the best deal a prosecutor can make with a pedophile who victimized dozens of girls (average age no more than 15), it’s time for a trial.
Second, what’s Sanders’ understanding of why Acosta, having made the deal, violated the federal law by hiding it from the victims?
Fortunately, Trump left himself an out. Stating the obvious, he commented, “I really don’t know too much about [the plea deal].”
Once he learns a little about it — maybe someone could prepare him a one-page summary of Judge Marra’s opinion — one hopes that Acosta will be out at DOL.