Earlier this week, I noted that Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta failed, in effect, to receive a “full confidence” declaration from the White House. Sarah Sanders’ statement in this regard followed a White House meeting in which, according to what I heard, Mick Mulvaney and at least one key domestic policy adviser urged President Trump to fire Acosta.
Given Acosta’s scandalous behavior in connection with the sweetheart deal he gave to pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, the sentiment is understandable. However, anti-Acosta sentiment within the administration is based mainly on his performance — or non-performance — as Labor Secretary.
That sentiment is reinforced by considerations beyond Acosta’s unwillingness to implement conservative policies desired by the administration, although that unwillingness should be reason enough to sack him. I’m told that Acosta infuriated key members of the White House team by presenting excuses for his inaction that turned out to be without a factual basis.
Specifically, I’m told that at White House meetings on the status of various regulatory reform issues, the Acosta DOL, via the Secretary’s chief of staff, told officials that regulations desired by the administration — regs involving “regular rates of pay” and “joint employment” — hadn’t been formulated due to lack of capacity (among other excuses). In other words, the Department lacked the staff necessary to write these regs given the other obligations of staff members.
But I’m told that White House officials discovered this was not true. They learned that the DOL staffers at issue actually had little work to do because Acosta nixed the writing of serious regulations, apparently on the grounds that they would be unpopular with congressional Democrats and liberal interest groups.
Dismay over Acosta’s phony justifications and continued inaction caused representatives of Vice President Pence and National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow to become involved. The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Neomi Rao’s shop, also grew concerned.
So did Mick Mulvaney. His predecessor, Gen. John Kelly, has many fine qualities, but interest in DOL regulations was not among them.
Mulvaney is different. He laid down the law, and the regulations in question were finally drafted. But disgust over Acosta’s inaction and deception remains.
It should. Acosta’s behavior is the antithesis of draining the swamp.
Acosta has retained the support of President Trump, at least until now. I suspect he accomplished this the old-fashioned way, through flattery.
However, there is one Trump who may be disillusioned with Acosta. Ivanka Trump was assigned by the president to lead a task force on apprenticeship programs including a push to remove federal restrictions on apprenticeships.
This is one initiative Acosta has pursued, but not effectively. I believe Ivanka Trump has noticed. Indeed, a former DOL official involved with this issue is now on her staff, according to this report.
Apprenticeships are yet another strike against Acosta, I think.
I surmise that Acosta made a bold gamble. He gambled that if he kept Democrats happy he could be confirmed as a federal judge or even Attorney General before he had to pay a price for the inaction required to keep Democrats happy.
The gamble might have paid off if the Epstein scandal hadn’t reared up or, perhaps, if Mulvaney hadn’t been named chief of staff. Now, it looks like Acosta made a losing bet.