A senior Labor Department official with outsize control of agency operations is leaving after a White House investigation into complaints about mistreating staff and misleading Trump administration personnel, sources with direct knowledge of the probe told Bloomberg Law.
That aide is Nick Geale, Alex Acosta’s chief of staff.
Bloomberg’s sources declined to identify who made the final decision to demand Geale’s ouster. However, Bloomberg notes that Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s chief of staff, discussed the Geale situation with Acosta during a recent meeting. And Bloomberg makes it clear that removing Geale was not Acosta’s decision.
Geale is known to have abused DOL staff and I’m sure that didn’t sit well. However, I believe the main reason for his sacking is the bit about “misleading White House personnel.”
As I wrote here:
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.
This definitely did not sit well:
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.
Geale was never likely to survive the perception that he deceived the White House. Nor does it help that the DOL has been sluggish in finalizing a rule that would privatize some of the agency’s apprenticeship training, as it was instructed to do by a 2017 order from President Donald Trump. This, I understand, is a pet project of Ivanka Trump.
But at all times, Geale has been acting (or refusing to act) on behalf of his boss, Alex Acosta. As a source close to the president told Axios (in an understatement):
[Acosta] tends to be fairly fearful of taking hardline positions. He tends to be solicitous of the unions. . . .
It’s not clear to me that Nick is the only problem. You take your cues from the top.
It was Acosta, I believe, who did not want to write the regulations the White House demanded and who was looking for excuses not to write them. His disinclination to write these regs was part of his general approach to the job — do very little to reverse the policies of the Obama/Perez Labor Department so as not alienate unions and leftists.
In this, at least, Acosta has been successful.
The question, though, is how Acosta survived the insubordination and deception that reportedly led to Geale’s dismissal. The question is all the more acute given revelations that Acosta, as a federal prosecutor, gave the deal of a lifetime to pedophile Jeffrey Epstein and violated federal law in the process.
I’ve heard that Mulvaney has urged that Acosta be ousted. If so, the only plausible explanation for Acosta’s retention is that Trump wants him to remain.
Why? That’s the question that has me scratching my head.