WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump has selected lawyer Eugene Scalia, the son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, to be his new labor secretary.
Trump tweeted news of the planned nomination on Thursday evening, less than a week after his previous secretary, Alexander Acosta, resigned amid renewed criticism of his handling of a 2008 secret plea deal with wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein. The financier was indicted earlier this month for sexually abusing underage girls.
“Gene has led a life of great success in the legal and labor field and is highly respected not only as a lawyer, but as a lawyer with great experience” working “with labor and everyone else,” Trump wrote of Scalia, who is currently a partner in the Washington office of the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher firm.
In private practice, Scalia has been known for his challenges to federal regulations on behalf of corporate clients. Scalia’s law firm biography cites his “success bringing legal challenges to federal agency actions.”
If confirmed, Scalia will be returning to the department where he previously served as solicitor in President George W. Bush’s administration, overseeing litigation and legal advice on rulemakings and administrative law. He has also worked for the U.S. Department of Justice. From 1992-93, Scalia served as a special assistant to Attorney General William Barr during his first stint as attorney general.
Trump had previously announced that Acosta would be succeeded in an acting capacity by his deputy, Patrick Pizzella.
Within hours of Trump’s announcement, divisions surfaced between Republicans and Democrats about Scalia’s nomination.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York tweeted that Trump was “missing an opportunity to nominate a fighter for workers, like a union member, to be America’s next Labor Secretary. Instead, he has again chosen someone who has proven to put corporate interests over those of worker rights.”
Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas tweeted that Scalia was “an outstanding lawyer who has vigorously defended the Constitution over a long career in government and private practice. I’m confident he’ll be a champion for working Americans against red tape and burdensome regulation as Labor Secretary.”
Scalia did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Acosta’s resignation extended the record turnover at the highest levels of Trump’s administration, with acting secretaries at key departments, including Defense and Homeland Security. Roughly two-thirds of the Cabinet has turned over by the two-and-a-half year mark of Trump’s term.
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