Washington: US President Donald Trump has nominated a right-wing corporate lawyer to be the new Secretary of Labour after his predecessor was forced to step down due to past negligence in the prosecution of a billionaire accused of child sex trafficking.
Trump chose Eugene Scalia — the 55-year-old son of the late hardline-conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia — for the Cabinet post that Alexander Acosta had held until his resignation last week.
“I am pleased to announce that it is my intention to nominate Gene Scalia as the new Secretary of Labour. Gene has led a life of great success in the legal and labour field and is highly respected not only as a lawyer, but as a lawyer with great experience,” Trump said on his Twitter account.
Several US media outlets had predicted throughout Thursday that Trump would replace Acosta with Scalia, although the President only made the decision public after 8 p.m. (local time).
“He will be a great member of an administration that has done more in the first 2 ½ years than perhaps any administration in history!” Trump added in his tweet-announcement.
Scalia has a long history as a defence attorney for giant corporations such as Walmart, which has been criticized for underpaying employees and is frequently accused of wage theft.
For this reason, the country’s top labour unions and Democratic Party lawmakers are expected to fiercely oppose Scalia’s nomination.
However, the Republican-controlled Senate is the sole legislative body tasked with approving the President’s Cabinet picks. Therefore, Scalia is expected to officially be confirmed and sworn in as Labour Secretary in the next few days.
Scalia worked for the George W. Bush administration (2001-09) and is currently a senior partner at Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher in Washington.
The announcement of Scalia’s nomination comes just a week after Acosta resigned after giving a press conference in which he defended his actions as a federal prosecutor a decade ago, when he reached a controversial plea agreement with New York mogul Jeffrey Epstein, who was recently arrested and charged with alleged sex trafficking of minors.
The plea deal has come under intense scrutiny for having been too lenient on Epstein, who only pleaded guilty to a minor prostitution offence at the time.
The billionaire reached an unofficial agreement with Acosta’s prosecution team in 2008 to close an investigation into his alleged rape of several underage girls that could have led to his imprisonment for life.
Instead, the deal allowed the businessman to serve a sentence of just 18 months in jail and be registered as a sex offender.
Acosta, the only Latino in Trump’s presidential Cabinet, took office as Secretary of Labour in April 2017.