Trump’s labour secretary pick quits nomination process
Andrew Puzder withdraws after spousal abuse accusations aired on ‘Oprah’ resurface
US President Donald Trump with Andrew Puzder, who has withdrawn his nomination for labour secretary. File photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters
The man Donald Trump selected to be his labour secretary, fast-food executive Andrew Puzder, has withdrawn his nomination for the role after Republican senators turned sharply against him.
The toppling of one of the US president’s cabinet picks marks a victory for Democrats, unions and liberal groups who had been attacking Mr Puzder’s business record and his character since he was chosen in December.
It is the latest defeat for a White House besieged by infighting and struggling for traction even with a Republican-controlled Congress.
Conservative publications, including National Review and Breitbart, had also expressed resistance to Mr Puzder, focusing on his employment of an immigrant who was in the US illegally as his housekeeper.
Records from his 1988 divorce, leaked on Tuesday night by opponents, resurfaced spousal abuse accusations that made some Republican senators uncomfortable.
His ex-wife had recanted those accusations, but senators from both parties privately screened a video from The Oprah Winfrey Show which featured her laying out the charges while in disguise.
The opposition from Republicans was broad, and the reasons were varied.
Among senators who had expressed concerns were John Thune of South Dakota, Rob Portman of Ohio, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Tim Scott of South Carolina. The cohort proved more than enough to scuttle the nomination.
A spokesman for Mr Puzder, George Thompson, said his treatment was “an unprecedented smear campaign”.
In a statement, Mr Puzder thanked Mr Trump and those who supported him for their optimism about the “policies and new thinking” he would have brought to the job.
The Labour Department regulates workplace safety, enforces wage and hour laws, maintains unemployment and payroll data, and is generally seen as an advocate for workers.
Mr Puzder, at the helm of his fast-food company, ardently opposed the Affordable Care Act, cast a sceptical eye on minimum wage and overtime rules, and pledged an assault on regulations that he said in his withdrawal statement would “put America’s workers and businesses back on a path to sustainable prosperity.”
“The simple truth is that given his relationship to employees at the companies he runs, he was not fit to lead a department responsible for defending workers’ rights,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, who lost out to Hillary Clinton in the race to be the Democratic candidate for the presidency.
New York Times