Trump announces Labor nominee, defends presidency, bashes media

- President Donald Trump nominated R. Alexander Acosta, who has been dean of Florida International University’s law school in Miami since 2009, to be labor secretary.

Then, he mounted a vigorous defense of his presidency and accused America's news media of being "out of control" at a White House news conference Thursday, vowing to bypass the media and take his message "straight to the people."

Nearly a month into his presidency, Trump said his new administration had made "significant progress" and took credit for an optimistic business climate and a rising stock market. He pushed back against widespread reports of a chaotic start to his administration marked by a contentious executive order -- now tied up in a legal fight -- to place a ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations.  
 
"This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine," Trump declared. The president announced that he would announce a "new and very comprehensive order to protect our people."
 
Trump, the reality TV star and real estate mogul who was elected as an outsider intent on change, bashed news media coverage. He accused reporters of not telling the truth and only serving special interests.
 
"The press has become so dishonest that if we don't talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people," Trump said.
 
Trump said he had just spoken with Acosta before coming to the East Room for the hastily-arranged news conference, where he made the Labor Department announcement.
 
"I wish him the best," Trump said. At a White House event earlier, he had described Acosta -- without identifying him -- as a "star" and a "great person."

According to the school’s website, “A native of Miami and first-generation lawyer, Dean Acosta earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard College and his law degree from Harvard Law School. After serving as law clerk to Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., then a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Dean Acosta practiced law at the firm of Kirkland & Ellis and taught law at the George Mason School of Law.”

His biography continues, “Dean Acosta has served in three presidentially-appointed, senate-confirmed positions. He was a member of the National Labor Relations Board, where he participated in or authored more than 125 opinions. He went on to be the first Hispanic to hold the rank of Assistant Attorney General. Most recently, Dean Acosta served as the U.S. Attorney for Southern District of Florida, and was the longest serving U.S. Attorney in the District since the 1970s.”

It says he “prosecuted a number of high-profile defendants” for white collar crime, fraud, terrorism, torture, and the founders of the Cali Cartel “for the importation of 200,000 kilos of cocaine, which resulted in a $2.1 billion forfeiture.”

FOX News points out Acosta is chairman of U.S. Century Bank and prior to becoming dean at FIU, he served as the first Hispanic assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department under the George W. Bush administration.

Trump's first pick for the job, fast food chain executive Andy Puzder, withdrew from consideration due to Republican opposition.

Puzder faced questions over taxes he belatedly paid on a former housekeeper after it was revealed she was not authorized to work in the United States.

Puzder said he fired the employee about five years ago but didn’t pay the related taxes until after Trump nominated him as labor secretary on Dec. 9.

Puzder said he paid the taxes as soon as he found out he owed them, but there was no explanation of why he didn't know or pay for five years.

Spokesman George Thompson said Wednesday Puzder did not tell the White House about the housekeeper issue until after he had been nominated.

It's not clear that Trump's aides asked the immigration question before the nomination even though such issues have sunk past presidential nominations and Trump has taken a hard line on people in the U.S. illegally.

People who were interviewed during the transition period said they were not asked by Trump's team to provide vetting information, raising questions about the level of scrutiny.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Lamar Alexander, who would’ve chaired Puzder's confirmation hearing Thursday, issued statements praising Puzder's qualifications but saying they "respect" his decision.

Republicans grumbled about the stream of "distractions," including the torrent of criticism about Puzder's personal life and his record as CEO of CKE Restaurants, Inc.

Trump has blamed Senate Democrats for stalling or complicating the confirmation process of several of his Cabinet nominees.

Democrats, labor and other groups opposed Puzder on ideological and personal grounds. They contended his corporate background and opposition to proposals such as a big hike in the minimum wage made him an unfit advocate for American workers at the top of an agency charged with enforcing worker protections. They rolled out stories from workers who said they were treated badly at Puzder's company.

And they were ready to make his women and his workers part of the hearing on Thursday. Puzder was quoted in Entrepreneur magazine in 2015 as saying, "I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis." He said the racy commercials for Carl's Jr., one of his companies, were "very American."

Democrats also said Puzder had disparaged workers at his restaurants. He was quoted by Business Insider as saying he wanted to try robots at his restaurants, because "They're always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there's never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex or race discrimination case."

A coalition led by the pro-labor National Employment Law Project and Jobs With Justice groups said Puzder's withdrawal represents the "first victory of the resistance against President Trump."

"Workers and families across the country spoke up loud and clear that they want a true champion for all workers in the Labor Department," said Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the panel that was to handle the hearing.

Trump was also expected to soon name a new national security adviser following this week's ouster of Michael Flynn, who misled Vice President Mike Pence about Flynn's contacts with Russia.
 
Trump is said to favor Vice Admiral Robert Harward, a former Navy SEAL, as his next national security adviser, according to a White House official. Harward met with top White House officials last week and has the backing of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. He is slated to meet with officials later Thursday.
 
Trump's controversial choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency cleared a key hurdle in the Republican-led Senate. Oklahoma Attorney Gen. Scott Pruitt won on a 54-46 vote with unanimous GOP support on Thursday's procedural tally, but Maine Republican Susan Collins says she'll oppose him in the final confirmation vote.
 
The Senate confirmed President Donald Trump's pick to run the White House budget office, giving Republicans' tea party wing a voice in Trump's Cabinet. Rep. Mick Mulvaney squeaked through the Senate on a 51-49 vote. Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, who's emerging as perhaps the most vocal Republican critic of the Trump administration, opposed Mulvaney for backing cuts to Pentagon spending.

Dismissing scandals and setbacks as media fiction, Trump says his administration is `running like a fine-tuned machine.'

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