Donald Trump's original pick to run the Labor Department, Andy Puzder, was apparently too much of a liability to work in an administration otherwise staffed with enough red flags to dizzy a rodeo steer. Puzder was a classic Trump choice: As the CEO of Carl's Jr. and Hardees, he was accused of wage-fixing and cracking down on his own workers, and fought raising the minimum wage. But after an old Oprah Winfrey clip showing Puzder's wife accusing him of abuse made the rounds in Washington this week, Republicans balked and Puzder pulled his name.
So, Trump has now reportedly tapped Florida International University Law School Dean (and Miami native) R. Alexander Acosta to work as Secretary of Labor. Acosta, a Cuban-American who attended Miami's Gulliver Schools growing up, was formerly the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, where he prosecuted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff for fraud, and former Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne for corruption, among other high-profile cases.
He also served on the federal National Labor Relations Board, which likely makes him Trump's most qualified cabinet pick so far.
But that doesn't mean he's a particularly good choice. Unsurprisingly for the Trump Administration, Acosta has a less-than-stellar record with people of color already.
Acosta ran the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Civil Rights under George W. Bush, from 2003 to 2005, but that's not good news. The Bush administration was repeatedly accused of letting the civil rights wing wither, and Acosta's employees were accused of hiring right-wing partisans and Bush loyalists over more-qualified people. This led to a full-on Justice Department probe into the wing's hiring practices.
So FIU's choice to hire Acosta in 2009 wasn't quite met with universal praise. As New Times wrote that year, some FIU professors said Acosta helped drive a wedge between the federal government and the nation's residents of color.
"Acosta's history in the Civil Rights Division has caused a rift with the black community," H.T. Smith, then-director of FIU's trial advocacy program, told New Times.
Acosta's office also presided over the bizarre "Liberty City Seven" trial, in which seven black Muslim men from Miami were accused of hatching a plot to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago. All seven men were members of an obscure religious sect in South Florida — while federal prosecutors alleged the men were hard-edged terrorists bent on murdering innocent people, many outside observers said portions of the trial seemed like a farce. A 2007 New Times investigation said that the public — and, remarkably, the jury — had been told extremely little about the FBI informants who allegedly ratted on the seven men. But in 2009, five of the seven were convicted on charges of attempting to support Al-Qaeda.
This is a breaking story. This post will be updated.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.