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Trump's labor secretary pick, Alexander Acosta, would be only Latino in Cabinet

Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump said Thursday that he will nominate former Justice Department official R. Alexander Acosta as labor secretary after his first pick, fast-food executive Andy Puzder, withdrew.

If confirmed, Acosta would be the only Latino in Trump's Cabinet.

"I think he'll be a tremendous secretary of labor," Trump said in announcing the pick at a White House news conference.

The Miami native and son of Cuban immigrants was assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division under former President George W. Bush from 2003 to 2005. Acosta was the first Latino to serve as an assistant attorney general.

He then became U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, holding the job until 2009. Among his most high-profile cases was the prosecution of Washington, D.C., lobbyist Jack Abramoff on conspiracy and wire fraud charges. Abramoff pleaded guilty and served 43 months of a five-year, 10-month sentence.

Since 2009, Acosta has been dean of the law school at Florida International University in Miami.

Before joining the Justice Department, he served as a member of the National Labor Relations Board from 2002 to 2003. He began his legal career specializing in employment and labor issues in the Washington, D.C., office of the Kirkland & Ellis law firm.

"He has had a tremendous career," Trump said, noting that Acosta has been confirmed by the Senate three times before.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which will consider Acosta's nomination, praised the pick and promised to "schedule a hearing promptly."

"Mr. Acosta's nomination is off to a good start because he's already been confirmed by the Senate three times," Alexander said. "He has an impressive work and academic background."

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