President Donald Trump plans to nominate Eugene Scalia, son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, to be the next Labor secretary.
The president announced the decision on Twitter after POLITICO first reported his plans earlier Thursday. “Gene has led a life of great success in the legal and labor field and is highly respected not only as a lawyer, but as a lawyer with great experience working with labor and everyone else,” Trump wrote.
Story Continued Below
The younger Scalia, a partner at the international law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, met with Trump Thursday and White House officials had been calling Senate offices to assess whether Scalia is confirmable, according to a person briefed on the talks.
Scalia previously served as chief legal officer for the Labor Department during the George W. Bush administration, a position he took following a recess appointment by the former Republican president. He also worked as a special assistant to William Barr, now the attorney general, and was a speechwriter for Education Secretary William Bennett. Reached before the president’s Twitter announcement, Scalia declined to comment.
A Scalia nomination could become a base-pleaser for Trump, who as a presidential candidate built a relationship with right-leaning evangelical voters after promising to select a reliably conservative judge to replace the late justice on the court.
Trump grew close to the Scalia family during the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch, who replaced the late conservative justice on the high court. Scalia’s wife, Maureen, attended a Rose Garden ceremony last July where Trump announced Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the court.
A management-side attorney, who in 2006 argued on behalf of Wal-Mart against a Maryland law that would have required the retail giant to spend more health care money on its employees, Scalia has earned a reputation in legal circles for his track record of victories in cases that deal with government rules. In 2012, the Wall Street Journal described him as “one of the industry’s go-to guys for challenging financial regulations.”
Scalia played a key role in getting a federal judge to vacate the Obama Labor Department’s fiduciary rule, which requires brokers to consider only the best interests of the client, irrespective of commissions or fees, when providing retirement advice. His client in both the fiduciary rule fight and earlier lobbying efforts on campaign finance reform was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
His nomination comes a week after Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta was forced to resign over a lenient 2008 plea agreement for wealthy sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. He will be replaced temporarily om Friday by his deputy, Patrick Pizzella, who many Republicans had expected to get a formal nomination.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a top Trump ally on Capitol Hill, was among the Republicans urging the White House to pursue Scalia for the post. Cotton accompanied Scalia for his interview with Trump, according to a source familiar with the meeting. In addition to Trump himself, Cotton spoke to Barr, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and other top White House officials to recommend Scalia for the Cabinet post.
Eliana Johnson and Theodoric Meyer contributed to this report.