Watch Trump's press conference, where he named his new Labor Secretary nominee.
President Trump nominated R. Alexander Acosta for Labor Secretary on Thursday. Acosta was not on hand for the announcement. Acosta, the first Hispanic named to Trump's cabinet, was nominated less than a day after Andrew Puzder withdrew his nomination.
Acosta is the dean of Florida International University College of Law in Miami, Florida. He previously served as the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division under George W. Bush, worked for the National Labor Relations Board and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.
NBC News confirms President Trump will announce Alexander Acosta as his pick for Labor Secretary— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) February 16, 2017
The Acosta announcement was unexpected. The Trump administration announced the nomination press conference just hours before it started.
In addition to his other previous jobs, Acosta was a U.S. attorney, so he has been confirmed for government positions by the Senate three times, which could make his confirmation process easier. As a U.S. attorney, Acosta prosecuted Jack Abramoff, who plead guilty to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials. Acosta also prosecuted Swiss bank UBS.
"Phenomenal," says Pres Trump of new nominee for Labor Secretary. Didn't name him/her yet, but calls him/her "a star" and "great person."— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) February 16, 2017
Earlier on Thursday, Trump called his nominee a "star" and "great person."
A former Trump rival supports Acosta.
Trump took the attention garnered by the announcement to tout what he perceives as his success. “I'm here today to update the American people on the incredible progress we’ve made," Trump said from the East Room.
He discussed how he plans to rebuild the military, how he is saving manufacturing, and about how he is working with foreign countries. He brought up his electoral college victory. And he also took time to take swipes at the media, saying it "speaks not for the American people but for special interest."
“This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine despite the fact that I can’t get my cabinet approved," Trump said.
He touted his support for law enforcement and his efforts to build a wall on the southern border. "We are going to have a wall that is going to work," he said.
Much of his speech centered on following through with his campaign promises, like his efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and overhaul the tax code.
Trump received questions from the press about his former national security adviser Michael Flynn and reports that Russia was working with his campaign.
"Mike Flynn is a fine person I asked for his resignation and he respectfully gave it," Trump said.
He continued by defending Flynn, stressing he didn't do anything illegally, but was asked to resign because of what he told Vice President Pence. He also attacked the media for printing information that was leaked to them about his White House.
On Russia, he denied any coordination, saying even the people who were named denied any relationship with Russia. He made mention that he has no connection with Russia personally. "I have no deal there," he said.
Trump said that the leaks that lead to Flynn's resignation will be stopping soon. He attacked the media for printing "fake news" and said it has "a lower approval rating than Congress." He specifically went after CNN. "When I watch CNN there is just so much anger and hatred," he said.
He said that "fake news" makes it harder for him to strike international deals with the likes of Russia.
He said we can expect health care legislation in March and tax reform in the near future.
Despite extended back-and-forths with reporters, Trump maintained that he was enjoying himself. "I'm having a good time doing it [the press conference]," Trump said.
He joked that he had his staff double-check to make sure that his Labor Secretary nominee was not related to CNN's Jim Acosta.
He is not related to CNN's Acosta. Jim confirmed this on air.
Trump also tackled his immigration pause rollout. "We had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban. But we had a bad court," Trump said.
He said that he rushed the executive order through on the advice of former Gen. John Kelly, who is now secretary of Department of Homeland Security.
Trump declined to tell the press what he would do with Russia's recent provocations. He denied any knowledge of his campaign working with Russia, but refused to say definitively that it hadn't.
Anti-Semitism also came up during the one hour, 15 minute-long press conference. "I am the least anti-Semitic person you've ever seen in your entire life," Trump said.
He said Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, "is a very very difficult subject." He said he wanted to show heart on the issue because he loves children.
Trump promised to address inner-city problems by working on health care, education and crime. "They are living in hell and we can't let that happen," he said.
Puzder withdrew his nomination a day before he was set to testify before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions. "After careful consideration and discussions with my family, I am withdrawing my nomination for Secretary of Labor," Puzder said in a statement announcing his decision. "While I won't be serving in the administration, I fully support the President and his highly qualified team."
Puzder had run into problems with his nomination, including controversies involving employing an undocumented immigrant housekeeper, being accused by his wife of domestic abuse (though those claims were later retracted), difficulty getting his financial disclosures in order, as well as protest over his alleged unfair labor practices from workers at his CKE fast food chain.
Puzder is the first Trump cabinet nominee to be withdrawn.
I refused to accept Trump couldnt find 1 qualified Hispanic for Cabinet. Glad to hear appointing Acosta. Qualified in intellect & character.— Ana Navarro (@ananavarro) February 16, 2017
Republican strategist Ana Navarro praised the choice to nominate a Hispanic man.
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