Politics

Puzder withdraws as Trump’s labor nominee

Andrew Puzder after a meeting with Donald Trump in New Jersey in November.

New York Times/File

Andrew Puzder, after a meeting with Donald Trump in New Jersey in November.

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s young administration suffered another high-profile casualty Wednesday when Andrew Puzder, Trump’s pick to run the Labor Department, withdrew his name amid allegations that he had abused his wife and had hired an undocumented house cleaner.

Puzder’s bid for the job collapsed a day before he was set to appear in front of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee for his confirmation hearing. CNN reported Wednesday that there were four firm Republican votes against the nominee, dooming his chances.

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“I am honored to have been considered by President Donald Trump to lead the Department of Labor and put America’s workers and businesses back on a path to sustainable prosperity,” Puzder said in a statement.

The White House did not comment.

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The Trump administration was already reeling from the forced resignation of Michael Flynn, national security adviser, and reports that Trump advisers were in communication with Russian officials throughout the 2016 campaign.

“Andrew Puzder’s withdrawal as labor secretary is a victory for the American worker,” Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “Puzder should never have even been nominated to lead the Labor Department and Senate Republicans clearly recognized this, too.”

The National Review, a conservative news outlet, published an article Wednesday opposing Puzder’s nomination for his support of “comprehensive immigration reform” and the revelation that he employed an undocumented housekeeper.

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“The case for his confirmation has diminished to the point of disappearing,” the site’s editors wrote. “Not only is Puzder a representative of the worst reflex of corporate America on one of Trump’s signature issues, he is now significantly weakened.”

In a statement, Puzder admitted he employed a housekeeper for a few years but said he had been unaware she was an undocumented immigrant. He said when he learned of her status, he ended her employment and offered assistance in obtaining legal citizenship.

“We have fully paid back taxes to the IRS and the state of California and submitted all required paperwork,” he said in the statement.

Puzder is the chief executive of CKE Restaurants, which runs fast-food chains Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.

Andrew Puzder.

EPA/File

Andrew Puzder.

Also Wednesday, Politico released a video of Puzder’s ex-wife appearing in 1990 on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in which she said Puzder “vowed revenge” after she publicly discussed abuse by him. Lisa Fierstein, his ex-wife, appeared on the show in disguise, and said Puzder told her, “I will see you in the gutter. This will never be over. You will pay for this.”

Democratic and Republican senators have reviewed the tape after the Oprah Winfrey Network provided them with a copy, Politico reported.

The strong pushback on Puzder’s nomination paralleled the contentious confirmation last week of Betsy DeVos, the new secretary of education. DeVos was confirmed only after a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.

CNN did not list the Republicans who had said they would vote against Puzder. Four Republican senators on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee — Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, and Tim Scott of South Carolina — had previously said they were undecided on whether to support Puzder. If all Democrats had opposed Puzder, as expected, Puzder could have only lost two Republican votes and still secure confirmation.

Democrats have spent weeks building their case against Puzder, with Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who sits on the Senate labor committee, among those leading the charge. This week, Warren released a 28-page letter with 83 questions for Puzder, a document she said is necessary given the Republicans’ plan to limit senators’ time for questions.

“My staff’s review of your 16-year tenure . . . reveals that you’ve made your fortune by squeezing the very workers you’d be charged with protecting as labor secretary out of wages and benefits,” Warren wrote in the letter.

Warren also helped convene a forum last month with Democratic senators and some of Puzder’s employees who provided tearful testimony of their experiences working in his restaurants.

Puzder had his confirmation hearing delayed numerous times because his paperwork for the Office of Government Ethics was missing his plan to avoid financial conflicts of interest.

When Trump announced Puzder as his nominee to run the Labor Department, debate erupted over Puzder’s companies’ objectification of women — his fast-food restaurants often use bikini-clad women in ads. Staunch criticism included comparisons of the racy advertisements to soft-core pornography.

Puzder’s history renewed concerns over Trump’s treatment of women after a 2005 Access Hollywood video surfaced in which Trump bragged about grabbing women by the genitals. Puzder was one of 100 business leaders who signed onto a public letter supporting Trump after the video surfaced.

Tyler Pager can be reached at tyler.pager@globe.com.
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