Trump's secretary of labor pick Andrew Puzder withdraws nomination

The withdrawal is the first unsuccessful nomination of the Trump administration.

ByABC News
February 15, 2017, 4:11 PM

— -- President Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of labor, Andrew Puzder, has formally withdrawn himself from consideration for the position, Puzder announced Wednesday — a rare move for a Cabinet-level pick.

Puzder came under scrutiny after admitting earlier this month that he had employed an undocumented worker for years and revelations that his ex-wife alleged in 1990 that he abused her. She has since withdrawn those allegations, and Puzder — whose confirmation hearing was set for tomorrow after being rescheduled four times — has denied wrongdoing.

"After careful consideration and discussions with my family, I am withdrawing my nomination for secretary of labor," Puzder said in a statement Wednesday. "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's withdrawal marks the first unsuccessful nomination of the Trump administration. Ten of his 22 Cabinet-level picks are yet to be confirmed.

Democratic Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer has been calling on Puzder, who heads CKE Restaurants, which owns Hardee's and Carl's Jr., to withdraw for more than a week. Several GOP senators hinted at reservations during his nomination process. He did not have a hearing in front of a Senate panel.

"My wife and I employed a housekeeper for a few years, during which I was unaware that she was not legally permitted to work in the U.S. When I learned of her status, we immediately ended her employment and offered her assistance in getting legal status. We have fully paid back taxes to the IRS and the state of California and submitted all required paperwork regarding her employment," Puzder said in a statement.

At the time, Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell defended Puzder. "He realized the mistake, he fixed it and I think is eminently qualified for the job," he told reporters last week.

Puzder's ex-wife, Lisa Fierstein, retracted her allegations that he abused her. She appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" at the time detailing that abuse, and senators viewed the video. "The damage that I sustained you can't see," she said on the show, according to a video obtained by ABC News. "It's permanent, permanent damage, but there's no mark, and there never was. They don't hit you in the face. They're too smart. They don't hit you in front of everyone."

On the episode, titled "High Class Battered Women," Fierstein appeared in disguise and under a false name, "Ann."

"If you are married to someone who is powerful or, in my case, was an attorney, getting out is much more difficult because you are up against a lot of money, a lot of power," she said. "It's not as easy as just getting out because the battle you are about to fight is sometimes more frightening than what you are already used to."

She later wrote an emotional letter to members of the Senate panel articulating her retraction of the allegations.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer sought to shift the blame for Puzder's withdrawal to Senate Democrats, classifying their inaction on his nomination as "slow walking" and "politicization."

President Barack Obama had three nominees withdraw, though only one of them formally withdrew by submitting paperwork to the Senate, the Senate said. Only 10 Cabinet-level nominees have ever formally withdrawn, according to the U.S Senate.

Earlier today, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine — a GOP swing vote on Puzder's nomination — told ABC News it was possible that Puzder could address some of her concerns in the hearing tomorrow. "It's very difficult to assess. I don't know what he is going to say in his hearing and how he is going to perform."

"I still have unanswered questions," agreed Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who also spoke this morning. "That's why we were having a hearing and I was looking forward to asking my questions ... I think it's appropriate for us to continue to get the questions answered."

ABC News' MaryAlice Parks, Shushannah Walshe and Katherine Faulders contributed to this report.

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