If the rumors are true, President Donald Trump is considering to remove Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross from office, according to aides and allies familiar with the cabinet.
This comes after Thursday’s announcement that the administration would no longer be pursuing the addition of a question about citizenship to the upcoming 2020 national census. The Commerce Department, led by Ross, is responsible for the census and any information that goes into it.
According to sources, Trump is “frustrated” with Ross’ “leadership of the Census Bureau” and has therefore been making calls outside the White House regarding the replacement of Ross. Nothing official has been announced, and neither has anyone been contacted who would potentially replace the Commerce Secretary. But some officials believe that Ross will not be allowed to stay much longer, and could be gone as soon as this summer.
However, this is not the first time that Ross has been expected to leave the White House. The 81-year-old has been at odds with the president several times before, in particular over his “weak” trade negotiations with China. Trump has told allies that he “wants a more hard-charging leader.” In fact, reports had reached the press last year of Ross’ departure from the White House, and it was said that by the end of 2018, he would no longer have a job.
Obviously, that did not happen. Ross, when asked about his potential demise last year, assured the press that his job was secure and that “there is no truth to that whatsoever,” according to an interview last year with CNBC.
In addition, Ross has been under scrutiny for some time over documents on his investments to the Office of Government Ethics that were submitted and declared “not accurate.” Ross has also applied tariffs to allied countries receiving wrath from congressional members in both parties, as well as made controversial comments, such as the one he made last year during a government shutdown suggesting that he didn’t understand the hardships facing federal employees during the holidays.
The past, Trump has been quick to back Ross despite his failings and the fact that he is a Democrat. This is believed to be in part due to the two’s relationship that began before Trump’s time in politics.
Ross and Trump met through bankruptcies of Trump’s Atlantic City casino hotels in the 1990s, where Ross represented some of Trump’s creditors. The two hit it off well and have enjoyed an ongoing friendship since then. They both also own homes within blocks from each other in both Palm Beach and Manhattan.
Ross was also one of the few Democrats to endorse Trump on his mission for the presidency, at which time he said, “we need a more radical, new approach to government.” Trump repaid the endorsement by making his one of his original cabinet members, calling Ross one the “best and brightest.”
However, it is believed by many that Ross’s lack of aggression in recent dealings, in particular with the way he handled the case made to the Supreme Court on the census citizenship question, has begun to sour the president against him and could well have been the ‘last straw,’ so to speak.
The White House has declined to comment on this situation. And the Commerce Department said in a statement on Monday that Ross was currently heading up their response to Hurricane Barry in the Gulf, as well as traveling with the president to Ohio and Wisconsin on Friday. According to them, Ross “will continue to work on behalf of the American people and the President’s America First agenda.”
Other factors, besides any presidential frustration, must also be considered before a decision is made. Firstly, there is a concern that letting yet another Senate and Democratic cabinet member go will reap negative rewards for the president. Ross would be the 10th Senate-confirmed cabinet member to leave.
Secondly, there is concern about letting him go so soon after Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta’s resignation and the Jeffrey Epstein trial.
And of course, there is the matter of who would replace him and how quickly that could be accomplished.