President Donald Trump, joined by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, left, and Attorney General William Barr, speaks during an event about the census in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, Thursday, July 11, 2019.
Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo

Wilbur Ross’ cabinet agency reaches ‘new heights of dysfunction’

After the Jeffrey Epstein scandal forced Labor Secretary Alex Acosta out of the cabinet, the political world pondered which member of Donald Trump’s team would be the next to go. The smart money appears to be on Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

NBC News reported a week ago that the president has told confidants that he’s considering forcing Ross out, which would make sense given that the Commerce chief was largely responsible for derailing the White House’s census scheme. The report added that some members of Team Trump expect Ross to depart “possibly as soon as this summer.”

What’s less clear is whether the Commerce secretary would be missed. Politico reports today on the cabinet agency becoming “chaotic” and reaching “new heights of dysfunction.”

Constant infighting among top officials. Sudden departures of senior staffers without explanation. A leader who is disengaged and prone to falling asleep in meetings.

The Commerce Department has reached its apex of dysfunction under Wilbur Ross, according to four people with knowledge of the inner workings of the department. The 81-year-old Commerce secretary, who has for months endured whispers that he is on the outs, spends much of his time at the White House to try to retain President Donald Trump’s favor, the sources said, leaving his department adrift.

He’s hardly the only top Trump official to seek the president’s approval. But department insiders say they’ve rarely seen Commerce so rudderless – and they say Ross’s penchant for managing upward at the expense of his staff is leading to what one plugged-in observer described as “a disaster over there.”

The article characterized Ross as basically clueless and reluctant to hold routine meetings with senior staffers.

One source added, “Because he tends to fall asleep in meetings, they try not to put him in a position where that could happen so they’re very careful and conscious about how they schedule certain meetings.”

This has contributed to Ross’ deteriorating relationship with Capitol Hill, where aides have discouraged him from appearing before lawmakers who’d ask questions he wouldn’t be able to answer.

Politico spoke to one source who said, “There’s a great deal of effort to shield him from testifying ever again.”

It’s a good thing Trump only hires the best people, isn’t it?