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President Trump and Labor Secretary Alex Acosta. Photo: Oliver Contreras - Pool/Getty Images

Nick Geale, the top aide to Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, is leaving the Trump administration after a clash with White House officials who regarded him as personally difficult and an impediment to President Trump's deregulatory agenda, according to sources with direct knowledge.

Behind the scenes: Senior White House officials — especially within the Domestic Policy Council — have made it clear to Acosta that they're frustrated that, in their view, the Labor Department hasn't been moving quickly or aggressively enough on deregulation. And some have pointed to Geale as the problem. The White House also separately lodged a complaint about Geale.

A source who is close to the president and has direct knowledge of the situation told me: "The pace of change has not been sufficient. [Acosta] tends to be fairly fearful of taking hardline positions. He tends to be solicitous of the unions, often making the argument that that's what the president wants."

  • "The only question in my mind is, is it Nick Geale that's the problem? Or is he just doing his boss' bidding? It's not clear to me that Nick is the only problem. You take your cues from the top."
  • Geale has told Acosta that he will be leaving shortly. A source with direct knowledge told me Geale's departure date is May 31.
  • Geale told me: “We in the administration all want to do what is best for the country. There are lots of passionate people in the administration, and I certainly am one of them. I believe I’ve done a great job in implementing the president’s vision, and I wish everyone good luck in continuing their important work.”

A Labor Department spokesperson defended the department against White House accusations that it had been slow on deregulation.

  • "The U.S. Department of Labor had $3.28 billion in deregulatory savings in FY 2018 — the second most in the administration," the spokesperson said. "Even more actions like the current rules-making on overtime, joint employer and regular rate are in process."
  • "Nick Geale plays an important role in these efforts. The Department of Labor will continue to work aligned with presidential priorities."

Context: The White House's frustrations with Acosta's Labor Department are not new. Bloomberg Law describes the clashes and philosophical disagreements between the White House and the Labor Department exhaustively in this article. They boil down to a view among conservative White House officials that Acosta hasn't cracked down hard enough against unions and has been too cautious to implement deregulatory policies that might spark an uproar on Capitol Hill.

  • But, but: Two sources familiar with the situation told me that while White House officials had been frustrated for months with what they perceived as Acosta's unwillingness to aggressively deregulate, they think Acosta has shown signs of improvement over the past six months.

Go deeper

Jan. 6 committee subpoenas Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell

Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot released its latest round of subpoenas on Tuesday evening, this time focusing on several of former President Trump's lawyers, including Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, and former adviser Boris Epshteyn.

Why it matters: The panel said the four individuals subpoenaed were involved in efforts publicly promote Trump's unfounded claims of election fraud as well as efforts to "disrupt or delay" the certification of the election's results.

3 hours ago - World

U.S. warns Russia may attack Ukraine from Belarus

Belarus dictator AlexPhoto: Mikhail Klimentyev\TASS via Getty Images

The U.S. believes that Russia may use joint military exercises inside Belarus as cover for an invasion of Ukraine from the north, according to a senior State Department official.

Why it matters: New deployments to the Belarus-Ukraine border in the coming weeks — in addition to the 100,000 Russian troops already encircling Ukraine from the north, east and south — could allow Russia to open up a new front less than 100 miles from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

6 hours ago - Health

Government website for free COVID tests launches early

COVID-19 rapid at-home test kits. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The website where Americans can request free, at-home rapid COVID-19 tests from the government launched Tuesday and is now accepting orders.

Driving the news: The website went live in its beta phase and is operating at a limited capacity a day before its official launch. Every home in the U.S. is eligible for up to four COVID tests, according to the website.