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Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross May Be On His Way Out

Just two days after President Trump ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Politico is reporting that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross might be the next cabinet official to leave the administration as part of Trump's widely expected cabinet reshuffle.

Trump has reportedly grown frustrated with Ross over reports of his unsavory and ruthless business practices as well as his perceived ineptitude in negotiating trade deals. The president has repeatedly humiliated Ross in front of other administration officials, and accused him of being "past his prime," according to Bob Woodward's book "Fear."

The most likely candidate to replace Ross at Commerce would be Linda McMahon, the Small Business Administration head and former CEO of WWE wrestling.

Ross's fate could hinge on whether Democrats follow through with threats to investigate his business practices and finances after a Forbes reporter published a scathing report earlier this year accusing Ross of ripping off investors and former business partners.

Speculation is growing about the fate of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, about whom Trump has expressed private frustration. The 80-year-old billionaire has supported Trump’s controversial tariffs on trade partners, but may be asked to resign as Trump weighs post-midterm personnel changes.

The leading candidate to replace Ross if that happens is now Small Business Administration chief Linda McMahon, according to two sources familiar with the discussions. McMahon has made clear she is interested in the position and would accept it if it is offered, according to a source familiar with the conversations.

Whether Ross stays or goes will depend on the extent to which newly empowered Democrats in the House decide to probe the Commerce secretary’s finances and questions about his divestment of assets, a White House official said. If Democrats decide to press those issues, Ross could have a harder time staying.

McMahon and her husband, Vince — the CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment — have known the Trumps for years and were early and active supporters of Trump’s presidential campaign. McMahon, who initially backed Christie’s 2016 White House bid, is credited in part with helping secure his support for Trump during the campaign.

Inside the White House, McMahon is viewed as largely pro-free trade and less friendly to tariffs than Ross. So her takeover at Commerce, if it happens, might be seen as a shift away from economic policies that critics call protectionist. In an administration filled with big personalities and which has struggled to attract talent, she is appreciated for being low-key, competent, loyal — and easily confirmable by the Senate.

Ross isn't the only scandal-plagued Trump cabinet official who might be on his way out; Politico reported last night that Ryan Zinke, the secretary of the interior, has reached out to Fox about possibly working as a conservative news commentator as ethics investigations into his use of taxpayer money. Zinke could be out within a week, and is expected to leave by the end of the year.