Morale at the Commerce Department is said to be very low, and questions about its leader, Wilbur Ross, and his seeming inability to stay awake in meetings is becoming an issue.
Sources have confirmed that Ross, 81, has become a figurehead rather than an active participant, according to The Daily Beast. Photos have surfaced of the commerce secretary with his eyes closed at several meetings.
One unnamed source said that Ross has lost respect in the department.
“He’s sort of seen as kind of irrelevant. The morale is very low there because there’s not a lot of confidence in the secretary… He’s not respected in the building.”
Wilbur Ross no longer holds regular meetings because there are stamina issues with how much work can get done in a given day. Those scheduling meetings for Ross try not to put him in the position where he could nod off at a table, particularly when there are cameras present.
“There’s a small window where he’s able to focus and pay attention and not fall asleep,” the source added.
Politico suggests that the dysfunction at the Commerce Department is a result of its leadership, calling Ross “disengaged” and his department “rudderless” at a time when a firm plan is critical.
Wilbur Ross can go back to sleep now pic.twitter.com/xCPWH3CH6q
— Larry Murphy (@LarryMurphyJr) January 24, 2019
Theo LeCompte, a former top Commerce official explains that there are too many concerns on the horizon to have a lack of leadership in the department.
“With our ongoing trade wars and the census looming, Commerce needs functional leadership in order to be effective, and right now they just don’t have it.”
Another complaint against Ross is that he’s rarely seen in the building and doesn’t interact with his staff with any regularity. A staffer suggests that Ross spends more time at the White House currying favor with Donald Trump than actually in his office doing the necessary work.
But Commerce Press Secretary Kevin Manning was willing to go on the record to say that Wilbur Ross is a hardworking advocate for the Trump administration, saying that he is “tireless” and often works “12 hour days” with an extensive travel schedule on behalf of the president.
But Ross isn’t the only target at the Department of Commerce who is being bombarded with complaints and criticism. Ross’ chief of staff Michael Walsh is being called inexperienced on policy and difficult to work with. Roger Fisk, a Commerce official in the Obama administration, claims that there is frustration within the department because many talented people are feeling marginalized.