Labor Secretary Alex Acosta resigned just days after holding a press conference defending a 12-year-old plea deal he helped to negotiate for sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, charged with human trafficking girls as young as 14.
President Donald Trump announced Acosta’s resignation Friday morning with Acosta at his side. Trump said the secretary called him Friday morning to say that the decision to resign was his.
“I thought the right thing was to step aside,” Acosta said.
Acosta added, “I do not think it is right and fair for this administration’s labor department to have Epstein as the focus rather than the incredible economy that we have today.”
In a tweet, Trump said Acosta “felt the constant drumbeat of press” about the Epstein case and decided it “was bad for the Administration.”
Trump, who had defended Acosta after Epstein’s arrest last week, praised him as a “great labor secretary, not a good one,” and added, Acosta did a “very good job.”
The White House said Acosta’s deputy, Pattrick Pizzella, would become the acting labor secretary.
Alex Acosta informed me this morning that he felt the constant drumbeat of press about a prosecution which took place under his watch more than 12 years ago was bad for the Administration, which he so strongly believes in, and he graciously tendered his resignation….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 12, 2019
Acosta, formerly a federal prosecutor, had defended his handling of the 2007 case and said he was “pleased” prosecutors were moving forward against Epstein, who was arrested on July 6 on charges of sex-trafficking. Epstein pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan federal court on July 8. The indictment alleges he “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes” in New York City and Palm Beach, Florida.
The secretary “must step down” because “he engaged in an unconscionable agreement” with Epstein, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said last week. She was joined by the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who also demanded Acosta step down.
In a series of tweets attempting to address the criticisms, the now-former labor secretary said he was “pleased” to learn authorities were going ahead with another investigation of Epstein, who was arrested again on July 6 for sex trafficking and exploitation of minors, and pleaded not guilty in federal court on Monday.
“Now that new evidence and additional testimony is available, the NY prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him [Epstein] to justice,” Acosta said.
The recent charges against Epstein drew attention to Acosta’s role in the 12-year-old plea deal and prompted calls for his resignation.
A Miami Herald investigation in November 2018 revealed Acosta, as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, had been directly involved in negotiating the 2007 deal with Epstein’s lawyers.
Epstein, a billionaire New York financier, was first convicted of soliciting prostitution from a 14-year-old in 2008, for which he served 13 months in custody. some of which was spent on work release, the plea deal secured for him by Acosta ensured his indictment was sealed, and that proceedings would no go forward to investigate 36 other potential victims identified by the FBI.