On Friday morning, President Donald Trump announced that Labor Secretary Alex Acosta had resigned, following new scrutiny of his role in the 2008 plea deal for confessed sex criminal and financier Jeffrey Epstein. Various outlets reported the news, including USA Today and Reuters.
According to reports, Trump announced that Acosta himself made the decision to resign. He also called Acosta’s presence in the cabinet a “distraction,” and announced that Acosta’s deputy, Pat Pizzella, would become acting secretary. The resignation is expected next week.
Democrats demanded Acosta’s resignation earlier this week following Epstein’s arrest on sex trafficking charges. Even so, an earlier case arguably should have brought the new charges to light. An investigation was dropped as part of a plea deal agreed to by Acosta, then U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. Some investigations have suggested Acosta helped craft the deal.
In the plea deal, Epstein agreed to register as a sex offender and he was imprisoned for 13 months. In exchange, the investigation into Epstein’s crimes was dropped. Furthermore, the financier was placed in a private jail cell and allowed to leave jail for six days per week on a work-release program. The entire deal was kept secret from the victims who accused Epstein.
Acosta had twice defended the deal this week, claiming that it was necessary to bring Epstein to justice at the time. Trump praised him yesterday.
Even so, this resignation is a wise move. Although Acosta may have done nothing untoward, his presence at the Labor Department arguably casts a pall on the Trump administration while the Epstein investigation is ongoing. Democrat demands for his resignation were opportunistic attempts to connect Trump with Epstein, so the president arguably should not have forced the secretary to resign — but Acosta himself stepping down is the right move.
Update 11:00 a.m. EST: Trump stands with Acosta, says, “It was him, not me.”
In an impromptu press conference Friday morning, Trump and Acosta addressed reporters about the resignation. Acosta confirmed reports, but he also chided the press for covering the Epstein scandal without referencing the impressive jobs numbers under President Trump and under his own watch at the Department of Labor.
“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,” Acosta said. So he called Trump and “told him that I thought the right thing was to step aside. Because cabinet positions are temporary trusts. It would be selfish for me to stay in this position and continue talking about a case that’s twelve years old rather than about the amazing economy we have right now.”
The resignation is effective one week from today.
Trump on Labor Secretary Acosta resignation: I just want to let you know, this was him, not me — because I'm with him. He's a tremendous talent. He's a Hispanic man. He went to Harvard. A great student…We're going to miss him. https://t.co/QFE2NfZJQj pic.twitter.com/AvBQti1V9o
— POLITICO (@politico) July 12, 2019
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.