Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta said Friday he’s resigning, six days after hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein was arrested in New Jersey on charges involving the sex trafficking of underage girls.
Acosta made the announcement from the White House Friday morning, alongside President Donald Trump. Trump told reporters it was Acosta’s decision to resign; he informed the president in a phone call earlier that morning. “This was him not me,” Trump said.
Geoffrey Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, reopened the case into Epstein after a Miami Herald investigation drew attention to a cushy plea agreement Acosta secured for Epstein in 2007 when he was the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Florida.
In 2007, attorneys in Acosta’s Miami office identified at least 36 victims, their allegations detailed in a 53-page indictment drafted before Acosta decided not to prosecute. Instead, he granted Epstein immunity from federal prosecution for crimes committed in Florida in exchange for the well-connected financier pleading guilty to lesser state charges. He ultimately served just 13 months in a county jail, with privileges to leave six days a week.
Acosta fell under renewed public pressure to relinquish his cabinet role as details of the agreement resurfaced — as well as the fact that Epstein’s victims were not consulted or even informed of the decision. He defended the decision not to prosecute at a press conference on Wednesday, telling reporters, “We believe we proceeded appropriately.”
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On Friday, Trump said of the press conference that Acosta “a very good job…Under a lot of pressure, he did a fantastic job.”
Acosta, Trump added, is “great labor secretary, not a good one.”
The president, whose own friendship with Epstein has also come under scrutiny this week, distanced himself from the disgraced financier, while defending Acosta’s 2007 agreement. “He made a deal that people were happy with and then 12 years later, they’re not happy with it,” Trump said.
On Thursday, the Miami Herald reported that at least a dozen new victims had come forward with allegations against Epstein since his most recent arrest.
Acosta indicated Friday that his handling of the Epstein case was becoming a distraction for the White House. He spoke positively of the economy, adding, “that’s what this administration needs to focus.”
Acosta is “a tremendous talent,” Trump said. “We’re going to miss him.”
With that, Acosta shook Trump’s hand and retreated into the White House. The president boarded a helicopter, en route to a pair of planned fundraisers in Milwaukee and Cleveland.
Acosta’s resignation will take effect Friday, July 19. His deputy, Patrick Pizzella, will take over as acting secretary of labor.