On Friday, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta announced his resignation amid a new wave of publicity and scrutiny over his handling of a case involving Jeffrey Epstein more than ten years ago.
“I thought the right thing was to step aside,” Acosta told a group of reporters at the White House, Bloomberg reports. “It would be selfish for me to stay in this position.”
Acosta served as a top federal prosecutor in Florida in 2007 and 2008 where he signed off on a plea deal involving Epstein when he was first jailed. And, now that Epstein is facing additional charges from Manhattan prosecutors, mainstream media and others are politicizing Acosta’s involvement.
Acosta defended his plea deal over social media and then during a press conference on live television but it did not assuage the media buzz.
“It wasn’t enough,” Politico reports. “The press coverage kept coming, some of it in the president’s preferred news outlets tying Trump to Epstein over the past two decades even more closely than previously known. On Friday — two days after Acosta’s press conference, three days after his Twitter explanation and four days after Epstein appeared in federal court to face new charges — the labor secretary stepped in front of the cameras with Trump one last time to announce he would no longer be a distraction.”
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
Acosta came newly under fire for the 2008 plea deal after Epstein was re-arrested July 6 in New York City and charged with sex trafficking. Under the earlier plea agreement, Epstein served only 13 months of an 18-month term and was permitted daily furloughs to go to the office. Epstein also was required to register as a sex offender and to pay restitution to his underage victims.
The week’s events led to a growing sense in the White House and the Labor Department that the scandal was unlikely to blow over, with ongoing cases against Epstein, and would ultimately be used as a brickbat by the president’s enemies to bludgeon him.
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“It’s not the worst exit under the circumstances. In fact, it might be the best he could possibly do,” said a former U.S. official who remains close to both men.
Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta is resigning from President Donald Trump’s Cabinet amid scrutiny of his handling of a secret 2008 plea deal with financier Jeffrey Epstein, who’s been accused of sexually abusing underage girls.https://t.co/rYY75pbwoE
— The Associated Press (@AP) July 12, 2019
“Your agenda, putting the American people first, must avoid any distractions,” Acosta wrote in a resignation letter to Trump which he posted to Twitter. The president later followed up with a pair of tweets stating that current deputy secretary Pat Pizzella would be filling in as acting director.
“I must set aside a part of me that wants to continue my service with the thousands of talented professionals at the Department of Labor,” Acosta continued.
— Secretary Acosta (@SecretaryAcosta) July 12, 2019
“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,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Alex was a great Secretary of Labor and his service is truly appreciated. He will be replaced on an acting basis by Pat Pizzella, the current Deputy Secretary.”
….Alex was a great Secretary of Labor and his service is truly appreciated. He will be replaced on an acting basis by Pat Pizzella, the current Deputy Secretary.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 12, 2019