Alexander Acosta said on Friday that he will be resigning from his post as Secretary of the Department of Labor as blowback from a 2008 plea deal he made with convicted pedophile Jeffrey Esptein intensifies.
President Trump announced Acosta’s departure as the two appeared on the White House lawn on Friday morning, just ahead of Trump’s campaign trips to Wisconsin and Ohio.
“I hate to see this happen,” Trump said, adding that he did not ask Acosta to leave the Cabinet. “This was him, not me,” Trump said.
Acosta said he didn’t want his handling of the Epstein case to distract from his work as Labor Secretary. “My point here today is we have an amazing economy and the focus needs to be on the economy job creation,” Acosta said.
He added that his departure would be effective in seven days.
Acosta became a prime target of Democrats after the arrest of wealthy financier Epstein on charges sex trafficking and conspiracy during the early 2000s based on new evidence. In 2008, Acosta was serving as U.S. attorney in Miami and he oversaw what turned out to be a sweetheart non-prosecution agreement for Epstein, who avoided federal charges, pleaded guilty to state charges and served just 13 months in jail.
Epstein, 66, reached the deal to “secretly end a federal sex abuse investigation involving at least 40 teenage girls that could have landed him behind bars for life. He instead pleaded guilty to state charges, spent 13 months in jail, paid settlements to victims and is a registered sex offender,” the Associated Press reported.
Trump said Acosta “made a deal that people were happy with and then 12 years later, they’re not happy with it.”
In a press conference on Wednesday, Acosta sought to explain the deal, saying his office fought for a tougher sentence after state prosecutors were ready to let him off completely.
“Simply put, the Palm Beach state attorney’s office was ready to let Epstein walk free, no jail time,” he said. “Prosecutors in my former office found this to be completely unacceptable. … We believe that we proceeded appropriately, that’s based on evidence, not just my opinion… there was value to getting a guilty plea and having him register” as a sex offender.
On Tuesday, Acosta wrote on Twitter, “The crimes committed by Epstein are horrific, and I am pleased that NY prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence,” Acosta tweeted.
“With the evidence available more than a decade ago, federal prosecutors insisted that Epstein go to jail, register as a sex offender and put the world on notice that he was a sexual predator.”
“Now that new evidence and additional testimony is available, the NY prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him to justice,” he wrote.