- President Donald Trump’s embattled labour secretary, Alex Acosta, is stepping down amid backlash over a secret plea deal he orchestrated with the financier Jeffrey Epstein a decade ago.
- Acosta signalled at a lengthy press conference earlier in the week that he would not step down, but it appears he’s changed his mind.
- Acosta’s resignation will take effect next Friday.
- Trump said that Patrick Pizzella, Acosta’s deputy, would serve as acting head of the department and came “highly recommended” by the departing labour secretary.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Labour Secretary Alex Acosta on Friday announced he’s resigning, just two days after a lengthy press conference in which he signalled he would not step down.
Acosta was facing widespread calls to resign amid backlash over a secret plea deal he orchestrated for the financier Jeffrey Epstein roughly a decade ago. Epstein on Saturday night was arrested on accusations of sex trafficking.
President Donald Trump appeared with Acosta outside the White House on Friday to announce his resignation. Trump said that Acosta called him Friday morning and that the resignation was Acosta’s decision, according to White House pool reports.
“I thought the right thing was to step aside,” Acosta told reporters, according to Bloomberg.
Trump said Patrick Pizzella, Acosta’s deputy, would serve as acting head of the department and came “highly recommended” by the departing labour secretary.
In his resignation letter to the president, Acosta wrote, “You have made America great again.”
“It has meant so much to me that you have offered your steadfast support in our private discussions and in your public remarks,” he added. “That support notwithstanding, I agreed to serve so that I could implement your agenda. Your agenda, putting the American people first, must avoid any distractions. A Cabinet position is a temporary trust. I must set aside a part of me that wants to continue my service with the thousands of talented professionals at the Department of Labour.”
In a subsequent tweet, Trump said Acosta told him “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.”
At his press conference earlier in the week, Acosta defended his role in the Epstein plea deal in 2008. Acosta was serving as the US attorney in Miami, and Epstein was facing allegations of sexually abusing more than 30 underage girls.
The multimillionaire financier could have faced life in prison, but after the deal with Acosta he spent only 13 months in jail – where he was allowed to leave 12 hours a day, six days a week, for work release – by pleading guilty to less serious charges related to prostitution. He was required to register as a sex offender.
Epstein’s victims in that case were not informed of the deal ahead of time, and in February a federal judge ruled that the Justice Department violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act by hiding a nonprosecution agreement with Epstein.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Acosta said he believed the deal had been appropriate at the time and offered no apology to the victims.
“The goal here was straightforward,” Acosta said. “Put Epstein behind bars, ensure he registered as a sexual offender, provide victims with a means to seek restitution, and protect the public by putting them on notice that a sexual predator was within their midst.”
“We believe we proceeded appropriately,” he added, placing significant blame on state prosecutors, whom he said wanted to let Epstein walk.
Acosta also defended the plea deal in a series of tweets earlier this week, in which he described the allegations against Epstein as “horrific.” He seemed to justify the lenient nature of the deal by citing “new evidence” that’s been found in the time since, linked to the charges dropped on Epstein in the past week.
“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.
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