Labor Secretary Acosta resigning amid Epstein deal scrutiny

  • Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, right, accompanied President Donald Trump, left, speaks to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Friday, July 12, 2019, before Trump boards Marine One for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md. and then on to Wisconsin. Trump says Labor Secretary Alex Acosta to step down, move comes in wake of handling of Jeffrey Epstein case. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Andrew Harnik

  • President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media with Secretary of Labor Secretary Alex Acosta on the South Lawn of the White House on Friday, before Trump boards Marine One for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md. AP

  • President Donald Trump speaks with Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, left, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Friday, July 12, 2019, before Trump boards Marine One for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md. and then on to Wisconsin. Trump says Labor Secretary Alex Acosta to step down, move comes in wake of handling of Jeffrey Epstein case. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Andrew Harnik

Published: 7/12/2019 1:50:33 PM

Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta said Friday he is resigning following renewed scrutiny of his handling of a 2008 secret plea deal with wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein, who is accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls.

President Donald Trump, with Acosta at his side, made the announcement as he left the White House for a trip to Wisconsin and Ohio. The president said “I hate to see this happen” and he did not ask Acosta to leave the Cabinet. But conservatives, who are unhappy with steps Acosta has taken at the department, had been pushing for his ouster.

Trump, who publicly faults the news media nearly every day, said Acosta put the blame there, too, for his departure.

The president tweeted from aboard Air Force One that 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.”

Acosta was the U.S. attorney in Miami when he oversaw a 2008 non-prosecution agreement that allowed Epstein to avoid federal charges but plead guilty to state charges and serve 13 months in jail. Similar charges filed against Epstein by federal prosecutors in New York this week had put Acosta’s handling of the 2008 agreement with the now-jailed financier back in the spotlight.

Over the years, Epstein has counted Trump and former President Bill Clinton among his powerful friends, and Trump was quoted in 2002 as saying the financier was “a lot of fun to be with,” a “terrific guy” of whom “it is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.” Trump now says he and Epstein had a falling-out and he is “not a fan.”

Acosta said his resignation would be effective in seven days. He said he didn’t think it was right for his handling of Epstein’s case to distract from the president’s agenda and his work as secretary of labor.

“My point here today is we have an amazing economy, and the focus needs to be on the economy,” Acosta said.

Top Democratic lawmakers and presidential candidates had demanded that Acosta resign. But Acosta defended his actions, insisting at a news conference Wednesday that he got the toughest deal on Epstein that he could get at the time.

A federal judge said Acosta violated federal law by not notifying Epstein’s victims of the arrangement. The Justice Department has been investigating.

A Florida lawyer who represents several Epstein victims welcomed of Acosta’s resignation.

“Mr. Acosta broke the law when he was a U.S. attorney by failing to keep the victims informed about the negotiations taking place in 2008,” said attorney Spencer Kuvin. “We should never allow an official who has been held to break the law by a Federal Court, to hold an office in the president’s Cabinet. His resignation today is hopefully only the first step in holding those accountable.”

Acosta had also frustrated some conservatives who had been pushing for his ouster long before the Epstein uproar. Among their objections were Acosta’s decisions to proceed with several employment discrimination lawsuits and to allow certain Obama administration holdovers to keep their jobs.




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