Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta is stepping down from his post, just two days after he held a news conference to defend a plea deal that he brokered for wealthy sex offender Jeffrey Epstein while serving as a U.S. attorney in Florida more than a decade ago.
President Donald Trump alerted reporters this morning of Acosta’s departure. “This was him, not me,” said Trump, who saw Acosta largely as a source of favorable monthly statistics about unemployment and job growth. Trump called Acosta “a great labor secretary not a good one,” a “tremendous talent” who “went to Harvard.” He indicated Friday that he was satisfied with Acosta’s explanation for the plea deal in Wednesday’s news conference, saying, “He explained it.”
But Acosta has had a rocky relationship in recent months with other White House officials, including acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, over the perceived slow pace of deregulation at the department.
Acosta, a 50-year-old Harvard-educated lawyer, came newly under fire for the lenient 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.
Things began to unravel for Acosta in November, when the Miami Herald published a lengthy reexamination of the case, and accelerated in February, when a district court judge ruled that the 2008 plea deal violated the Crime Victims Rights Act because Acosta never revealed the terms of the deal to Epstein’s victims before it was finalized. Also in February, the Justice Department opened an investigation into whether Acosta’s prosecution team committed professional misconduct in its handling the Epstein case.
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