Alex Acosta resigned as President Trump’s labor secretary Friday after coming under fire for his handling of a sex crimes case involving financier and longtime Trump friend Jeffrey Epstein more than a decade ago.
The resignation came just two days after Acosta held a news conference in a bid to defend a light plea deal his office agreed to with Epstein’s attorneys while Acosta was a federal prosecutor in 2008.
Acosta told reporters alongside Trump Friday that he resigned so he would not be a distraction.
"I do not think it is right and fair to this administration's Labor Department to have Epstein as the focus rather than the incredible economy that we have today," Acosta told reporters. "And so I called the President this morning. I told him that I thought the right thing was to step aside."
Trump told reporters he would have been happy if Acosta had stayed on.
"Thought he did a fantastic job. He explained it. He made a deal people were happy with ... now they're not," Trump said. "In so many ways I hate what he's saying now cause we're gonna miss him."
Acosta gave Epstein lenient plea deal:
The Miami Herald reported last year that Acosta, then a US Attorney in Miami, and his investigators had identified 36 underage victims and issued a 53-page indictment against Epstein. Rather than pursue the indictment, Acosta secretly negotiated a plea deal with Epstein’s lawyers that allowed him to serve just 13 months in county jail, where he was allowed to go to work at his office six days a week, and granted the well-connected billionaire immunity for any “potential co-conspirators.” A federal judge later ruled that the deal was illegal because Acosta did not consult with the victims before finalizing the agreement.
Acosta at his news conference tried to shift the blame to state prosecutors.
“We’ve seen other cases where state prosecutors let folks go with no sentence and people shake their heads. In this case, the federal office intervened before the plea was taken and said, ‘Stop,’” he said. “The Palm Beach state attorney’s office was willing to let Epstein walk free. No jail time. Nothing. Prosecutors in my former office found this to be completely unacceptable, and we became involved.”
Former Palm Beach State Attorney Barry Krischer rejected Acosta’s claim.
“I can emphatically state that Mr. Acosta’s recollection of this matter is completely wrong,” Krischer said in a statement. “The US Attorney’s Office produced a 53-page indictment that was abandoned after secret negotiations between Mr. Epstein’s lawyers and Mr. Acosta. The State Attorney’s Office was not a party to those meetings or negotiations, and definitely had no part in the federal Non-Prosecution Agreement and the unusual confidentiality arrangement that kept everything hidden from the victims.”
“If Mr. Acosta was truly concerned with the State’s case and felt he had to rescue the matter, he would have moved forward with the 53-page indictment that his own office drafted. Instead, Mr. Acosta brokered a secret plea deal that resulted in a Non-Prosecution Agreement in violation of the Crime Victim’s Rights act,” the statement said, adding that Acosta “should not be allowed to rewrite history.”
Epstein was charged with child sex trafficking in New York earlier this week.