Alexander Acosta, the Trump cabinet official who has come under fire in recent weeks for signing off on a nonprosecution agreement for convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein more than a decade ago, will resign his post as secretary of labor, CNBC reported. Acosta told reporters of his decision outside the White House Friday morning.
Acosta, who was U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida in 2008, made the deal when Epstein was facing federal sex trafficking charges, similar to the ones he was indicted on in New York earlier this week. Acosta agreed to not only give Epstein a short, 13-month sentence, but the agreement allowed him to work from his office up to 12 hours a day while sentenced. The agreement also kept the deal a secret from Epstein’s accusers.
The Miami Herald reported last year about Acosta’s role in the Epstein deal, bringing pressure on the secretary, which continued to build once Epstein was arrested and indicted again. The secretary had attempted damage control first with a Twitter thread and then at a press conference earlier this week, but it was too late to save his job in the administration.
The president made clear in a press conference that the decision to step down was Acosta’s alone.
“This was him, not me,” Trump told reporters in front of the White House Friday. He added that Acosta has done a “fantastic job” as labor secretary.
Acosta, who at one time served as dean of the Florida International University College of Law, was nominated as secretary of labor in February of 2017 after previous nominee Andrew Puzder, the CEO of the company that owns Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., withdrew. Puzder had come under scrutiny both due to the labor practices of his company and past accusations that he had abused his ex-wife, per The New York Times. At the time, there were concerns that he lacked the votes to earn confirmation.
Trump appears with Labor Secretary Alex Acosta on the White House South Lawn— Steven Nelson (@stevennelson10) July 12, 2019
His remarks are inaudible to me. Acosta speaking now, presumably about the Jeffrey Epstein plea deal pic.twitter.com/X3z5KgvGKM
Epstein, a wealthy financier, was indicted Monday by the office of the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, two days after he was taken into custody. The case has been closely watched due in part to Epstein’s past ties to two presidents – Bill Clinton and Donald Trump – as well as the possibility that he might name names about other well-known individuals who may have been complicit in his crimes.
There has been no indication as of yet who the Trump administration plans to name as the new labor secretary.