Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta announced Friday he would resign his post during an impromptu press conference outside the White House.
Acosta’s departure comes amid renewed criticism over his decision to give accused child sex predator Jeffrey Epstein a sweetheart plea deal in 2008, and days after a disastrous press conference during which Acosta shirked all responsibility for the non-prosecution agreement. His resignation will be effective on the 19th of July.
Acosta was facing growing calls for his resignation, reportedly from both inside and outside the White House, over his previous role as federal prosecutor for the Southern District of Florida in a case brought against disgraced billionaire Epstein. The financier was indicted more than a decade ago for sexually abusing dozens of girls and young women, but served just 13 months in state prison and avoided any federal charges after Acosta helped broker a controversial plea deal.
Subsequent reporting by The Miami Herald revealed that Epstein’s victims were not informed about the plea deal, and that Epstein was allowed to enter guilty pleas on just two counts of prostitution, even though one of the victims was 14 years old, well below the state’s legal age of consent.
In a rambling press conference earlier this week, Acosta defended his role in brokering the plea deal after Epstein was again arrested and charged with multiple counts of child sex trafficking, and declined to apologize to any of Epstein’s victims, more of whom have come forward since Epstein’s arrest last week.
Acosta also said he had spoken with both Trump and White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who said they supported him.
“My relationship with the president is outstanding,” Acosta said. “He has very publicly made clear that I’ve got his support. He spoke yesterday in the Oval Office; he and I have spoken.”
“[Mulvaney] called to say that our relationship is excellent, too,” he added.
Acosta’s resignation adds to the long list of Trump cabinet officials and other top-level personnel who have resigned since he took office in 2017.
The president on Friday defended Acosta, praising him for the current jobs numbers and suggesting there had been no problem with the labor secretary’s past until very recently.
“He was — he’s a tremendous talent, he’s a Hispanic man. He went to Harvard, a great student. And in so many ways I just hate what he’s saying now, because we’re going to miss him,” Trump said.
This article was updated with additional comments from President Trump.