U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta resigned Friday due to the criticism of his handling of the 2007 sexual abuse case against financier Jeffrey Epstein. The outgoing official said that he did not want to be a distraction to the accomplishments made by the Trump administration.
“As I look forward, I do not think it is right and fair for this administration’s Labor Department to have Epstein as a focus rather than the incredible economy we have today,” Acosta said.
President Donald Trump was quick to tell the public that while he has definitely fired administration officials and several cabinet members during his time in the White House, that it was Acosta’s idea to step down’ not his.
“Alex called me this morning and wanted to see me,” Trump told reporters. “I just want to let you know this is him, not me.”
Since Acosta’s resignation will be effective in less than a week, the president has already named Deputy Labor Secretary Patrick Pizzella as the acting secretary of Labor during this transition.
Acosta, who has played a role in Trump’s cabinet since April 2017, was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.from 2005 through 2009. This is when he took leadership in Epstein’s first case that involved him having sex with underage girls, which came with a punishment that many say was much too lenient and was not thoroughly enforced.
The billionaire hedge fund manager pleaded not guilty to federal charges in New York last week stemming from new accusations against him, including trafficking, luring dozens of underage girls to his home, and coercing them into sex acts. Epstein’s social circle over the years included many celebrities and political leaders that include former President Bill Clinton, Britain’s Prince Andrew, and the current president, to name a few. In fact, President Trump had banned Epstein from his Florida home and club over a decade ago when he was notified that the billionaire was acting inappropriately towards a guest’s daughter and his staff.
Of course, Democrats didn’t skip a beat when the news broke, as Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for Acosta’s resignation on Tuesday.
Acosta responded to the harsh criticism on Tuesday via his Twitter account indicating that Epstein’s crimes were “horrific” and that he was glad prosecutors were able to move forward with the newfound evidence and testimony that could hopefully “more fully bring him to justice.”
In a news conference on Wednesday, Acosta defended his handling of the Epstein deal in which allowed Epstein to plead guilty to a state charge without facing federal prosecution. Acosta said Epstein would have had an even lighter sentence if not for the deal he made.