Earlier this week, US labor secretary Alex Acosta held a press conference about the plea deal the US Attorney’s office struck with convicted sexual predator and possible billionaire Jeffrey Epstein in Florida in 2008. During the conference, Acosta said he felt confident that he had president Donald Trump’s support. Today (July 12), Acosta and the president announced his resignation on the White House lawn.
Epstein was just indicted on July 8 in New York on new sex trafficking charges, which sparked renewed interest in the earlier plea deal he received arising from his activities in Florida. During this week’s press conference on the earlier prosecution, Acosta blamed state prosecutors and judges for the light sentence Epstein got, which left him free on “work release.”
Acosta also insisted that he welcomes new prosecutions and urged victims of Epstein—who has a record of paying teenage girls for sexual favors and is a registered sex offender—to come forward. But he fell short of saying he had regrets about how the US Attorney’s office handled the matter in the past, saying only that the times were different then. The past he’s talking about is not so distant—it was 2008 and there was certainly an awareness of victim’s rights at the time.
Before today, Acosta had given no indication that he was stepping down any time soon. When asked if he had the president’s support earlier in the week, Acosta said he did. He insisted that he had spoken to Trump on the phone the day before and that he was “kind.” But he did remind reporters that he serves “at the pleasure of the president.”
Trump said today, when announcing the labor secretary’s surprise resignation, that the decision was Acosta’s and not his.