Acosta resigns amid furor over Epstein plea deal
CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 7/12/2019, 1:13 p.m.
By Maegan Vazquez and Jim Acosta, CNN
(CNN) -- President Donald Trump announced Friday that Labor Secretary Alex Acosta has resigned, a move that comes after furor over a plea deal with Jeffrey Epstein.
Acosta has been under renewed scrutiny over his previous role as the US attorney in Miami, during which he negotiated the 2008 plea deal with Epstein. Epstein, a well-connected multi-millionaire, avoided a federal trial at the time and served only 13 months in prison for state prostitution charges over his involvement with underage girls. A Miami Herald investigation published last November described the plea deal, negotiated by Acosta, as the "deal of a lifetime."
Acosta's resignation is effective next Friday. Trump said the labor secretary will be replaced on an acting basis by the current deputy secretary, Pat Pizzella.
Acosta, standing next to Trump outside the White House before the President departed for a trip, said he resigned to remove himself as 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 said Friday. "And so I called the President this morning. I told him that I thought the right thing was to step aside."
Trump publicly praised Acosta and said he would have been willing to have him remain.
"Thought he did a fantastic job. He explained it. He made a deal people were happy with ... now they're not," Trump said from the lawn. "In so many ways I hate what he's saying now cause we're gonna miss him."
But privately, Trump was stewing over Acosta's fate, according to a senior White House official, as he and aides worried about the steady stream of revelations in the Epstein case.
"There would just continue to be disclosures," the official said. "There would be questions in this town and on the trail."
The official emphasized that Acosta was not popular within the White House to begin with, given the grumblings over his perceived lack of enthusiasm for the President's deregulatory agenda.
"Your well of support is not going to be deep if you're not going to support the President's agenda," the official added.
Federal prosecutors in New York unsealed a new criminal indictment Monday charging Epstein with having operated a sex trafficking ring in which he sexually abused dozens of underage girls, part of the allegations that have circulated around the politically connected businessman for years. A "vast trove" of lewd photographs of young-looking women or girls was also confiscated from Epstein's Manhattan home, prosecutors said in a court filing.
Epstein pleaded not guilty to the charges in Manhattan federal court on Monday afternoon.
Acosta, in a tweet on Tuesday, said: "The crimes committed by Epstein are horrific, and I am pleased that NY prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence."
The new charges sparked calls for Acosta's resignation among Democrats, including congressional leadership and presidential candidates, from President Donald Trump's Cabinet.