Less than two days after publicly defending his handling of the Jeffrey Epstein sex-trafficking case while he was U.S. Attorney in Florida, Alex Acosta has resigned as U.S. Labor Secretary.
President Trump made the announcement Friday morning, July 12. Acosta then gave a brief statement from the White House, with the president standing by, explaining that he did not want controversy surrounding the Epstein case to become a distraction within the Department of Labor.
“A cabinet position is a temporary trust,” Acosta said. “Your agenda, putting the American people first, must avoid any distractions. I must set aside a part of me that wants to continue my service with the thousands of talented professionals at the Department of Labor. I am offering, and wish for you to accept, my resignation as U.S. Secretary of Labor, effective one week from today.”
Acosta had come under fire from lawmakers of both parties this week, as New York-based billionaire and well-known financier Jeffrey Epstein was arraigned in New York on charges of sex trafficking of minors and conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors.
Epstein, now 66, could have faced federal charges for these alleged crimes as early as 2007, when Epstein was arrested in Florida. At the time, a federal investigation had already interviewed 36 underage female victims.
However, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Florida, led by Acosta, ultimately gave Epstein a lenient plea deal that removed federal charges. The agreement also blocked further charges being brought against alleged co-conspirators in the sex-trafficking ring.
In return, Epstein pleaded guilty to two state prostitution charges. He then served a 13-month jail sentence, with daily work leave, and registered as a sex offender in Florida.
Acosta held a press briefing, on Wednesday afternoon, July 10, during which he defended the deal. “We believe we proceeded appropriately….We did what we did because we wanted to see Epstein go to jail,” Acosta said.
“There’s a big gulf between sufficient evidence to go to trial and sufficient evidence in the confidence of the outcome of that trial,” he continued. “There was value to getting a guilty plea and having him register. The world needed to be on notice that he was a sexual predator.”
New York federal prosecutors are bringing their current case, despite the Florida non-prosectuion agreement, with the expectation that the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York will not be not bound by an agreement made by the office in Florida.