Unable to put to rest questions of his handling of the Jeffrey Epstein case, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta resigned Friday after serving more than two years in the position.
“A Cabinet position is a temporary trust. I must set aside a part of me that wants to continue my service with thousands of talented professionals at the Department of Labor,” Acosta says in a letter to President Donald Trump. “Therefore, I am offering, and wish for you to accept, my resignation as the United States Secretary of Labor effective one week from today.”
Deputy Secretary Patrick Pizzella will serve as the acting secretary of labor after Acosta exits next week, Trump said.
On Monday, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York charged Epstein, a 66-year-old billionaire financier, with the sex trafficking of dozens of young girls, some as young as 14.
In 2008, Epstein reached a deal with federal prosecutors in the Southern District of Florida, run by then U.S. Attorney Acosta at the time, that allowed Epstein to avoid federal prosecution in a case involving multiple charges of sexual abuse, in exchange for pleading guilty in a Florida state court to charges of procuring a minor for prostitution and felony solicitation.
Epstein was placed on the sex offender registry and served just 13 months in county jail, despite an agreement on an 18-month sentence. Epstein was allowed to leave the lockup daily for work release.
In a press conference Wednesday, Acosta answered questions for almost an hour about the case. He explained that his team of federal prosecutors intervened in the case because Florida state prosecutors were about to give Epstein a plea deal to allow the billionaire to elude jail and the sex offender registry.
Acosta stressed that the U.S. attorney’s office single goal was to ensure Epstein got jail time and would be on the sex offender registry so others would be aware of his crimes.
When departing from the White House Friday, Trump told reporters, “I want to thank Alex Acosta. He was a great great secretary.”
Trump added that Acosta has been a “great labor secretary, not a good one.”
Democratic lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York, demanded Acosta’s resignation or firing.
In his letter to Trump, Acosta cited the strong economy and good conditions for workers in the United States.
“We have millions of new jobs, fewer injuries and fatalities on the job, record low unemployment, less regulation and a new-family sustaining career opportunity for the future,” Acosta wrote.