Labor Secretary Alex Acosta has resigned following criticism over his handling of a plea deal with the financier and alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein more than a decade ago. The resignation will be effective in one week.
President Trump and Acosta announced the news Friday together at the White House. Acosta said stepping down was the right decision. Trump called him a “great labor secretary” and said he did a “very good job.”
“I hate to see this happen,” Trump said. He said he did not ask Acosta to leave the Cabinet.
Following the announcement, Trump tweeted Friday about Acosta’s departure saying Deputy Secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella will become acting secretary.
“Alex Acosta informed me this morning that he felt the constant drumbeat of press about a prosecution which took place under his watch more than 12 years ago was bad for the Administration, which he so strongly believes in, and he graciously tendered his resignation,” he wrote.
“Alex was a great Secretary of Labor and his service is truly appreciated. He will be replaced on an acting basis by Pat Pizzella, the current Deputy Secretary,” he continued.
Acosta was the U.S. attorney in Miami when he oversaw a 2008 nonprosecution agreement with Epstein, a wealthy financier accused of sexually abusing dozens of girls that could have landed him behind bars for life. Epstein instead pleaded guilty to state charges, paid settlements to his victims and is a registered sex offender. He served 13 months in jail.
The deal came under scrutiny earlier this year following reporting by the Miami Herald. Epstein was arrested Saturday. He pleaded not guilty in a U.S. federal court in Manhattan this week to charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy. He faces up to 45 years in prison.
After federal attorneys in New York announced the new charges against Epstein, Acosta tweeted that he was “pleased” by their decision.
“The crimes committed by Epstein are horrific,” Acosta tweeted. “With the evidence available more than a decade ago, federal prosecutors insisted that Epstein go to jail, register as a sex offender and put the world on notice that he was a sexual predator.”
Earlier this week, Acosta held a press conference defending his role in the case. He faced calls to resign after federal charges were brought against Epstein.
The secretary said that in 2008 his staff opted to pursue a plea deal that resulted in jail time out of concern that state attorneys in Palm Beach, Florida were ready to let Epstein “walk free.” The labor secretary expressed support for the U.S. prosecutors in New York pursuing charges against Epstein.
“This was the judgment of prosecutors with dozens of years of experience. … We believed that we proceeded appropriately, that based on the evidence, there was value to getting a guilty plea and having him register [as a sex offender],” Acosta said in reference to the plea deal.
The former federal prosecutor was confirmed in the Senate 60-38 and took on the role officially in early 2017.
FOX Business’ Thomas Barrabi and The Associated Press contributed to this report.