U.S. Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta stepped down Friday morning following a week of calls for his resignation related to a plea deal he cut with billionaire and accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein over a decade ago.
“I thought the right thing was to step aside,” Acosta told reporters at the White House Friday, per a Bloomberg story. “It would be selfish for me to stay in this position.”
“I do not think it is right and fair for this administration’s Labor Department to have Epstein as the focus, rather than the incredible economy,” Acosta later added.
Standing outside the White House with the departing secretary, President Donald Trump called Acosta a “great labor secretary” who had done a “fantastic job” and said that the decision to step down was Acosta’s, not his.
“He made a deal that people are happy with, and then 12 years later, they’re not happy with it. You’ll have to figure all of that out,” the president said. “This is him, not me, because I’m with him. … We’re gonna miss him.”
In 2008, then-federal prosecutor Acosta’s team cut a non-prosecution agreement with Epstein that ended with the billionaire copping to solicitation charges, having to register as a sex offender, and spending over a year in county jail. In exchange, Epstein avoided federal charges.
Acosta defended the agreement earlier this week with a statement calling Epstein’s alleged crimes “horrific” and explaining, “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, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called on Acosta to resign over the plea bargain.
“[Acosta] must step down,” Pelosi tweeted. “As US Attorney, he engaged in an unconscionable agreement w/ Jeffrey Epstein kept secret from courageous, young victims preventing them from seeking justice.”
“I am calling on Sec. Acosta to resign,” Schumer said earlier this week on the Senate floor. “It is now impossible for anyone to have confidence in Secretary Acosta’s ability to lead the Department of Labor.”
Epstein was arrested Saturday on new charges of sex trafficking minor-aged girls as young as 14. He is trying to get out of jail while awaiting trial by offering up his private jet and his mansion as collateral and agreeing to electronic monitoring.
The president said that Acosta’s deputy, Patrick Pizzella, will take the reins at the department’s acting secretary.