Friday, 19 July, 2019

Acosta Resigns in Wake of Epstein Plea Deal Scandal

U.S. President Donald Trump stands with Labor Secretary Alex Acosta who announced his resignation while talking to the media at the White House Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein arrested in NY on sex charges
Steven Clarke | 13 July, 2019, 02:34

U.S. Labour Secretary Alexander Acosta on Friday resigned after earlier in the week defending way he handled a decade-old sex abuse case against wealthy businessman Jeffrey Epstein while Acosta was a federal prosecutor.

President Donald Trump, with Acosta at his side, made the announcement on Friday morning as he left the White House for a trip to Wisconsin and Ohio. "I believe you have done an incredible job and have the right vision for our nation by putting working American families at the center of your presidency".

Fresh charges of sex trafficking filed this week against Epstein by federal prosecutors in NY had put Acosta's role in the 2008 deal under renewed scrutiny. "His resignation today is hopefully only the first step in holding those accountable", said Spencer Kuvin, a Florida lawyer who represents several Epstein victims.

But privately, Trump was stewing over Acosta's fate, according to a senior White House official, as he and aides anxious about the steady stream of revelations in the Epstein case.

Trump called Acosta "a great Labor Secretary, not a good Labor Secretary", "a fantastic Secretary of Labor", and emphasized that "he's done a fantastic job".

Under that agreement, Epstein - who otherwise faced a potential sentence of life in prison - pleaded guilty to two felony solicitation charges and was sentenced to 13 months in county jail.

Announcing Acosta's resignation, he said: "Yes, I did have a falling out a long time ago".

Pressed on whether he had any regrets, Acosta repeatedly said circumstances had changed since then. "Today's world treats victims very, very differently", he said.

The president said that Acosta's deputy, Patrick Pizzella, will take the reins at the department's acting secretary.

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He said he thought "it would be selfish of me to stay". Authorities in Florida, in turn, alerted New Mexico officials, who sent Epstein a letter telling him that "you are a sex offender and that you meet the requirement to register in New Mexico".

The deal is also being scrutinised by the Department of Justice.

Epstein, who has ties to Trump and former President Bill Clinton, was charged in a Manhattan federal court on Monday on sex-trafficking charges.

"The goal in this case was to bring Epstein to jail, to put him behind bars".

Acosta said it's always possible to look back and wish arrangements had been made differently, but he said his handling of the Epstein matter as US attorney had worked out as well as it could have under the circumstances at the time.

Note: Labor Secretary Acosta will depart his post on July 19.

Acosta will remain in the administration until next week.

Democrat demands for his resignation were opportunistic attempts to connect Trump with Epstein, so the president arguably should not have forced the secretary to resign - but Acosta himself stepping down is the right move.

"The rest of it, we'll have to look at it very carefully", Trump said in response to a question from a reporter in the Oval Office alongside Qatar's ruling emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

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