Top member of Trump's Cabinet resigns over Epstein case

Nellie Chapman
July 14, 2019

Epstein was arrested in New Jersey earlier this week on sex trafficking charges after the Miami Herald published a series of articles examining a sweetheart deal he struck with federal prosecutors in 2008.

Acosta, who approved the earlier deal, announced Friday he was stepping down as labor secretary amid the controversy.

Mr Acosta was the US Attorney in Miami in 2008 when he oversaw a non-prosecution deal against Epstein which allowed Epstein to serve 13 months in jail - with much of that time spent on work release at his Palm Beach office.

Mr Acosta told reporters: "I do not think it is right and have Epstein as the focus rather than the incredible economy that we have today". In a 50-plus-minute lawyerly rebuttal, Acosta argued his office had secured the best deal it could at the time and was working in the victims' best interests.

Democrats had called for him to quit over his handling of the Epstein case.

Still, she said, "It is especially outrageous that Acosta remained in his job for as long as he did".

"My point here today is we have an fantastic economy and the focus needs to be on the economy and job creation", Acosta said, calling it unfair the administration was being inundated with questions about a 12-year-old case.

Acosta had attempted to clear his name and held a news conference - encouraged by Trump - to defend his actions. "I didn't want anything to do with him", Mr Trump said about this former friend, as Mr Acosta stood at his side.

Epstein, 66, pleaded not guilty this week to charges alleging he recruited and abused dozens of underage girls at his mansions in NY and Palm Beach, Florida, in the early 2000s.

Epstein has pleaded not guilty to one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors.

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Acosta has faced public backlash since Epstein was arrested in NY on Monday on fresh sex trafficking and conspiracy charges involving underage girls.

Acosta has been in the crosshairs ever since billionaire Jeffrey Epstein was arrested last weekend on federal sex trafficking charges.

"As part of the arrangement, Acosta agreed - despite a federal law to the contrary - that the deal would be kept from the victims".

Both Trump and former president Bill Clinton were acquainted with Epstein, but have taken pains after the Herald reporting to distance themselves from the hedge fund manager.

Pressed on whether he had any regrets, Acosta repeatedly said circumstances had changed since then.

"Alex was a great Secretary of Labor and his service is truly appreciated", Trump said in a tweet.

Trump, who has previously described Epstein as a "terrific guy" who "likes attractive women", also attempted to distance himself from the financier, saying he was "not a fan" and that the two had a "falling out" years ago.

Epstein's wealth and alleged potential for witness tampering were just two of the government's arguments against the bail package proposed by Epstein's attorneys on Thursday. "Today's world treats victims very, very differently", he said. "Mr. Acosta should not be allowed to rewrite history".

He said that the labor secretary press conference Wednesday "did not play to good reviews", seeing as Acosta did not show a lot of heart or empathy, and refused to apologize to the victims.

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