Acosta resigns as secretary of labor; Pizzella to take on acting role
Washington — Embattled Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta announced his resignation July 12 amid the fallout over his involvement in financier Jeffrey Epstein’s plea deal in a 2008 sexual abuse case in Florida.
Deputy Secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella, a longtime Department of Labor official who served under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, is slated to lead DOL on an interim basis starting July 19.
“I called the president this morning and I told him that I thought the right thing was to step aside,” Acosta, standing next to President Donald Trump, told reporters at the White House. “Cabinet positions are temporary trusts. It would be selfish for me to stay in this position and continue talking about a case that’s 12 years old.”
Scrutiny of the plea deal resurfaced when Epstein was arrested July 6 for the sex trafficking of minors. Epstein, a prominent investment banker, was convicted of soliciting a 14-year-old girl for prostitution and was sentenced to 18 months in the Palm Beach County Jail in 2008. He served only 13 months.
That deal negotiated by Acosta, then a federal prosecutor, shut down an ongoing FBI probe, an investigation by the Miami Herald revealed in November.
Acosta defended his actions most recently during a July 11 news conference, as well as during a May 2 Senate appropriations hearing.
“The grand jury in the county recommended a single charge that would have resulted in no jail time,” Acosta said during the hearing, “that would have resulted in no registration (as a sex offender) at all.”
Before the Epstein controversy renewed, Acosta was reportedly drawing scrutiny from the White House about DOL’s slower-than-desired pace of deregulation. Still, Acosta had the outward support of the president to the end, with Trump telling reporters on the White House lawn, “I will say it loud and clear: Alex Acosta was a great secretary of labor.”