Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta has resigned his position in a move announced by Donald Trump and Acosta on the White House lawn. A few moments ago, Trump told the press that it was Acosta’s decision. It seems his attempts to defend his handling of the 2007 plea deal involving wealthy sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein didn’t improve Acosta’s political standing:
Labor Secretary Alex Acosta said Friday he will resign amid controversy over the way he handled a sex crimes case against wealthy businessman Jeffrey Epstein a decade ago when he was U.S. attorney for southern Florida.
Acosta made the announcement to reporters while standing next to President Donald Trump outside the White House. Trump said that Acosta had called him Friday morning, and that it was Acosta’s decision to quit.
The move came as a surprise, as the word around the White House campfire was that Acosta’s job was safe. Jonathan Swan stepped up to take his lumps on it:
Well, this aged well. https://t.co/dsnRZhIuAT
— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) July 12, 2019
Trump did defend Acosta in the presser as a “great” Cabinet member and for Acosta’s defense of the plea deal:
At the same time, Pres Trump had praise for @SecretaryAcosta, calling him "a great Labor Secretary, not a good one." @POTUS says Acosta has done "a very good job." And the president thinks Acosta had explained his thinking in agreeing to plea deal with Epstein in 2008.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) July 12, 2019
Trump told the press that Acosta came to him with the resignation, not the other way around:
— ABC News (@ABC) July 12, 2019
Acosta appeared on Friday at the White House with President Trump and announced his resignation, according to a pool note circulated to correspondents.
Trump said Acosta had called him to convey his decision and the choice to step down had been Acosta’s.
That’s fine and good, but Trump was smart enough to accept the resignation. Acosta was about to become a very big distraction as Trump ramped up his electoral campaign. He was heading out to the Midwest to raise money over the weekend when he held the pre-Marine One boarding presser this morning. House Democrats had already started some throat-clearing about a whole new set of investigatory hearings into the Acosta-Epstein plea deal, so getting Acosta out of the way now was the obvious best choice.
For some reason, ABC News calls this “a stunning turn of events”:
"A stunning turn of events."
Labor Sec. Alex Acosta has resigned amid controversy over his role in a 2008 plea deal with accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. @paulafaris and @TomLlamasABC report: https://t.co/gPKO2WSQ7K pic.twitter.com/FChAhQ9B8A
— ABC News (@ABC) July 12, 2019
It would have been more stunning to see Acosta stick around. As the prosecution moves forward against Epstein, and especially as it focuses on crimes committed before the plea deal, Acosta’s political position was only going to get worse. With new victims coming forward (more on that in the next post), questions will come up again and again as to just how Acosta could have dispensed with a 53-page indictment to settle on a weak plea deal.
At this point, it will be easier for Trump to reset the debate and put Acosta in the rear-view mirror. A change at Labor might please conservatives as well, who had chafed at Acosta’s initial lack of enthusiasm and results in implementing policy changes to move Labor away from the Obama era. Trump can now look for a more activist Labor Secretary with 53 votes to confirm in the Senate.