Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta will be stepping down in a week over his past involvement in a highly controversial plea deal for financier Jeffrey Epstein, who is now facing sex trafficking charges.
President Donald Trump announced the shakeup Friday morning in remarks to reporters.
Acosta came under fire this week for his role as U.S. attorney for Florida in securing a plea deal for Epstein that resulted in an 18-month sentence — he served just 13 months.
The deal was criticized as lenient because Epstein could have faced a life sentence.
Acosta negotiated a deal that resulted in two state solicitation charges, but no federal charges.
Epstein was charged this week with sex trafficking and conspiracy during the early 2000s based on new evidence. Epstein pleaded not guilty on Monday in New York City federal court.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called Monday for Acosta to step down over what she called an “unconscionable agreement” with Epstein, and was soon joined by a chorus of other top-ranking congressional Democrats.
Meanwhile, Democrats on the House Oversight Committee wrote to Acosta on Wednesday inviting him to testify at a July 23 hearing that will examine his actions related to Epstein.
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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) was the first 2020 Democrat to react to Acosta’s resignation, tweeting: “Good riddance.”
Acosta defended himself Wednesday in a press conference, in which he said that his office fought for a tougher punishment after state prosecutors were ready to let him walk free,
“Simply put, the Palm Beach state attorney’s office was ready to let Epstein walk free, no jail time,” he said. “Prosecutors in my former office found this to be completely unacceptable.”
Acosta argued that it was his office that secured jail time, restitution and for Epstein to register as a sex offender.
“We believe that we proceeded appropriately, that’s based on evidence, not just my opinion … There was value to getting a guilty plea and having him register,” he said.
Acosta said the accusations against Epstein were “despicable” and his alleged crimes “absolutely deserve a stiffer sentence.”
Barry Krischer, the Palm Beach County state attorney at the time, responded later Wednesday, “I can emphatically state that Mr. Acosta’s recollection of this matter is completely wrong. Federal prosecutors do not take a back seat to state prosecutors. That’s not how the system works in the real world.”
He continued, “If Mr. Acosta was truly concerned with the State’s case and felt he had to rescue the matter, he would have moved forward with the 53-page indictment that his own office drafted.”
Still, Acosta said the accusations against Epstein were “despicable” and his alleged crimes “absolutely deserve a stiffer sentence.”
Adam Shaw is a reporter covering U.S. and European politics for Fox News. This Fox News piece is used by permission.
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