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Acosta resigns: labor secretary stepping down amid Epstein criticisms

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US Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta announced on Friday that he would resign after facing heavy criticism for his role in granting a light sentence to sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Epstein, a money manager whose source of wealth is mysterious, was indicted in 2007 in connection with allegations that he sexually abused dozens of underage girls at his Palm Beach, Florida, mansion. But prosecutors under Acosta, then the US attorney for Miami, cut a deal with Epstein allowing him to serve just 13 months in a county jail.

Criticism of Acosta has been growing since last year, when Julie K. Brown of the Miami Herald first reported on the deal. Calls for the labor secretary’s resignation intensified this week, after Epstein was arrested and indicted on new sex trafficking charges in New York. Lawmakers including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had called for Acosta to step down.

On Friday, Acosta heeded those calls, announcing in an appearance with President Trump that he did not want the Epstein case to distract from the administration’s accomplishments, according to CBS. Trump said the resignation was entirely Acosta’s decision.

Acosta’s resignation means that the man who helped give Epstein a pass on prison is no longer in charge of a government agency that oversees, among other things, visas for sex trafficking victims. But for the dozens of women who say Epstein abused them, the fight is far from over.

Critics have been calling for Acosta’s resignation for months

Calls for Acosta’s resignation — from the right and left — have been growing ever since the Herald published Brown’s story in November 2018. Brown reported that Epstein and his team of powerful lawyers were able to pressure Acosta’s office into giving Epstein an extremely light sentence, in part by threatening to dig into prosecutors’ pasts.

In December, Peggy Nance, CEO of the conservative group Concerned Women for America, called on Acosta to resign.

Calls like Nance’s grew more numerous in July, after Epstein’s arrest on new sex trafficking charges directed renewed attention to the dozens of serious allegations against him — and to Acosta’s role. Meanwhile, Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post reported that under Acosta, the Labor Department was slow-walking the approval of special visas for immigrant survivors of human trafficking, making it harder for those survivors to come forward — and making them more likely to be deported before their paperwork goes through.

President Trump, meanwhile, praised Acosta, saying, “I’ve known him as being somebody that works so hard and has done such a good job.” But he also said he would look “very closely” at the deal with Epstein.

Acosta defended the deal at a press conference on Wednesday, saying it was law enforcement’s best shot at putting the money manager in jail and putting “the world on notice that he was a sexual predator.” But criticism and scrutiny of Acosta’s role continued.

Acosta’s departure from the Labor Department means he will no longer be in charge of visas for sex trafficking survivors. But for the women who say Epstein abused them, the battle for justice continues. A bail hearing in the case is scheduled for Monday, where a judge will consider whether Epstein will stay in jail awaiting trial or be permitted to stay under house arrest in his Manhattan mansion.

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