President Trump’s embattled labor secretary, Alex Acosta, is resigning, the latest person to exit from a high position in Trump’s tumultuous White House. Here’s a quick briefing on what happened to Acosta, compiled from Globe wire services.
Who is Alexander Acosta?
Acosta is the nation’s 27th labor secretary. He took the role officially in early 2017. It’s an important job. The Labor Department he leads enforces more than 180 federal laws covering about 10 million employers and 125 million workers. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, he was confirmed in the Senate on a 60-38 vote.
What kind of controversy was he mired in?
Acosta has been in trouble not because of his actions as labor secretary, but because of his actions in a former position, when he served as US attorney in Miami. The top federal prosecutor there, he oversaw a 2008 nonprosecution agreement with wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein, who is accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls. That agreement has been widely and intensely criticized as being too lenient.
Why did that Miami case resurface after a decade?
Acosta’s actions came under renewed scrutiny when Epstein was indicted Monday on more child sex trafficking charges by federal prosecutors in New York. Federal prosecutors said they were charging Epstein for crimes committed outside Florida. They also said the nonprosecution agreement in Florida did not apply in New York.
The Miami Herald had already turned up the heat on Acosta last year in an investigative series that revealed Acosta was personally involved in the nonprosecution deal.
The Herald reported that the unusual agreement, under which Epstein received a light state sentence, had essentially shut down an FBI probe into whether there were more victims and whether other powerful people took part in Epstein’s crimes.
Why were mentions of the Epstein case a possible problem for Trump?
The controversy over Acosta’s handling of the Epstein case brought renewed attention this week to Trump’s own connections to Epstein. In remarks that now have an eerie overtone, Trump told New York magazine in 2002 that Epstein was a “terrific guy” whom he had known for 15 years. “He’s a lot of fun to be with,” Trump said at the time. “It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.” Trump this week distanced himself from Epstein. Trump has also faced numerous accusations of sexual misconduct.
What does Acosta say?
Earlier this week, after the federal indictments, Acosta held a lengthy news conference to talk about his handling of the Florida case. He argued his office had gotten the best deal it could and was working in the victims’ best interests. He also tweeted that he was “pleased” that the New York prosecutors were trying to “more fully” bring Epstein to justice. At Trump’s side, speaking to reporters Friday morning, he said, ‘‘My point here today is we have an amazing economy.” Trump praised the job Acosta had done and said he had not asked him to leave. He also reiterated, “I was not a fan of Jeffrey Epstein. . . . Jeffrey Epstein was not somebody I respected.”Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.