Two days after a defiant press conference defending his role in a sweetheart plea deal for sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein, and despite apparent support from his boss the president, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta has resigned, Trump announced. Yesterday Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano suggested Acosta would no longer “be around by Friday.” That was a solid prediction.
Acosta’s effort in the press conference to blame the kid-gloves treatment of Epstein while he was U.S. Attorney in South Florida on state prosecutors did not convince anyone. At New York, Barbara McQuade (herself a former U.S. Attorney) explained why Acosta’s account of the plea deal “doesn’t add up:”
Sometimes prosecutors work cooperatively with state prosecutors to work out a global resolution when it is in their clients’ mutual interest, but it is certainly not required. In this instance, Epstein faced significantly longer prison time for his alleged violations of federal sex-trafficking laws. So why did Acosta feel the need to end his own investigation to secure a custodial sentence in the state case, rather than allowing the state case to proceed and pursuing his own case separately?
In addition, the chief state prosecutor Acosta threw under the bus angrily denied the Labor secretary’s account of how the deal went down, alleging that “secret negotiations” between Acosta and Epstein’s attorney sabotaged a federal investigation. In general, it quickly became clear that Acosta’s press conference raised more questions than it answered, drawing unwanted attention to the corrupting influence of Epstein’s many powerful connections — including a connection to Donald J. Trump.
The president famously does not like firing people, so you have to figure people around him let Acosta know it was time for him to go away. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney made no secret of his hostility to the man, as Politico reported earlier this week:
Mulvaney told Trump on Monday that the continuing drip of damaging information surrounding the 2008 agreement Acosta struck to keep billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein from a heavy jail sentence would hurt the administration, according to two people familiar with the conversation.
Indeed, it’s clear Acosta had some serious enemies in the White House before he brought all this heat onto the administration:
It didn’t work. The saga ended on a bizarre note this morning as Trump gave one of his trademark rambling press availabilities outside the White House with Acosta standing next to him:
Trump was quick to assert that the resignation was Acosta’s idea, not his own:
And then he delivered his ultimate assessment of his soon-to-be former Cabinet member (Acosta’s resignation will be effective in seven days), which probably best explains why he was appointed to begin with:
It remains to be seen if Acosta was a lightning rod who drew unnecessary heat for the administration in the Epstein case, or a mere distraction from POTUS’s own friendship with the infamous proprietor of the Lolita Express.