Trump speaks after Labor Secretary Acosta resigns

By Meg Wagner and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 4:09 p.m. ET, July 12, 2019
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11:34 a.m. ET, July 12, 2019

Trump confirms he threw Jeffrey Epstein out of Mar-a-Lago

From CNN's Allie Malloy

President Trump confirmed reports that he threw Jeffrey Epstein out of his Mar-a-Lago club years ago, adding, "I was not a fan of Jeffrey Epstein."

"Jeffrey Epstein was not somebody that I respected. I threw him out. In fact I think the great James Patterson, who’s a member of Mar-a-Lago, made a statement yesterday, that many years ago I threw him out. I’m not a fan of Jeffrey Epstein."

Trump continued: “I didn’t want anything to do with him. That was many, many years ago. It shows you one thing -- that I have good taste."

Trump added that reporters should look into the people who went to Epstein’s private island.

Why Trump is talking about Epstein now: Labor Secretary Alex Acosta's resignation comes amid renewed fury over his handling of a plea deal with Epstein.

More on his connection with Mar-a-Lago: One woman says she was 15 years old when she was approached by an associate of Epstein's while she worked at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, and was offered the opportunity to make "a great deal of money" learning about massage therapy. She originally filed a suit anonymously with allegations of sexual abuse against Epstein, but later went public.

Watch the moment:

10:28 a.m. ET, July 12, 2019

Acosta: I told Trump "I thought the right thing was to step aside"

Labor Secretary Alex Acosta — who just announced his resignation, which is effective a week from today — said he decided to step aside because he didn't want his previous handling of a plea deal with Jeffrey Epstein to become the focus of the Labor Department.

"I do not think it is right and fair for this administration's Labor Department to have Epstein as the focus, rather than the incredible economy that we have today. And so I called the President this morning. I told him that I thought the right thing was to step aside," Acosta said.

He continued: "It would be selfish for me to stay in this position and continue talking about a case that's 12 years old rather than about the amazing economy we have right now."

About the deal: In November, the Miami Herald reported that when Acosta was a US attorney in Florida, he gave Epstein the "deal of a lifetime." In a sweeping review of the politically connected billionaire's case, the Herald explained how Acosta had made an agreement with Epstein to avoid major repercussions for the hedge fund manager, even though a federal investigation had identified 36 underage victims.

Why is this coming up now? Epstein has been indicted earlier this week on new charges related to alleged sex crimes involving minors

10:23 a.m. ET, July 12, 2019

Trump on Acosta's resignation: "This was him, not me, because I’m with him"

President Trump spoke alongside Alex Acosta moments ago.

“He’s done a fantastic job. He’s a friend of everybody in the administration," Trump said.

The President addressed how Acosta handled a plea deal with millionaire Jeffrey Epstein year's ago. (Epstein's indictment this week has renewed fury over it.)

“He made a deal that people were happy with, and then 12 years later they’re not happy with it. You’ll have to figure all of that out. But the fact is, he has been a fantastic secretary of labor," Trump said.

The President continued:

“But I just want to let you know, this was him, not me, because I’m with him. He was —he’s a tremendous talent, he’s a Hispanic man. He went to Harvard, a great student. And in so many ways I just hate what he’s saying now, because we’re going to miss him. ”
10:11 a.m. ET, July 12, 2019

Trump was concerned about how Acosta's deal with Epstein could impact 2020, White House source says

From CNN's Jim Acosta

A senior White House official said President Trump was stewing over Labor Secretary Alex Acosta’s fate yesterday as he and aides worried about the steady stream of revelations in the Jeffrey Epstein case.

“There would just continue to be disclosures,” the official said. “There would be questions in this town and on the trail,” the official added noting how the Epstein-Acosta story was now fodder for the 2020 Democratic field.

“What did he know and when did he know it?” this official asked.

The official went on to emphasize that Acosta was not popular within the White House to begin with, given the grumblings over his perceived lack of enthusiasm for the President’s deregulatory agenda.

“Your well of support is not going to be deep if you’re not going to support the President’s agenda,” the official added.

10:10 a.m. ET, July 12, 2019

GOP House Whip: "If he’s lost the confidence of the President, then he’s got to step down"

When asked about Labor Secretary Alex Acosta's resignation, House GOP Whip Steve Scalise told reporters, "If he's lost the confidence of the President, then he's got to step down."

10:06 a.m. ET, July 12, 2019

There are now at least 261 key vacancies in the Trump administration

There's a new vacancy in President Trump's administration: Alex Acosta as Labor Secretary. 

But even before he left office, there was a significant number of vacancies.

Here's a list, which CNN obtained from the Partnership for Public Service last month:

  • Total current number of vacant key leadership positions (with no current Senate-confirmed appointee) in the Trump administration: 260/713
  • Current number of vacancies in the State Department: 61/202
  • Current number of vacancies in the Defense Department: 12/56
  • Current number of vacancies in the Justice Department: 15/29
10:06 a.m. ET, July 12, 2019

Congressman: "Acosta did the right thing"

Rep. Elijah Cummings, chairman of Oversight and Reform Committee, said Alex Acosta "did the right thing" by stepping down as labor secretary.

Here's what he told CNN just now:

"Acosta did the right thing. The way he addressed the Epstein case and the way he treated these young ladies is extremely unfortunate. I'm hopeful the President appoints someone who will be sensitive to women in workplace and do all tings people need done for them in the Department of Labor. That is so important. But I think he did right thing."

Some context: Throughout this week, Acosta maintained he secured the best deal he could when he helped prosecute financier Jeffrey Epstein for sex crimes a decade ago, but acknowledged the terms look lenient with the passage of time.

Still, Acosta stopped short of apologizing for — or even saying that he regretted — his actions, which have come under renewed scrutiny after Epstein was indicted on fresh sex trafficking charges this week.

10:02 a.m. ET, July 12, 2019

Acosta is the 9th cabinet official to leave the Trump administration

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

Labor Secretary Alex Acosta's departure brings the total number of cabinet officials who have left their positions during the Trump administration to nine.

Here are the eight previous cabinet officials who have left office:

  1. Department of Defense Secretary James Mattis: Resigned on Dec. 31, 2018
  2. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price: Resigned on Sept. 20, 2017
  3. Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly: Resigned on July 28, 2017
  4. Department of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen: Resigned on April 24, 2019
  5. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke: Resigned on Jan. 2, 2019
  6. Attorney General Jeff Sessions: Resigned on Nov. 7, 2018
  7. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: Resigned on March, 31 2018
  8. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin: Resigned on March 28, 2018

For context: During the Obama Administration, there was no turnover in cabinet agencies, two and a half years into his first term.

During the Bush Administration, one cabinet secretary had left office as of June 2003: Department of the Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill.

10:12 a.m. ET, July 12, 2019

President Trump's change of tone on Acosta

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins


Trump was having his doubts about Alex Acosta, and people close to Trump questioned how long the labor secretary would last.

The President went from praising him and urging him to defend himself, to privately questioning why the victims had not been notified about the plea deal.

Just two days ago, Acosta staunchly defended his relationship with President Trump, who encouraged him to speak with reporters about his role in the Epstein matter amid calls for his resignation. Afterward, officials said Trump remained supportive of his labor secretary.