Trump speaks after Labor Secretary Acosta resigns
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.
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."
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
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.
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:
- Department of Defense Secretary James Mattis: Resigned on Dec. 31, 2018
- Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price: Resigned on Sept. 20, 2017
- Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly: Resigned on July 28, 2017
- Department of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen: Resigned on April 24, 2019
- Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke: Resigned on Jan. 2, 2019
- Attorney General Jeff Sessions: Resigned on Nov. 7, 2018
- Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: Resigned on March, 31 2018
- 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.
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.
Labor Secretary Alex Acosta's resignation comes amid renewed fury over his handling of a plea deal with millionaire Jeffrey Epstein.
Here's what you need to know 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.
The report said Acosta had brokered a deal with one of Epstein's attorneys, where he pleaded in 2008 to two state prostitution charges, ultimately serving only 13 months and avoiding a federal trial. He also registered as a sex offender and paid restitution to the victims identified by the FBI.
The agreement, the Herald said, "essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe" and further granted immunity to "any potential co-conspirators" in the case.
Why is this coming up now? Epstein has been indicted earlier this week on new charges related to alleged sex crimes involving minors
Initially Acosta defended the deal: On Wednesday, 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.
President Trump has announced that Labor Secretary Acosta has resigned.
Standing on the South Lawn with Trump ahead of the President's departure to Wisconsin, Labor Secretary Acosta said he “called the President this morning thought right thing was to step aside.”
His resignation is effective one week from today.