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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11:12 a.m. ET, July 12, 2019

Read Alex Acosta's resignation letter

President Trump announced this morning that Alex Acosta has resigned as Secretary of Labor.

Acosta, speaking alongside Trump at the White House moments ago, 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.

Trump also insisted that the resignation was Acosta's decision: "I just want to let you know, this was him, not me, because I’m with him. He was — he’s a tremendous talent."

Here's the resignation letter Acosta sent the President:

11:14 a.m. ET, July 12, 2019

Trump: Russia and China pray Biden is elected "so they can continue to rip off our country"

President Trump called Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden “weak” and “ineffective."

Trump said foreign leaders, including President Xi of China and President Putin of Russia, “go to bed at night and they pray” that Biden becomes president “so they can continue to rip off our country.”

Trump made the comments when responding to a question on the potential trade deal with China.

“When I see a guy like Biden, who’s weak and ineffective and everybody that knows him knows, he’s a weak man. He’s an ineffective man. President Xi laughs at guys like that.”

“With that being said, I would say this: President Xi, Putin all of these guys go to bed at night and they pray that Joe Biden or somebody like him becomes president so they can continue to rip off our country." Trump said on the White House lawn.

Trump also repeated his “sleepy Joe Biden” nickname saying neither Biden nor the other Democratic candidates at “his heels” have what it takes to be president.

Watch the moment:

11:20 a.m. ET, July 12, 2019

Trump: Paul Ryan was a "terrible speaker" and a "baby"

From CNN's Allie Malloy 

President Trump continued to slam former House Speaker Paul Ryan this morning, calling him a “terrible speaker” and a “baby," moments before he left the White House for Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin.

“Paul Ryan let us down. Paul Ryan was a terrible speaker. Frankly, he was a baby. He didn't know what the hell he was doing. The wall let us down."

Some background: Trump has been on a tear against Ryan since the former speaker’s interview with Tim Alberta this week. Ryan accused Trump in the interview of not knowing “anything” about the government.

Watch more:

11:25 a.m. ET, July 12, 2019

Trump defends Pelosi: "She is not a racist. For them to call her a racist is a disgrace."

President Trump defended House Speaker Nancy Pelosi amid her dispute with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other freshman female Democrats.

He said Democrats have been “very disrespectful to Pelosi,” adding that the Speaker “is not a racist.”

Trump strongly defended Speaker Pelosi, saying, “I’ll tell you something about Nancy Pelosi that you know better than I do, she is not a racist. OK? She is not a racist. For them to call her a racist is a disgrace.”

Trump mostly pointed the finger at Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, saying, “She should not be doing what she’s doing.” He added that she's being “very disrespectful to somebody that’s been there a long time.” 

What happened this week: Rep. Ocasio-Cortez suggested that Pelosi has been "singling out" freshman congresswomen of color — the latest charge in a growing rift between the leader of the party in the chamber and the high-profile progressive freshman.

Asked if she thinks Pelosi has racial animus or is racist, Ocasio-Cortez said unequivocally, "No, no, absolutely not, absolutely not."

Watch below:

11:31 a.m. ET, July 12, 2019

President Trump confirms ICE raids will start Sunday

From CNN's Allie Malloy

Moments after speaking about Alex Acosta's resignation as labor secretary, President Trump moved on to upcoming ICE raids this weekend.

He confirmed that the raids will start on Sunday, telling reporters, “They're going to take people out and they're going to bring them back to their countries."

"It starts on Sunday, and they're going to take people out and they're going to bring them back to their countries,” Trump said adding, “We're focused on criminals as much as we can, before we do anything else."

“They came in illegally. They have to go out,” Trump added.

CNN’s Joe Johns also asked Trump about mayors who are against the raids, Trump then railed against New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, calling him the worst mayor in America.

Watch more:

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.