July 12, 2019

Embattled Labor Secretary Alex Acosta is stepping down from his post amid fierce criticism over his role in striking a plea agreement with accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

President Donald Trump announced Friday that Acosta would step down, two days after the labor secretary defended the Epstein deal, which he cut in 2008 as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. The decision will be effective in a week, Acosta said in a press conference alongside the president.

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Democrats on the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee pressed Acosta on the deal at a March 2017 hearing on his nomination to serve as labor secretary, which the Senate ultimately approved by a 60-38 vote.

But the issue reemerged last fall following the Miami Herald’s report that prosecutors kept Epstein’s alleged victims in the dark about the deal. It came to a head following Epstein’s arrest, with prominent Democratic lawmakers and presidential hopefuls including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., calling on Acosta to resign in recent days.

Acosta initially resisted these calls, saying in his press conference Wednesday his office acted “appropriately based on the evidence.”

Takisha Richardson, an attorney in plaintiffs-side law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC’s sexual abuse team, described that claim as “willfully ignorant at best and perhaps far worse” in a statement Friday.

“Any prosecutor knows that there are multiple ways to gather evidence in sex crimes cases and his actions, or lack thereof, failed not just dozens of young women but also the justice system that was supposed to protect them,” Richardson said.

Acosta’s resignation comes at a busy time for the Labor Department, which is working on a trio of major wage regulations, including a plan to set the salary level under which most workers get overtime at around $35,000.

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