Acosta took the position after President Donald Trump’s previous nominee Andrew Puzder stepped down followed allegations of domestic violence.
His resignation followed a wave of new information about the alleged crimes of accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, for whom Acosta helped broker a sweetheart plea deal more than a decade ago.
Trump said it was Acosta’s decision to step down. The president signaled his support for the labor secretary earlier this week, telling reporters he felt “very badly” for him “because I’ve known him as being somebody that works so hard and has done such a good job.”
“I feel very badly about that whole situation. But we’re going to be looking at that and looking at it very closely,” Trump said.
Acosta reiterated that point during a press conference on Wednesday, saying Trump “has publicly made clear that I’ve got his support.” He also defended the Epstein deal, saying, “We believe that we proceeded appropriately.”
“I want to thank Alex Acosta. He was a great great secretary,” Trump said Friday, before shaking Acosta’s hand.
The president also reiterated that the decision was “him, not me” and seemed to defend the Epstein plea deal: “He made a deal that people were happy with and then 12 years later, they’re not happy with it.” (The deal was kept secret from Epstein’s accusers at the time.)
Trump said that Patrick Pizzella, Acosta’s deputy, “will do the job. Highly recommended by Alex. Going to be acting. He’s already been told.”
Epstein was arrested when his private jet landed at a New Jersey airport July 6. He faces new charges, brought by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, for allegedly recruiting and trafficking dozens of minors in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005, then molesting and sexually abusing them.
The allegations are similar to those federal prosecutors in Miami brought in 2007 when Acosta, who was then a U.S. attorney, helped draft a nonprosecution agreement for Epstein without notifying his alleged victims. In February, a federal judge ruled that federal prosecutors, including Acosta, broke the law by signing the agreement.
The agreement granted Epstein immunity from federal prosecution. The powerful former hedge fund manager stood to face life imprisonment for trafficking and sexually abusing underage girls for at least six years, according to a Miami Herald investigation.
But under the nonprosecution agreement, Epstein was sentenced to just 18 months in county jail after he pleaded guilty to two lesser prostitution charges, and ultimately served only 13 months. The agreement also permitted Epstein to leave jail for 12 hours a day, six days a week, so he could continue working.
READ MORE: HuffPost.com
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