President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended his labor secretary, Alex Acosta, against mounting demands for his resignation over his central role in securing a 2007 plea agreement for billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
“I can tell you that for two-and-a-half years he’s been just an excellent secretary of labor,” Trump told reporters from the Oval Office.
The president then asserted that many attorneys likely regret decisions made “a long time ago” and that Acosta, then the US Attorney in the Southern District of Florida, was not alone in negotiating the plea deal that allowed Epstein to escape a full investigation and possible life sentence for allegedly abusing underage girls. “I feel very badly, actually, for Secretary Acosta,” Trump added.
On Saturday, Epstein was arrested for allegedly operating a “vast network” of underage girls that he would sexually exploit, “often on a daily basis”—charges similar to the ones he faced more than a decade ago when Acosta negotiated the controversial plea deal.
Trump on Tuesday also attempted to distance himself from Epstein, who he was known to socialize with in Palm Beach, Florida and whom he once described as a “terrific guy.” “I had a falling out with him a long time ago, I don’t think I’ve spoken to him for 15 years,” Trump said. “I wasn’t a fan.”
The president’s currents efforts to shun Epstein come in direct contrast to his praise of the disgraced financier, as well as photographic evidence of the two men partying together in Palm Beach, Florida.
NEW: Pres. Trump defends Alex Acosta as an "excellent" Labor secretary amid scrutiny over his role in Jeffrey Epstein plea deal, saying "a lot of people" were involved in the deal.
— ABC News (@ABC) July 9, 2019
Shortly before Trump’s remarks in the Oval Office, Acosta posted three tweets defending the 2007 plea agreement. In doing so, the embattled labor secretary appeared to ignore the extraordinarily lenient terms of the deal he struck with Epstein. Epstein, who now faces another potential life sentence over the sex abuse charges, only served 13 months in prison at that time.
Now that new evidence and additional testimony is available, the NY prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him to justice.
— Secretary Acosta (@SecretaryAcosta) July 9, 2019