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.”
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.
Women who say they were molested by Epstein have come forward following his arrest, describing being recruited and groomed by Epstein’s associates when they were young teenagers.
Jennifer Araoz told NBC News she was just 14 when a woman representing Epstein approached her outside her New York City performing arts high school and promised to help her become an actress.
In 2002, when she was 15, she says the wealthy financier raped her.
“I was so young that I was worried that somehow I would get in trouble,” Araoz said on the “Today” show, explaining why she didn’t alert anyone at the time. “I was really frightened of Epstein. He knew a lot of powerful people and I didn’t know what he could do to me, and I wasn’t sure that anyone could protect me.”
Another woman, Courtney Wild, told ABC News she “never felt like the U.S. attorney was on my side,” referring to Acosta’s handling of the case in Florida years earlier.
While at least one former federal prosecutor described the deal as “completely unprecedented” in its leniency, Acosta has continued to defend it:
With the evidence available more than a decade ago, federal prosecutors insisted that Epstein go to jail, register as a sex offender and put the world on notice that he was a sexual predator.— Secretary Acosta (@SecretaryAcosta) July 9, 2019
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.