Trump Praises “Excellent” Labor Secretary as Demands for Resignation Grow Louder

Alex Acosta also defended striking a plea agreement with billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Kevin Dietsch/ZUMA

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. 

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.


In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones, a special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.