President Donald Trump lamented the resignation of Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta, whose handling of Jeffrey Epstein’s child sexual misconduct case became a national scandal, by noting that Acosta was both a good student in college and Hispanic.
Acosta, a former federal prosecutor, agreed to a sweetheart plea deal in 2008 with billionaire financier and former Trump friend Jeffrey Epstein. Last week, Epstein — who Trump previously called a “terrific guy” — was charged with sex trafficking involving girls as young as 14. In a lengthy press conference this week, Acosta took no responsibility at all for the non-prosecution agreement.
Having accepted his resignation on Friday, Trump praised Acosta, noting both his race and his success as a college student in the late 1980s. He also endorsed his handling of the Epstein deal.
“You know what I know about Alex? He was a great student at Harvard,” Trump told reporters. “He’s Hispanic, which I so admire, because maybe it was a little tougher for him and maybe not. But he did an unbelievable job as the Secretary of Labor. That’s what I know about him. I know one thing, he did a great job. And until this came up, there was never an ounce of problem with this very good man.”
While the indictment of Epstein reignited the story and spurned calls for Acosta’s resignation, the underlying issue did not just suddenly come up. The plea deal took place long before Trump nominated him in 2017 and the Miami Herald published a story last November called “How a future Trump Cabinet member gave a serial sex abuser the deal of a lifetime,” detailing the controversy.
Acosta was the first Latinx appointee to Trump’s mostly straight, cisgender, white, and male cabinet. The president has since nominated Jovita Carranza to be Small Business Administator, a cabinet level position, but she has not yet been confirmed. Trump has notably appointed very few women and minorities to the federal judiciary or top positions in his administration.
This is not the first time Trump has tokenized people from minority groups. During his 2016 presidential campaign, he singled out a a supporter of color, saying “Look at my African American over here.” He also reportedly suggested that he only wanted short Jewish guys — not black people — people to be “counting” his money.
Acosta’s resignation will be effective on the July 19. At that point, his cabinet will likely include no Latinx members, one African American (HUD Secretary Ben Carson), one Asian American (Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao), and just a handful of women.