Many of Donald Trump’s “best people” have left in disgrace but none more so than Alexander Acosta, who showed no conscience or remorse in letting pedophile Jeffrey Epstein off the hook when he was a federal prosecutor. In a press conference ordered up by Trump to save his job, Acosta failed miserably. And on Friday morning, Trump perp-walked Acosta, wearing his now familiar smirk, out to face the press corps on the south lawn of the White House, to announce that Acosta had decided to tender his resignation.
Much that’s wrong with Trump came out in the next few minutes. As he’s shoving Acosta out the door, he is at pains to prove he wasn’t wrong about him, praising his (second) choice for labor secretary as “fantastic” and insisting, “I’m with him." He’s mystified at the revulsion over Acosta: “He made a deal that people were happy with, and then 12 years later they’re not happy with it.”
Turning to himself, like a guilty man on the stand in a Law & Order rerun, Trump pointed a finger at others who were the real unindicted collaborators in the Epstein mess, those others who joined Epstein on his island. For good measure, he decided to smear all Hispanics, gratuitously mentioning Acosta’s heritage, on the eve of launching his weekend of deportation raids.
It will take a few days now until someone, who despises working for Trump but doesn’t have the gumption to leave, inevitably leaks that the voluntary resignation was Trump Lie Number Ten Thousand and Something. We know it didn’t happen because Trump’s eyes were opened by the Miami Herald’s November 2018 investigation of Epstein’s victims, exposing anew that Acosta looked evil in the eye and saw a deal to be cut.
It definitely couldn’t be because evangelicals or Senate Republicans suddenly remembered they had a modicum of integrity before being sucked into Trump’s vortex. No, it only happened once New York prosecutors re-indicted Epstein on similar charges of recruiting young girls and paying them to come to his lair to service him.
That put the whole mess front and center again, and Trump, binge TV watcher, was forced to watch (anytime he wasn’t tuned to Fox News) replays of the Access Hollywood tape, or pictures of him with Epstein, or discussions of the lawsuit filed by a 13-year old girl against him (since dropped), or mentions of the party for two—Trump and Epstein—at Mar-a-Lago with a bevy of 28 beauties imported for the occasion. That’s not to mention the two dozen women who’ve accused Trump of sexually abusing them.
It’s rare to have a beleaguered Trump official go so quickly, rather than be Zinked, Tillersoned, or Pruitted, drip by drip. Acosta hurt himself by not doing a full Kavanaugh, complete with righteous fire and fury, instead coldly admitting nothing and excusing all, even his secret meeting with opposing counsel at a restaurant because the office wasn’t open at that hour, no less.
He proceeded to promise Epstein counsel Jay Lefkowitz, a partner at his former firm Kirkland & Ellis, that rather than abide by the law that requires he inform victims, he would hide the plea that let Epstein plead to two charges of prostitution (by law, it’s sexual assault and rape, not prostitution, when young girls are solicited for sex). The sweetheart part of the deal is the lawyer-on-lawyer friendliness.
Acosta would never see Epstein’s victims, but if he were lucky, he would intersect with Epstein’s defenders again—princes of the bar like Lefkowitz, Ken Starr (yes, the one who was appalled by Clinton), Roy Black, and Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz. They would slap each other on the back and settle another case.
While lying is expected, Acosta’s didn’t rise to Trump’s level. He blamed Epstein’s victims—36, on the record, some with signed statements backed up by a 53-page indictment—for being unable to stand up to testifying in court, as if it weren’t 2008 but, say, 17th-century Massachusetts Bay Colony during the Salem Witch Trials—when girls would be slut-shamed on the stand.
The clincher was the whopper about the state’s attorney failing to step up to the plate. In one of the quickest hip-checks in history, those prosecutors were right back at him, credibly defending themselves and hurling the onus back on Acosta, the guy with the badge and the white hat who came to save the day, and then didn’t.
We can be sure that Acosta didn’t wake at dawn Friday and realize that his desperation to remain a guy with a palatial office and power over a huge workforce (and, ironically, sex traffickers) wasn’t worth the strain on his family. He’s not built that way, or he would have known at the time that what he was doing in Palm Beach was a travesty. And that if it didn’t haunt him with its mendacity at the time, it would catch up with him someday. It did, but it only resulted in his losing his cushy job, and you can be sure there’s some bottom-feeding law firm who will soon want his services.
His resignation by no means provides closure, not for the abused girls, and not for the Palm Beach police who did their jobs, if you read the files. And not for the public that questions how a United States Attorney, who was the entire system at the moment he stood astride justice for the Southern District of Florida, was faced with a starker choice between good and evil, right and wrong, than most of us will ever confront. And he chose to side with the bad guys.
Democrats are busily sending out subpoenas to get answers. Was it someone higher up at Justice, someone higher up in society, something promised him down the road that turned Acosta away from his duty to protect the children?
The sick feeling left behind by Acosta’s departure—pretending, without remorse, that he simply no longer wanted to distract from the great economy—is that it is too unfathomable. How Acosta committed such an injustice goes too deep for any mortal to see.
For his part, Trump is relieved, as he names another “acting” secretary he can keep under White House arrest, that the fickle finger of press coverage may move on to another scandal, away from his days palling around with Epstein, that “great guy” who just happened “to like young girls,” and his own ugly behavior.
For the moment, there are two people on our minds who are worse than the Access Hollywood braggart. It’s the monster Epstein and the man who saved the monster from going to prison for the rest of his life. We will remember, however, that as Acosta was leaving the stage, Trump was still calling him “fantastic.”