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Trump on Acosta: “I’m with him”

Trump’s defense of the resigning labor secretary is part of a pattern.

Anna North is a senior correspondent for Vox, where she covers American family life, work, and education. Previously, she was an editor and writer at the New York Times. She is also the author of three novels, including the New York Times bestseller Outlawed.

Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta announced his resignation Friday morning, but President Trump is still defending him.

“This was him, not me,” Trump told reporters on Friday of Acosta’s decision to resign. “I’m with him.”

Acosta is stepping down amid growing criticism of a non-prosecution agreement his office signed with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in 2008, when Acosta was US attorney for Miami. Under the deal, Epstein served just 13 months in a county jail, even though he was accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls.

Criticism of the deal has been growing since Epstein was arrested this week on new sex trafficking charges. But on Friday, Trump defended the deal, saying Acosta “made a deal that people were happy with, and then 12 years later, they’re not happy with it.” The president’s words were a reminder of a longstanding pattern: Throughout his administration, he’s defended men like Epstein who are accused of harming women.

Trump’s defense of Acosta was part of a pattern

Critics on the left and right have been calling for Acosta to resign since last November, when Julie K. Brown of the Miami Herald reported on his role in the Epstein non-prosecution agreement.

Earlier this week, though, Trump defended Acosta, saying he felt “very badly” for the labor secretary amid the criticism he faced, “because I’ve known him as being somebody that works so hard and has done such a good job.”

Trump also said, “if you go back and look at everybody else’s decisions, whether it’s a U.S. attorney, or an assistant U.S. attorney or a judge, if you go back 12 or 15 years ago or 20 years ago and look at their past decisions, I would think you would probably find that they would wish they’d maybe did it a different way.”

His remarks on Friday struck a similar tone. Acosta was “not a good labor secretary, a great labor secretary,” Trump said. “He’s done a fantastic job.”

By contrast, the president has distanced himself from Epstein. In the past, he had socialized with the money manager, praising him as a “terrific guy” and joking “it is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”

This week, however, Trump said that the two went their separate ways 15 years ago. “I was not a fan of his, that I can tell you,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

Still, his defenses of the deal that allowed Epstein to stay out of prison — and the man in charge of brokering that deal — are a reminder that Trump has routinely defended men accused of harming women.

When White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned after being accused of abuse by two ex-wives, for instance, Trump said, “we hope he has a wonderful career and he will have a great career ahead of him.”

The president added that Porter was “very sad” about the allegations against him, and said, “we absolutely wish him well, he did a very good job while he was at the White House.”

Trump also routinely defended Brett Kavanaugh, now a US Supreme Court justice, after Christine Blasey Ford said that he had sexually assaulted her when the two were in high school.

“A man’s life is in tatters,” Trump said of the allegation against Kavanaugh. “A man’s life is shattered.”

The president also mocked Ford at a rally before an audience of thousands, poking fun at the fact that she couldn’t remember certain details of the incident she described.

“What neighborhood was it? I don’t know,” he said. “Where’s the house? I don’t know. Upstairs? Downstairs? Where was it — I don’t know. But I had one beer, that’s the only thing I remember.”

Acosta himself is not accused of any sexual misconduct. Still, Trump’s words in defense of him were a reminder that when women speak up about violence, assault, and abuse, it’s often the men involved for whom Trump expresses the most sympathy.

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