R. Alexander Acosta (2017-2019)
Rene Alexander Acosta was born in Miami, Florida, on January 16, 1969. His parents left Cuba when they were young and settled in Florida, raising their family in Miami. Acosta attended Harvard University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1990 and a law degree in 1994.
In 1994, Acosta clerked for Samuel A. Alito, Jr. at the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. He then worked for the law firm of Kirkland and Ellis and focused on employment and labor issues. He also taught classes on employment law and civil right law at the George Mason School of Law.
In 2002, he joined the administration of President George W. Bush as a member of the National Labor Relations Board. Acosta was appointed the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights division of the US Department of Justice in 2003. In 2005, he became the US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, serving until 2009 when President Bush left office. Acosta then became dean of the Florida International University’s College of Law, where he served until joining the Trump administration.
In 2017, President Donald Trump nominated Acosta to be the 27th Secretary of Labor. The US Senate confirmed him on April 27, 2017, by a vote of 60 to 38, and he was sworn on April 28. However, Acosta resigned on July 19, 2019, after he came under fire for a plea deal that he negotiated in 2008 when he was the US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy businessman, reached an agreement to avoid a federal trial on accusations of sexually abusing dozens of women and children. Acosta did not prosecute, and Epstein served 13 months in jail with work release. After prosecutors in New York brought sex-trafficking charges against Epstein in 2019, the deal that Acosta negotiated was questioned for its leniency and secrecy. Acosta announced that he was resigning to avoid distracting the Department of Labor from implementing President Trump’s agenda.