US Labor Secretary Alex Acosta resigned Friday, amid a backlash over a secret plea deal he negotiated a decade ago with Jeffrey Epstein, the financier accused of sexually abusing young girls.
“I called the president this morning and told him that I thought the right thing was to step aside,” Acosta said in a joint appearance with President Donald Trump at the White House.
Acosta, 50, a former federal prosecutor, has been facing mounting calls to resign over the deal that saw Epstein serve just 13 months in a county jail.
Trump said the decision to go came from Acosta, who telephoned the president Friday morning. He described Acosta as a “tremendous talent” and “great secretary of labor” who had done a “very good job.”
Epstein, 66, was charged on Monday by prosecutors in New York with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors.
According to prosecutors, Epstein sexually exploited many underage teen girls at his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida, between 2002 and 2005. Some were as young as 14.
Acosta fielded a barrage of questions Wednesday from reporters about his office’s handling of the Epstein case when he was a federal prosecutor in Florida.
The deal reached with Epstein required him to admit a single state charge of soliciting prostitution from a minor and register as a sex offender.
Acosta said prosecutors agreed to the deal rather than take Epstein to trial on more serious charges because that would have been a “roll of the dice”.