Alex Acosta resigns as U.S. labor secretary following Epstein plea deal scandal

President Trump speaks to members of the media with Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta on the South Lawn of the White House on Friday

Alex Acosta resigns as U.S. labor secretary following Epstein plea deal scandal

U.S. Labour Secretary Alex Acosta is resigning from his position after a week of criticism over his role in brokering a plea deal with financier Jeffrey Epstein in 2008.

Mr Acosta, a former Florida prosecutor, made the announcement from the White House lawn on Friday with President Donald Trump stood by his side.

"Alex called me this morning and wanted to see me", Trump told reporters.

The official emphasized that Acosta was not popular within the White House to begin with, given the grumblings over his perceived lack of enthusiasm for the President's deregulatory agenda.

Mr Acosta would not say if he would make the same decision regarding Mr Epstein now, considering the power of the #MeToo movement that led to the downfall of several powerful men publicly accused of sex crimes by women.

Mr Acosta says stepping aside is the right decision. An investigation was dropped as part of a plea deal agreed to by Acosta, then USA attorney for the Southern District of Florida. Epstein plead guilty to two counts of soliciting prostitution from a minor and was sentenced to just 18 months in prison, of which he served only 13. Similar charges filed against Epstein by federal prosecutors in NY this week had put Acosta's handling of the 2008 agreement with the now-jailed financier back in the spotlight. "No matter how my office resolved the state charges, the U.S. Attorney's Office always had the ability to file its own federal charges". He has pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking and conspiracy.

Acosta recently said taking Epstein's 2008 case to trail back then would have been a "roll of the dice" scenario, per the Miami Herald.

In a letter to lawmakers ahead of Pizzella's Senate confirmation, Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, expressed her coalition's opposition to Pizzella as Labor's deputy secretary given his past. But Acosta had defended his actions, insisting at a news conference Wednesday that he got the toughest deal on Epstein that he could get at the time. This law requires prosecutors to inform victims of any plea deal and be involved in negotiations, which he failed to do. "Now part of it is our economy is so good, our unemployment numbers are at record lows, so many good things are happening, but the fact is he's been a very good secretary of labor", he told reporters. "We believe that we proceeded appropriately".

Pressed on whether he had any regrets, Mr Acosta repeatedly suggested that circumstances had changed since then.

"We now have 12 years of knowledge and hindsight and we live in a very different world", he said. "Today's world treats victims very, very differently". Epstein had a social circle that over the years has included Trump, former President Bill Clinton and Britain's Prince Andrew. At the time, the then-New York real estate mogul called "Jeff" a "terrific guy". "It is even said that he likes handsome women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side".

Trump has since tried to distance himself from Epstein.

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