Embattled Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta is resigning, President Donald Trump said Friday.
Acosta had faced mounting criticism in recent days for his role in cutting a deal for sex offender Jeffrey Epstein more than a decade ago that critics have called too lenient.
Epstein, 66, was arrested over the weekend and charged in the Southern District of New York with sex trafficking dozens of girls, some as young as 14, in New York and Florida. That arrest brought new scrutiny to the earlier plea agreement.
In the earlier case, in 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to procuring a person under 18 for prostitution and felony solicitation of prostitution, which required him to register as a sex offender and serve about a year in a Florida county jail. He was able to leave the jail almost daily for work, and was allowed to have his own private security detail behind bars.
Acosta, who was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida at the time of the original Epstein criminal case, has faced calls from Democrats to resign his Cabinet post following the latest Epstein charges.
Acosta’s office reached the secret non-prosecution deal in 2008 with the wealthy financier to halt the federal sex abuse investigation involving dozens of teenage girls in return for Epstein pleading guilty to lower state charges involving a single victim.
The latest charges against Epstein, however, allege that he trafficked girls during the same time period as the earlier Florida probe.
Federal prosecutors in New York allege the politically connected financier, who has socialized with Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton and Britain’s Prince Andrew, sexually abused dozens of minors and paid his victims to recruit others, allowing him to build a vast network of girls to exploit.
The 2008 agreement with Acosta’s office did not protect Epstein from being prosecuted for alleged crimes in parts of the country other than South Florida, according to New York prosecutors, who say their case involves new victims and new evidence, including a cache of incriminating pictures that were found in a vault in Epstein’s Manhattan mansion.
Acosta had attempted to defend himself and the deal in a news conference earlier this week, saying that his office intervened in the case only after state prosecutors failed to secure a plea deal that would have resulted in jail time for Epstein and give justice to his victims