US Labour Secretary Acosta resigns over Epstein affair
WASHINGTON, July 13: 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.
Acosta, 50, a former federal prosecutor, had been facing mounting calls to quit over the deal that saw Epstein serve just 13 months in a county jail.
"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.
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. He faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
Trump, who had defended Acosta after Epstein's arrest, described him as a "tremendous talent" and "great secretary of labor" who had done a "very good job."
The president said Patrick Pizzella, Acosta's deputy, "will do the job. Highly recommended by Alex. Going to be acting. He's already been told." According to prosecutors, Epstein sexually exploited dozens of 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. -AFP