WASHINGTON – Labor Secretary Alex Acosta has resigned, President Donald Trump told reporters gathered on the White House South Lawn on Friday morning.
Trump made the announcement with Acosta by his side. The president said Acosta notified him of his decision in a phone call earlier this morning.
“I do not think it is right and fair for this administration’s Labor Department to have (Jeffrey) Epstein as the focus, rather than the incredible economy that we have today. And so I called the president this morning. I told him that I thought the right thing was to step aside,” Acosta said.
Acosta said he will leave office in one week.
Acosta is under fire for his handling of a 2008 plea deal between the Justice Department and Epstein, a wealthy financier.
Acosta served as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida from 2005-09.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, federal prosecutors dropped their charges against Epstein. The deal also shielded any of Epstein’s co-conspirators from prosecution.
In February, a federal judge ruled that federal prosecutors violated the law by not informing Epstein’s two unnamed victims of the so-called “non-prosecution agreement.” One of those prosecutors was Acosta.
Epstein pleaded guilty to a single state charge of soliciting prostitution from girls as young as 14. He was sentenced to 18 months at the Palm Beach County jail in Florida. But he served only 13 months with a six-day-per-week work release privilege.
Earlier this week Epstein was indicted on sex trafficking charges.
The indictment alleges that from about 2002-05 Epstein abused dozens of girls as young as age 14 at his residences in New York City, Palm Beach, Fla., and other locations.
Epstein has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
At a news conference on Wednesday Acosta defended his handling of the case, saying the chances of conviction in federal court were in doubt and that the state charges against Epstein guaranteed that he would go on the sex offender registry.
News of the latest Epstein charges prompted calls from Democrats for Acosta to resign. Among them were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.).
Republicans have largely dodged reporters’ questions about Acosta’s continuation in office by saying the decision was up to Trump.