US Labor Secretary resigns amid scrutiny of his handling of Epstein case

Washington: US Labour Secretary Alexander Acosta resigned on Friday amid intense scrutiny of his role as a US attorney a decade ago in a deal with Jeffrey Epstein that allowed the financier to plead guilty to lesser offences in a sex-crimes case.

President Donald Trump told reporters on Friday morning that Acosta had decided to step aside. He called Acosta a "great labour secretary, not a good one" and a "tremendous talent".

President Donald Trump, accompanied by Labour Secretary Alex Acosta, said he didn’t want his Cabinet member to resign.Credit:AP

Trump said that Patrick Pizzella, currently Deputy Secretary of Labour, will become acting Secretary of the department.

The 2008 plea deal in Florida came under renewed scrutiny in light of Epstein’s indictment on Monday on more child sex trafficking charges in New York.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Acosta defended his role as the federal prosecutor in brokering the plea deal for Epstein, but lawyers for alleged victims criticised his explanation and Democrats called for him to appear at a congressional hearing in two weeks.

He said a state's attorney in Palm Beach County was preparing to allow Epstein to plead to a single charge of solicitation that did not make a reference to the age of the female minor. That deal would have carried no jail time and would not have required Epstein to register as a sex offender.

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