U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta is resigning his position, saying he does not want a 2008 plea deal involving billionaire Jeffrey Epstein to become a distraction for the Trump administration.
Acosta said he called President Trump this morning to tell him about the resignation, which will take effect in a week. The president praised Acosta as a "tremendous talent.”
Deputy Labor Secretary Patrick Pizzella, who previously served as a member and as acting chairman of the Federal Labor Relations Authority, will step in as the acting director of the Department of Labor.
The 66-year-oldd Epstein was arrested over the weekend and charged in the Southern District of New York with sex trafficking dozens of young girls in New York and Florida.
This latest arrest brought renewed attention to a case in Florida a decade ago in which Acosta, who was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida at the time, struck a plea deal with Epstein viewed by many as too lenient. Epstein was allowed to plead guilty to procuring a person under 18 for prostitution and felony solicitation of prostitution. He had to register as a sex offender and serve approximately one year in a Florida county jail – although he was allowed to leave daily for work and to have his own private security detail with him.
According to Miami Herald investigative reporter Julie K. Brown, the “non-prosecution” plea agreement succeeded in concealing the full extent of Epstein’s crimes and shutting down an ongoing FBI investigation into whether there were more victims and other powerful people who took part in Epstein’s sex crimes, according to a Miami Herald examination of thousands of emails, court documents and FBI records.
Brown notes that Acosta’s secretary of labor responsibilities include oversight of the country’s labor laws, including human trafficking.
Acosta said earlier this week that his office had "acted appropriately" in making the deal with Epstein.