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Acosta out as Trump Labor secretary

The Hill logo The Hill 7/12/2019 Brett Samuels and Jordan Fabian

President Donald Trump talks to reporters next to Labor Secretary Alex Acosta as he departs for travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin from the South Lawn of the White House on July 12, 2019. © Kevin Lamarque President Donald Trump talks to reporters next to Labor Secretary Alex Acosta as he departs for travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin from the South Lawn of the White House on July 12, 2019. Alexander Acosta will step down as Labor Secretary amid mounting scrutiny over his role in negotiating a plea deal for financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Acosta announced Friday that he is resigning, saying that he phoned President Trump on Friday morning to tell him he was stepping aside because he does not want his handling of the Jeffrey Epstein plea agreement to consume the administration.

Acosta's support on Capitol Hill began to erode in the wake of new sex trafficking charges against Epstein in New York City. Numerous Democrats in the House and Senate had called for Acosta to resign or be fired from the Trump administration.

The situation became untenable for President Trump as his allies viewed the Labor secretary as a political liability.

Prosecutors alleged that Epstein, 66, engaged in sex acts with girls as young as 14 and had young women recruit girls to be part of an alleged sex trafficking operation. Epstein has denied any wrongdoing.

The charges brought fresh attention to Acosta's role as a U.S. attorney who oversaw a favorable plea deal for the wealthy financier years earlier in Florida.

The 2008 agreement allowed Epstein, a hedge fund manager, to avoid federal prosecution and a possible life sentence. Instead, Epstein pleaded guilty to state prostitution charges and served roughly a year in prison.

Acosta has defended the arrangement, arguing it ensured Epstein would spend at least some time in jail and would require him to register as a sex offender.

A federal judge ruled in February that prosecutors in the case violated the Crime Victims Rights Act by failing to inform Epstein's victims about the plea deal. The handling of the matter is under review by the Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility.

Acosta was confirmed in April 2017 by a 60-38 vote and was the lone Latino member of Trump's Cabinet. He was the president's second choice to serve as Labor secretary after Andy Puzder withdrew from consideration in the face of ethics scandals.

Acosta was reportedly a source of frustration for some in the White House as he was slow to enact regulatory reforms sought by Trump and acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

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