WASHINGTON--U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta resigned on Friday amid fresh scrutiny of his handling of the sex abuse case against financier Jeffrey Epstein, becoming President Donald Trump's latest adviser to leave the administration in controversy.
Acosta, joining Trump at the White House before the president left for a trip to Wisconsin, said he did not want to be a distraction to the administration's work because of his leadership of the Epstein case more than a decade ago. "As I look forward, I do not think it is right and fair for this administration's Labor Department to have Epstein as a focus rather than the incredible economy we have today," Acosta said.
Trump, who has fired numerous cabinet and other administration officials during his 2 1/2 years in the White House, said it was Acosta's idea to step down. "Alex called me this morning and wanted to see me," Trump told reporters. "I just want to let you know this is him, not me."
Acosta's resignation is effective in seven days. Trump named Deputy Labor Secretary Patrick Pizzella as the acting secretary of Labor.
Acosta has served in Trump's cabinet since April 2017 and from 2005 through 2009 was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. It was there that he handled Epstein's first case involving sex with girls, which resulted in a punishment that critics say was far too lenient.
"Mr. Acosta now joins the sprawling parade of President Trump’s chosen advisors who have left the administration under clouds of scandal and corruption, leaving rudderless and discouraged agencies in their wake. Taxpayers deserve better,” Democratic U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said in a statement.
Epstein, a billionaire hedge fund manager, pleaded not guilty to new federal charges in New York this week. Epstein had a social circle that over the years has included Trump, former President Bill Clinton and Britain's Prince Andrew.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had called on Tuesday for Acosta to resign.