US President Donald Trump on Friday announced that his labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, has resigned following pressure over his handling of a high-profile sex abuse case.
Standing next to Trump, Acosta said it was his decision to step down. He said he made the decision because he did not want the case to overshadow his work as labor secretary.
"I called the president this morning and told him that I thought the right thing was to step aside," Acosta said. "My point here today is we have an amazing economy and the focus needs to be on the economy job creation."
Trump called Acosta a "tremendous talent" who had done a "very good job," also saying his resignation would not have been necessary.
"Alex was a great Secretary of Labor and his service is truly appreciated," Trump said in a tweet.
'We proceeded appropriately'
Acosta has been under pressure to resign over a 2008 agreement that saw financier and registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein jailed for 13 months over charges of soliciting sex with a minor. Acosta was working as a public prosecutor at the time.
Critics say his punishment was too lenient in a case that involved the sexual abuse of dozens of underage girls. Acosta had argued that it was the only way to prevent an even lighter sentence, saying he would make the same decision again if faced with the same situation.
"We did what we did because we wanted to see Epstein go to jail," said Acosta. "We believe that we proceeded appropriately."
Earlier this week, federal prosecutors in New York announced new charges against Epstein, who escaped federal charges more than a decade ago under a non-prosecution agreement.
ls/msh (Reuters, AP)