Epstein sought to pay off potential witnesses, US prosecutors say

While President Trump is due in Hunting Valley for a private campaign fundraiser Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta is laboring to keep his job and explain the 2008 sweetheart deal he gave politically connected Jeffrey Epstein when facing sex trafficking

Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta will be stepping down in a week over his past involvement in a highly controversial plea deal for financier Jeffrey Epstein, who is now facing sex trafficking charges.

Mr Acosta, a former Florida prosecutor, made the announcement from the White House lawn on Friday with President Donald Trump stood by his side.

The US attorney Geoffrey Berman wrote that Epstein "has a history of obstruction and manipulation of witnesses" including incidents when he was under investigation in the state of Florida in 2006, but most recently following the Miami Herald's publication of series of articles examining how that Florida investigation resulted in a controversially lenient 2008 plea agreement on state charges and a federal non-prosecution agreement. He added that he didn't think it was right for his handling of Epstein's case to distract from his work as secretary of labour.

While Acosta this week defended the deal, progressive groups did not let up in their criticism.

"I don't know whether he jumped or if he was pushed".

In seeking to keep the multimillionaire jailed pending trial, prosecutors in NY argued Epstein had a history of trying to obstruct inquiries into his misdeeds, including those from journalists.

Florida State Sen. Lauren Book, a Democrat, said in a statement that Acosta's resignation was "a victory for crime victims everywhere".

Acosta has served in Trump's Cabinet since April 2017.


However, Mr Trump has said the pair fell out "12 or 15 years ago" and reiterated on Friday that he was "not a fan of Jeffrey Epstein". He has pleaded not guilty. He has pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking and conspiracy and could face up to 45 years in prison.

Acosta said his resignation would be effective in seven days.

"Mr. Acosta will now have plenty of time and no distractions that prevent him from fully accounting for the sweetheart treatment Epstein received", he said. Despite his claim to reporters that he was "not here to send any signal to the president", the hour-long press conference seemed to essentially be a chance for him to argue publicly why Trump shouldn't make him resign.

On Monday, U.S. prosecutors in NY accused Epstein, 66, of sex trafficking, in an indictment that detailed how he lured dozens of girls, some as young as 14, to his luxury homes and coerced them into performing sex acts.

Trump said Friday that deputy Pat Pizzella will took over as acting labour secretary, one of a host of positions now vacant or with officials serving in an acting capacity.

Trump, who has previously described Epstein as a "terrific guy" who "likes handsome women", also attempted to distance himself from the financier, saying he was "not a fan" and that the two had a "falling out" years ago. The letter also said that since the indictment was unsealed on Monday, "several" more women have come forward alleging that they were victims of Epstein when they were minors.

If you've been on social media over the past few years, you'd heard about billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, his crimes, and his political connections to high-profile Democrats, including Bill Clinton.

"I feel power and influence obviously influenced the scales of justice", said Kirk Blouin, town manager of Palm Beach, Fla., who prior to his post served 29 years in the Palm Beach police department.

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