Labor Secretary Alex Acosta said Friday he will resign in light of new charges being brought against registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Acosta had received heavy criticism for his role in Epstein’s plea deal nearly a decade ago, which many considered a slap on the wrist considering the evidence against the alleged billionaire.
Acosta joined President Donald Trump on the White House south lawn Friday, telling reporters he had called the president earlier that morning to let him know his plans to resign, NBC News reported. Trump made clear that the decision for Acosta to resign came from the labor secretary.
He doesn’t have to do this,” Trump said, according to footage of the event from ABC. “He’s doing this not for himself, he’s doing this for the administration.”
Trump also praised Acosta as a “tremendous talent.”
Acosta had remained relatively unscathed as far as Trump cabinet members go, receiving far less scrutiny than former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson or Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But when Epstein was arrested over the weekend for alleged sex trafficking of dozens of minors between 2002 and 2005, Acosta became the secondary news story.
Back in 2008, Acosta was a U.S. attorney in Miami, Florida, and helped strike a deal with Epstein that allowed him to avoid the lengthy prison sentence he should have served. Epstein plead guilty to two counts of soliciting prostitution from a minor and was sentenced to just 18 months in prison, of which he served only 13. Even then, he wasn’t really in prison, as TIME reported. Epstein was put in a work-release program and spent 12 hours a day, six days a week not in prison, but in an office. This deal also allowed him to settle with some of his accusers.
Other accusers, however, were not apparently told of the sweetheart deal, which a judge ruled back in February of this year violated the law.
Acosta made this deal, which allowed Epstein to avoid federal sex trafficking laws. When he was interviewed for the labor secretary position, Acosta reportedly told the president’s transition team that he was told Epstein “belonged to intelligence,” and that he should “leave it alone.”
On Saturday, authorities raided Epstein’s New York mansion. The FBI-NYPD Crimes Against Children Task Force said in court days later that investigators found “nude photographs of what appeared to be underage girls.”
The Associated Press reported prosecutors said Epstein had “thousands of sexually suggestive photographs” in his home. Some were on CDs on which Epstein scrawled labels such as “Misc nudes 1,” and “Girl pics nude.”
Epstein has pleaded not guilty.
As the registered sex offender has re-entered the news cycle, questions have been raised over how he made his fortune — and whether he could be rightly called a billionaire. The New York Times reported Wednesday that his money “may be more illusion than fact,” and that “there is little evidence that Mr. Epstein is a billionaire.”
There is evidence that Epstein is still very wealthy, however. The Times reported that he owns $200 million worth of real estate alone in Manhattan, Palm Beach, Paris, and New Mexico. He also owns his own private island in the Caribbean.