NBC News - Embattled Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta, who came under fire this week over a decade-old plea deal with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, is resigning, President Donald Trump said Friday.

Epstein, 66, was arrested over the weekend and charged in the Southern District of New York with sex trafficking dozens of girls, some as young as 14, in New York and Florida. That arrest brought new scrutiny to the earlier plea agreement, which has been widely criticized as too lenient.

 

Acosta appeared with Trump on the White House South Lawn on Friday morning where he said he had called the president earlier in the day to tell him he was resigning because he didn't want the Epstein situation to become an even bigger distraction.

"I do not think it is right and fair to have this administration's Labor Department have Epstein (as) the focus," he said. "I told him that I felt the right thing was to step aside."

Trump told reporters that the decision for Acosta to quit "was him, not me" and praised him as a "tremendous talent."

Trump added that he felt public opinion over the Epstein deal Acosta oversaw had changed.

"He made a deal that people were happy with, and then 12 years later were not happy with it," Trump said.

In the earlier case, in 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to procuring a person under 18 for prostitution and felony solicitation of prostitution, which required him to register as a sex offender and serve about a year in a Florida county jail. He was able to leave the jail almost daily for work, and was allowed to have his own private security detail behind bars.