|I'm looking for bigger fish to be caught up|
U.S. Labour Secretary Alexander Acosta on Friday resigned after earlier in the week defending way he handled a decade-old sex abuse case against wealthy businessman Jeffrey Epstein while Acosta was a federal prosecutor.
Donald Trump announced the news with Acosta by his side at the White House as the president left on a trip to the Midwest.
Trump earlier this week said he would look into the matter, complimenting Acosta for serving the government ably for over two years.
He repeated that endorsement of his performance on Friday, but admitted the questions about the Epstein deal had become a distraction.
"I hate to see this happen," Trump said. He said he did not ask Acosta to leave the cabinet.
Unfair to administration, Acosta saysAcosta said his resignation would be effective in seven days. Acosta said he didn't think it was right for his handling of Epstein's case to distract from his work as secretary of labour.
"My point here today is we have an amazing economy and the focus needs to be on the economy and job creation," Acosta said, calling it unfair the administration was being inundated with questions about a 12-year-old case.
The prosecutors said they were not bound by the 2008 Florida deal struck by Acosta, then the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, that allowed Epstein to plea to a lesser offence. Epstein served 13 months in jail with leave during the day and registered as a sex offender.
The deal came under scrutiny earlier this year following reporting by the Miami Herald, and Democrats en masse had called for Acosta's resignation.
Acosta had attempted to clear his name, and on Wednesday held a news conference — encouraged by Trump — to defend his actions. In a 50-plus-minute lawyerly rebuttal, Acosta argued his office had secured the best deal it could at the time and was working in the victims' best interests.
"We did what we did because we wanted to see Epstein go to jail," he said, refusing to apologize for his actions. "We believe that we proceeded appropriately."
Have circumstances really changed since them? How so?
Pressed on whether he had any regrets, Acosta repeatedly suggested that circumstances had changed since then.
"We now have 12 years of knowledge and hindsight and we live in a very different world," he said. "Today's world treats victims very, very differently," he said.
After federal attorneys in New York announced the new charges against Epstein this week, Acosta tweeted that he was "pleased" by their decision.
Both Trump and former president Bill Clinton were acquainted with Epstein, but have taken pains after the Herald reporting to distance themselves from the hedge fund manager.
Acosta was not Trump's first choice to fill the post as he became president. He ascended to the role after Andrew Puzder, the original pick and former head of Carl's Jr. Restaurants, withdrew from consideration after domestic violence allegations emerged.
Acosta was confirmed in the Senate in early 2017 by a 60-38 vote, with all Republicans on board, along with eight Democrats and one independent.