World

Calls mount for resignation of Trump's labour secretary

WASHINGTON : Democratic Party leaders called on Tuesday for the resignation of President Donald Trump's secretary of labour over a secret plea deal he made a decade ago with a wealthy hedge fund manager accused of sexually abusing young girls.

Labour Secretary Alexander Acosta, 50, was serving as a federal prosecutor in Florida when his office entered into the controversial plea agreement with financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Epstein, 66, was charged on Monday by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors.

The well-connected Epstein, whose friends have included Mr Trump, former president Bill Clinton and Britain's Prince Andrew, faced similar charges in Florida a decade ago but managed to escape a stiff sentence through the plea agreement with Mr Acosta's office.

The two top Democrats in Congress, Ms Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, and Mr Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, both called for Mr Acosta's resignation.

"As US Attorney, he engaged in an unconscionable agreement w/Jeffrey Epstein kept secret from courageous, young victims preventing them from seeking justice," Ms Pelosi said on Twitter. "This was known by (President Trump) when he appointed him to the cabinet. #AcostaResign."

"Epstein should have been behind bars years ago but unfortunately Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta cut Epstein a sweetheart deal," Mr Schumer said.

Mr Trump told reporters on Tuesday that Acosta has been an "excellent secretary of labour".

"The rest of it, we will have to look at," he said. "We will have to look at it very carefully. But you're talking about a long time ago."

Mr Trump described Epstein as a "terrific guy" in a 2002 New York magazine article, but he said on Tuesday that he was "not a fan of his".

"I had a falling out with him a long time ago," Mr Trump said without elaborating. "I don't think I've spoken to him for 15 years." - AFP

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