Acosta listens to President Trump on May 2, 2018. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings requested Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta's testimony on Wednesday regarding his role in registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein's 2008 plea deal.

The latest: Cummings called for Acosta's testimony, scheduled for July 23. Acosta defended his role in Epstein's 2008 plea deal to reporters on Wednesday, saying "he faced a tough choice between accepting a plea deal that was not as tough as he wished it would be and going to trial with witnesses who were scared to testify," per the New York Times.

The backdrop: A judge ruled in February that federal prosecutors, including Acosta, violated the law by striking a "sweetheart" plea deal with Epstein. The deal allowed Epstein to avoid federal prosecution for his participation in an international sex operation.

  • On Monday, federal prosecutors in New York charged Epstein for allegedly abusing dozens of female minors at his Manhattan and Florida homes, per unsealed court documents.

What Acosta's saying:

"Epstein's actions absolutely deserve a stiffer sentence. For years there've been rumors of investigations in other jurisdictions, and he should be prosecuted in any state in which he committed a crime.
If there are other states in which he committed crimes, if there are other states that can bring state charges, they should consider those, as well. And so I absolutely welcome this New York prosecution."
— Alexander Acosta, speaking to reporters on Wednesday

Meanwhile: President Trump defended Acosta on Tuesday, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is leading calls for him to resign. On Wednesday, Acosta denied that White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney had suggested he be forced out of his position, per the Times.

Read Cummings' request for Acosta's testimony:

Go deeper: What we know about the Jeffrey Epstein indictment

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