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Prince Andrew. Photo: Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP/ via Getty Images

Britain's Prince Andrew, Duke of York, announced Wednesday in a statement that Queen Elizabeth gave him permission to step away from his royal duties, saying "circumstances relating to my former association with Jeffrey Epstein [have] become a major disruption to my family's work."

The big picture: The move comes as the duke has faced growing backlash after a recent BBC interview in which he answered questions for the first time about his friendship with Epstein. He also denied ever having a sexual relationship with one of Epstein’s accusers, as she has claimed.

The impact: Following the interview, several firms announced they would withdraw support for the duke's business mentoring initiative, Pitch@Palace.

  • Accounting firm KPMG, a founding partner of Pitch@Palace, said its contract with the company expired in October and would not be renewed, according to the Guardian.
  • Banking services company Standard Chartered said it would not renew its contract either.
  • In total, 10 companies cut ties with Pitch@Palace as of Nov. 20.

What he's saying: "I continue to unequivocally regret my ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein. His suicide has left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims, and I deeply sypmathise with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure."

  • He added his willingness to help law-enforcement investigations into Epstein and possible co-conspirators.

Zoom out: The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan is continuing its probe of Epstein after his death, focusing on those who may have aided his alleged abuse of underage girls.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

16 mins ago - Health

U.S. surpasses 25 million COVID cases

A mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 22 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The U.S has confirmed more than 25 million coronavirus cases, per Johns Hopkins data updated on Sunday.

The big picture: President Biden has said he expects the country's death toll to exceed 500,000 people by next month, as the rate of deaths due to the virus continues to escalate.

GOP implosion: Trump threats, payback

Spotted last week on a work van in Evansville, Ind. Photo: Sam Owens/The Evansville Courier & Press via Reuters

The GOP is getting torn apart by a spreading revolt against party leaders for failing to stand up for former President Trump and punish his critics.

Why it matters: Republican leaders suffered a nightmarish two months in Washington. Outside the nation’s capital, it's even worse.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
5 hours ago - Economy & Business

The limits of Biden's plan to cancel student debt

Data: New York Fed Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax; Chart: Axios Visuals

There’s a growing consensus among Americans who want President Biden to cancel student debt — but addressing the ballooning debt burden is much more complicated than it seems.

Why it matters: Student debt is stopping millions of Americans from buying homes, buying cars and starting families. And the crisis is rapidly getting worse.