Labor Secretary Alex Acosta reemerged Tuesday to publicly laud federal prosecutors in New York following their indictment of Jeffrey Epstein, after coming under fire for negotiating a generous deal with the convicted sex offender.
‘The crimes committed by Epstein are horrific, and I am pleased that NY prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence,’ Acosta wrote on Twitter Tuesday, a day after prosecutors charged Epstein with trafficking in underage girls.
He defended his own conduct in another tweet. Acosta had been the U.S. attorney in Florida who negotiated Epstein’s deal with the hedge funder’s crack legal team.
‘With the evidence available more than a decade ago, federal prosecutors insisted that Epstein go to jail, register as a sex offender and put the world on notice that he was a sexual predator,’ Acosta wrote.
‘Now that new evidence and additional testimony is available, the NY prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him to justice,’ he wrote.
U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman said Monday in announcing Epstein’s indictment that a non-prosecution agreement Epstein reached with prosecutors in Florida was not binding on the latest prosecution.
Labor Secretary Alex Acosta defended the new prosecution of Jeffrey Epstein on Tuesday
Acosta’s public defense comes after the Justice Department and the Labor Department declined comment on Monday, even as powerful Democrats called for Acosta to step down.
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer demanded Tuesday that Alex Acosta resign over his deal to let Jeffrey Epstein evade federal prosecution in 2008, saying the president should fire the Cabinet secretary if he refuses to quit.
The second-most senior Democrat spoke on the floor of the Senate to condemn Acosta’s role as a U.S. attorney in 2008 in letting Epstein escape a long federal sentence by agreeing to a 13-month prison term in a Florida state facility.
Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, called for Acosta to quit on Monday night, hours after Epstein appeared in a New York federal court to face new child sex trafficking charges which could see him jailed for up to 45 years.
‘It is now impossible for anyone to have confidence in Secretary Acosta’s ability to lead the Department of Labor,’ Schumer said.
‘If he refuses to resign, President Trump should fire him. Instead of prosecuting a predator and serial sex trafficker of children, Acosta chose to let him off easy. This is not acceptable.’
He also demanded that the Department of Justice make public an internal review of Acosta’s handling of the Epstein prosecution which was completed earlier this year but has not been released.
Go now: Chuck Schumer used the floor of the Senate to demand that Alex Acosta, the embattled Labor Secretary, quit
A former adviser to President Donald Trump has said the public response to Labor Secretary Alex Acosta’s (right) involvement in letting pedophile Jeffrey Epstein get a sweetheart plea deal in 2008 will be the deciding factor in his political future, as Democrats and Republicans alike call for his ouster and offer words of support
Acosta is now at the center of a growing scandal over his past, with no public show of support from the White House.
He was not personally close to Trump before his appointment, and was recommended for the role by then White House counsel Don McGhan, who Trump trashed in the wake of the Mueller report.
Schumer spoke after Pelosi tweeted late on Monday: ‘.@SecretaryAcosta must step down. As US Attorney, he engaged in an unconscionable agreement w/ Jeffrey Epstein kept secret from courageous, young victims preventing them from seeking justice. This was known by @POTUS when he appointed him to the cabinet. #AcostaResign’
Schumer’s own caucus is now divided on Acosta.
Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota senator who is running for president, said he should quit, as did Delaware senator Chris Coons.
But West Virginia Demcorat Joe Manchin said of Acosta: ‘If he made a mistake or a judgment call or something like that, does that affect the way he’s doing his job now? I’m going to basically judge him on what job he’s doing and how he’s doing it.’
Manchin voted to confirm Acosta and said of calls for him to resign: ‘I’m not getting into that feeding frenzy.’
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tweeted late on Monday: ‘.@SecretaryAcosta must step down. As US Attorney, he engaged in an unconscionable agreement w/ Jeffrey Epstein kept secret from courageous, young victims preventing them from seeking justice. This was known by @POTUS when he appointed him to the cabinet. #AcostaResign’
Republican senators Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia) and Roy Blunt (Missouri) also supported Acosta on Monday.
Capito said Acosta told her two months ago that ‘the only way for jail time [for Epstein] was to make the agreement,’ and ‘after hearing his explanation’ she was no longer concerned.
Blunt said: ‘I’ve looked at that. [The plea deal] was early in the application of the new protections for parties that were victims and it’s my view that the state prosecutors were appropriate prosecutors to deal with that. But we’ll see. If there’s more that comes out, I’ll be glad to look at it.’
Epstein, 66, a billionaire hedge funder and already convicted sex offender, is known for his high-profile connections including President Bill Clinton, Trump, and Prince Andrew.
Following his guilty plea, Epstein was sentenced to 18 months in prison, but was released five months early and was permitted work release during his incarceration.
In April, Acosta said: ‘I’ve been on record as condemning the terms of his incarceration. I understand why folks are upset. That was Florida law, that was not a federal decision.’
But the outrage is over more than getting out early and being able to work through what was already a light sentence.
Acosta’s role in that result earned him a thank-you letter from Epstein’s attorneys, according to a Miami Herald expose on the prosecution.
One of Epstein’s lawyers wrote to Acosta to ‘thank you for the commitment you made to me,’ during negotiations. It thanked him for the assurance not to contact ‘any of the identified individuals, potential witnesses or potential civil claimants.’
His actions are now being looked at amid bi-partisan calls for an investigation which takes the Epstein case to the heart of Trump’s cabinet, CNN reported.
US Senator for Virginia Tim Kaine (pictured0 tweeted on Monday: ‘Acosta must go. He handed a sweetheart deal to a serial sexual predator. Survivors of Epstein’s abuse have been denied their day in court for too long. I’m thankful other prosecutors stepped in to finally deliver justice’
Outrage over Acosta’s role in the 2008 plea deal that allowed Epstein to avoid federal chargers is over more than getting out early and being able to work through what was already a light sentence. A federal judge ruled in February that he and fellow federal prosecutors acted unlawfully by failing to inform victims about Epstein’s plea deal in advance
Fox’s host of ‘The Next Revolution with Steve Hilton’ (Hilton at center) renewed calls her first made in December again on Monday, asking ‘Will we finally see some accountability from Alex Acosta? In my view, it really is time for him to go,’ as former Republican Representative for Utah Jason Chaffetz (right) echoed Hilton’s sentiment, adding that he’d be ‘surprised’ if Acosta wasn’t fired by Trump
Democratic Senator Tim Kaine tweeted on Monday: ‘Acosta must go. He handed a sweetheart deal to a serial sexual predator. Survivors of Epstein’s abuse have been denied their day in court for too long. I’m thankful other prosecutors stepped in to finally deliver justice.’
Fox’s host of ‘The Next Revolution with Steve Hilton’ renewed calls her first made in December again on Monday, asking ‘Will we finally see some accountability from Alex Acosta? In my view, it really is time for him to go.’
Former Republican Representative for Utah Jason Chaffetz echoed Hilton’s sentiment, adding that he’d be ‘surprised’ if Acosta wasn’t fired by Trump.
‘When you continue to make yourself the issue and distract from the president’s agenda, you no longer need to be serving there, and this is not going to go away,’ Chaffetz said. ‘This case is going to continue on.’
Hilton added: ‘It’s not anything he has done since President Trump appointed him. This is, as you said, a long time ago. But there’s something about it. It’s so egregious. It’s so revolting. You just think, “Come on.”‘
The Trump White House, however, defended Acosta earlier this year after a federal judge ruled in February that he and fellow federal prosecutors acted unlawfully by failing to inform victims about Epstein’s plea deal in advance.
Trump, asked in February to respond, said: ‘I really don’t know too much about it.’
Trump then defended Acosta’s current work, adding: ‘I know he’s done a great job as Labor secretary, and that seems like a long time ago, but I know he’s been a fantastic Labor secretary. That’s all I can really tell you about it. That’s all I know about it.’
Then-White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called it a complicated case, adding: ‘but that they made the best possible decision and deal they could have gotten at that time.’
President Trump defended Acosta as labor secretary but said he knew little about the Epstein deal
From left, American real estate developer Donald Trump and his girlfriend (and future wife), former model Melania Knauss, financier (and future convicted sex offender) Jeffrey Epstein, and British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell pose together at the Mar-a-Lago club, Palm Beach, Florida, February 12, 2000
Acosta became Labor Secretary after a legal career which had included being U.S. Attorney in the southern district of Florida, which includes Miami and Palm Beach, where Epstein preyed on underage women, in 2005.
He was not part of Trump’s inner circle when he was recommended by then White House counsel Don McGahn to head the Department of Labor.
He previously served as an employment and labor attorney in Washington D.C. in the mid-1990s, and as a member of the National Labor Relations Board in the George W. Bush administration.
He is the only Hispanic American to serve in Trump’s cabinet, which appears to have been crucial to his appointment.
‘We will wait and see what develops. This is obviously a significant event,’ an official told CNN. Acosta was not a friend of Trump before joining the cabinet in April 2017, and is seen as politically dispensable.
Acosta’s role in the Epstein case is back in the public eye again as the sex offender appeared in federal court in New York and was charged with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and child trafficking. He pleaded not guilty, with his attorney arguing the underage girls were ‘prostitutes.’
Prosecutors said on Monday that agents seized nude photos of what appeared to be underage girls while executing a search on Epstein’s mansion, leading to the possibility of still more charges.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democratic Congresswoman who had pushed for action against Epstein, told the Miami Herald: ‘Perhaps now Epstein’s victims will see real justice. But true accountability is still glaringly absent for Alex Acosta, who approved this serial pedophile’s permissive plea deal.’
She said Congress should step in to find out what happened to enable the deal if the Department of Justice would not say how it was made.
In order to justify Acosta’s dismissal from Trump’s cabinet, a senior administration official told Politico: ‘We’d really have to see that he’d cut a deal that was improper, not unsavory, but improper, that for some reason he was protecting himself or he was given money, those burdens are very high and that deal was 13 years ago.’
California Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu of California blasted Acosta in a tweet that tied in President Trump Monday. ‘@realDonaldTrump Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta gave pedophile Jeffrey Epstein a sweetheart deal when Acosta was US Attorney. Now it appears Epstein has molested more children. Why did @SecretaryAcosta let Epstein go?’
Epstein’s role in agreeing to the deal threatens to become a running political sore for Trump, who is not personally close to the Labor Secretary.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said prosecutors in New York were not bound by the Florida deal
In New York City, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman declined to criticize the agreement when asked about it at a Monday press conference announcing the federal indictment – but made clear he would not be bound by it.
‘The Southern District of New York is not bound by that agreement and is not a signatory to that agreement,’ he told reporters.
Berman told reporters not to read too much into the fact that attorneys from the public corruption unit were assisting in the case, and declined to comment further.
But the public corruption unit typically handles cases involving public officials accused of misdeeds, or of cases involving those around them.
For example, it was a public corruption prosecutor who oversaw the prosecution of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.
The unit’s role could indicate that a major or minor public official ultimately may get charged in the case.
Or it could indicate that the 2008 plea deal itself was under investigation – which would be toxic for Acosta.
Prosecutors focused on this area would also be involved in the investigation if money laundering or tax issues compound the charges in the case.