/Acosta defends Epstein plea deal as Dems call for his resignation

Acosta defends Epstein plea deal as Dems call for his resignation

Alexander Acosta

No Republicans who supported Labor Secretary Alex Acosta have called on him to go, while the top three Senate Democratic leaders are demanding he resign. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

Congress

Chuck Schumer and his deputies called on the Labor secretary’s ouster over his ‘sweetheart’ plea deal with pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

07/09/2019 11:10 AM EDT

Updated 07/09/2019 12:33 PM EDT


Alex Acosta defended his handling of a controversial plea deal with billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein Tuesday as the top three Senate Democratic leaders called on the labor secretary to resign.

Acosta took to a Twitter offensive on Tuesday, saying he supports the “horrific” new charges against the billionaire financier while defending his own past actions. The financier is now charged with running a sex ring of underage girls.

“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,” he said. “Now that new evidence and additional testimony is available, the NY prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him to justice.”

But Acosta’s comments came amid a swirl of resignation calls from the opposition party, essentially assuring the Labor secretary will stay in the headlines this week. Chuck Schumer said Tuesday that Acosta should go because of the “sweetheart” deal he cut with Epstein as U.S. attorney in 2008, an escalation from his comments on Monday that Acosta needed to “explain himself” for allowing Epstein to serve 13 months in prison and avoid a federal trial.

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Schumer joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in calling for Acosta’s ouster; Pelosi said late Monday that Acosta struck an “unconscionable agreement” with Epstein that was “known” by Trump at the time.

“I am calling on Secretary Acosta to resign. It is now impossible for anyone to have confidence in Secretary Acosta’s ability to lead the Department of Labor. If he refuses to resign, President Trump should fire him,” Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor. “Instead of persecuting a predator and serial sex trafficker of children, Acosta chose to let him off easy.”

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also said in an interview that Acosta’s involvement with Epstein is “serious enough for him to resign.” And Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the No. 3 Senate Democratic leader, said that the new charges against Epstein and more reporting on Acosta’s handling of the case made “clear it is time for him to step aside.”

“This is an appalling example of what happens when powerful men protect one another and allow cycles of abuse to continue without any consequences,” said Murray, who opposed Acosta’s confirmation.

No Republicans that supported Acosta have called on him to go, but Durbin said the pressure on Acosta could become untenable.

“It reaches a point where they don’t want to put up with it anymore. And there’s a lot of publicity in this,” Durbin said.

Nine members of the Senate Democratic Caucus supported Acosta’s nomination in 2017 and six of them are still in the Senate. On Monday, those senators mostly said they needed more information about the case and declined to call on Acosta to go, though Schumer’s announcement is likely to prompt more widespread calls for his resignation.

For those that already opposed Acosta’s confirmation, demanding he resign was relatively easy.

“Since when do underage girl sex ring traffickers get to go to their office every day while they serve their time? The victims should have had a say. That’s what the law says,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who is running for president. “I didn’t vote for former Florida U.S. Attorney Acosta to begin with and he should step down.”

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