Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta will hold a news conference Wednesday afternoon to address questions about his decade-old plea deal with billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein — but the embattled Cabinet secretary has no plan to resign, according to a DOL official.
Acosta will address the media at 2:30 p.m. and will take questions, the official said. The press-shy Labor secretary has stayed mostly silent in recent days as federal prosecutors in New York filed new charges against Epstein for allegedly sexually abusing underage girls.
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Acosta plans to defend his role in brokering the 2008 plea agreement that resulted in Epstein serving just 13 months behind bars, presenting a “Kavanaugh 2.0″ rebuttal in an effort to impress President Donald Trump, according to a former administration official familiar with the matter. The strategy is also an effort to push back against acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and other White House officials who believe he hasn’t moved swiftly enough on deregulation.
“Acosta’s usual strategy with terrible press is to just stay quiet,” the official said. “This shows just how desperate he is becoming to save his job.”
Trump encouraged Acosta to hold the news conference, according to a person familiar with the matter, who added that the president “wants to get the truth out.”
Acosta’s appearance comes the same day that House Oversight Democrats asked Acosta to appear before the committee on July 23. In a letter, Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) told Acosta his testimony is “even more critical” given the new indictment in New York.
This week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Acosta to step down.
“It is now impossible for anyone to have confidence in Secretary Acosta’s ability to lead the Department of Labor,” Schumer said Tuesday in a speech on the Senate floor. “If he refuses to resign, President Trump should fire him.”
Acosta said on Tuesday that he supported the New York prosecutors’ decision even as he defended the earlier plea agreement. He has argued that the Epstein case was handed to him after a state grand jury recommended an even lesser charge, and has said the decision to grant Epstein daily furloughs to his office was made after the plea deal by the state of Florida.
“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 tweeted. “Now that new evidence and additional testimony is available, the NY prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him to justice.”
“He’s going to defend himself” and dig in, said a Republican senator briefed on Acosta’s remarks. Acosta will say the plea agreement was “consistent with the Bush Justice Department guidelines,” according to the lawmaker.
Senate Republican leaders said they were unaware of any new movement on Acosta ahead of the news conference, and while they continued to stick with the embattled secretary, they also deferred to Trump on his future.
“That’s entirely up to the president,” said Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.).
Burgess Everett and Daniel Lippman contributed to this report.