The top three Senate Democratic leaders are calling on Alex Acosta to resign as Labor secretary, slamming his previous leniency toward Jeffrey Epstein, the financier charged with running a sex ring of underage girls.
Chuck Schumer said Tuesday that Acosta should go because of the “sweetheart” deal he cut with Epstein as U.S. attorney in 2008. It’s 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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By Tuesday morning, Schumer had heard enough.
“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.”
Schumer joins 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.
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.”