Calls mount for Labor Sec. Acosta to resign over plea deal for alleged pedophile Epstein

In the wake of the arrest of financier Jeffrey Epstein on sex-trafficking charges, Democratic leaders are calling for the resignation of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, who as a prosecutor negotiated a plea deal that resulted in an exceptionally light sentence for Epstein on similar charges a decade ago.

“I am calling on Secretary Acosta to resign,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on the Senate floor Tuesday morning, a day after the former hedge fund manager was formally charged. “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. Instead of prosecuting a predator and serial sex trafficker of children, Acosta chose to let him off easy. This is not acceptable.”

18 PHOTOS
The Jeffrey Epstein case
See Gallery
The Jeffrey Epstein case
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announces charges against Jeffery Epstein on July 8, 2019 in New York City. Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announces charges against billionaire financier Jeffery Epstein on July 8, 2019 in New York City. Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 08: Two of the purported victims of multi-millionaire Jeffrey Epstein, Michelle Licata (L) and Courtney Wild leave a Manhattan court house after a hearing on sex trafficking charges for financier Jeffrey Epstein on July 08, 2019 in New York City. Epstein is charged with having operated a sex trafficking ring in which he sexually abused dozens of underage girls. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: Two of Jeffrey Epstein's alleged victims, Michelle Licata (L) and Courtney Wild (R), exit the courthouse after the billionaire financier appeared for a hearing on July 8, 2019 in New York City. According to reports, Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
In this courtroom artist's sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein, center, sits with attorneys Martin Weinberg, left, and Marc Fernich during his arraignment in New York federal court, Monday, July 8, 2019. Epstein pleaded not guilty to federal sex trafficking charges. The 66-year-old is accused of creating and maintaining a network that allowed him to sexually exploit and abuse dozens of underage girls from 2002 to 2005. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
NEW YORK, US - JULY 08: David Boies, attorney for the alleged sex victims of the US financier Jeffreey Epstein case, delivers a speech to the media outside the United States Federal Court on July 08, 2019 in New York, United States. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: A residence belonging to Jeffrey Epstein at East 71st street is seen on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on July 8, 2019 in New York City. According to reports, Epstein is charged with running a sex-trafficking operation out of his opulent mansion. (Photo by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: Prosecutors exit the room after US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announces charges against Jeffery Epstein on July 8, 2019 in New York City. Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: Member of the press listen as US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announces charges against Jeffery Epstein on July 8, 2019 in New York City. Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: A protest group called "Hot Mess" hold up signs of Jeffrey Epstein and President Donald Trump in front of the Federal courthouse on July 8, 2019 in New York City. According to reports, Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman speaks during a news conference, in New York, Monday, July 8, 2019. Federal prosecutors announced sex trafficking and conspiracy charges against wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein. Court documents unsealed Monday show Epstein is charged with creating and maintaining a network that allowed him to sexually exploit and abuse dozens of underage girls.(AP Photo/Richard Drew)
In this courtroom sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein, second from right, listens along with defense attorneys, from left, Marc Fernich, Michael Miller, and Martin Weinberg as Judge Richard M. Berman denies him bail during a hearing in federal court, Thursday, July 18, 2019 in New York. Judge Berman denied bail for the jailed financier on sex trafficking charges, saying the danger to the community that would result if the jet-setting defendant was free formed the "heart of this decision." (Aggie Kenny via AP)
FILE - This March 28, 2017, file photo, provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry shows Jeffrey Epstein. A judge denied bail for jailed financier Jeffrey Epstein on sex trafficking charges Thursday, July 18, 2019, saying the danger to the community that would result if the jet-setting defendant was free formed the "heart of this decision." (New York State Sex Offender Registry via AP)
In this courtroom sketch, Judge Richard M. Berman speaking as he denies Jeffrey Epstein bail during a hearing in federal court, Thursday, July 18, 2019 in New York. Judge Berman denied bail for the jailed financier on sex trafficking charges, saying the danger to the community that would result if the jet-setting defendant was free formed the "heart of this decision." (Aggie Kenny via AP)
In this courtroom artist's sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein, left, and his attorney Martin Weinberg listen during a bail hearing in federal court, Monday, July 15, 2019 in New York. Epstein's lawyers want him released on house arrest to his Manhattan home while he awaits trial. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
This courtroom sketch shows Judge Richard Berman as he speaks during the Jeffrey Epstein bail hearing in federal court, Monday July 15, 2019. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
In this courtroom artist's sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein, left, listens as accuser Annie Farmer, second from right, speaks during a bail hearing in federal court, Monday, July 15, 2019 in New York. Farmer says she was 16 when she "had the misfortune" of meeting Epstein and later went to spend time with him in New Mexico. Accuser Courtney Wild, right, said in the hearing that she was abused by the wealthy financier in Palm Beach, Florida, starting at age 14. Epstein's lawyers want him released on house arrest to his Manhattan home while he awaits trial. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
In this courtroom artist's sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein, left, and attorney Reid Weingarten, second from right, listen as attorney Martin Weinberg, right, speaks during a bail hearing in federal court, Monday, July 15, 2019 in New York. Epstein's lawyers have insisted he will not run. They want him released on house arrest to his Manhattan home while he awaits trial. Courtney Wild, third from left, said in the hearing that she was abused by the wealthy financier in Palm Beach, Florida, starting at age 14. She called him a "scary person" and urged detention "for the safety of any other girls" out there. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Schumer, who voted against Acosta’s April 2017 confirmation, also called on the Department of Justice to release the findings of its investigation into the 2008plea deal. Late Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Acosta to resign because “he engaged in an unconscionable agreement” that was “kept secret from courageous, young victims preventing them from seeking justice.”

Epstein was charged by federal prosecutors in Florida in 2007 for, as the Miami Herald put it in its award-winning reporting on the case, “assembling a large, cult-like network of underage girls — with the help of young female recruiters — to coerce into having sex acts behind the walls of his opulent waterfront mansion as often as three times a day.” He received what observers consider unusually lenient treatment by Acosta, at that time the U.S. attorney in Miami.

There have been mounting calls for his resignation or firing since the Herald’s series appeared last year.

“The crimes committed by Epstein are horrific, and I am pleased that NY prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence,” wrote Acosta on Twitter Tuesday. “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. Now that new evidence and additional testimony is available, the NY prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him to justice.”

U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta testifies during a hearing before the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee of Senate Appropriations Committee May 2, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Epstein pleaded not guilty Monday to charges brought in the Southern District of New York alleging that he sexually abused and exploited dozens of minor girls between 2002 and 2005.

In February, a federal judge ruled that Acosta’s office broke the law by failing to notify Epstein’s victims of the plea deal. Epstein pleaded guilty to two prostitution charges in state court and in exchange received federal immunity both for himself and “any potential co-conspirators.” The potential co-conspirators were not identified in the agreement. The billionaire served only 13 months in the private wing of a Palm Beach County, Fla., jail and was allowed to come and go from the facility for up to 12 hours a day, six days a week, on work release. After his release, while on probation, he took numerous trips on his private jet.

The White House stood behind Acosta.

“It’s classic [of Pelosi] and her Democratic Party to not focus on the perpetrator at hand and instead to focus on a member of the Trump administration,” said Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway Tuesday morning. “They’re so obsessed with this president that they immediately go to Alex Acosta.”

Acosta, she said, is “doing a great job” to boost the economy.

Epstein was a member of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, and the two have socialized over the years.

“I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy,” said Trump in a 2002 New York magazine profile of Epstein. “He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”

Trump said Tuesday that he wasn’t a fan of Epstein, had a falling out with him a long time ago and hadn’t spoken to him in 15 years. He also expressed support for Acosta, complimenting his work in the cabinet.

“I feel very badly, actually, for Secretary Acosta because I’ve known him as somebody who works so hard and has done such a good job,” said Trump on Tuesday. “I feel very badly about that whole situation but we’re going to be looking at that and looking at that very closely.”

A lawyer for Trump denied any connection between the president and Epstein, and Conway said the two haven’t spoken in “10 or 15 years.” Former President Bill Clinton also was in Epstein’s circle after leaving the White House, flying on Epstein’s jet dozens of times to various destinations, according to a 2015 article in Gawker, which cited official logs for the flights. Clinton’s office released a statement Monday saying there were only around four such trips, and that the president was accompanied by aides and security agents at all times.

In all, 38 Democrats voted against confirming Acosta, including all seven senators who are currently running in the presidential primary. Every Republican voted yes save for Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who missed the vote along with Democrat Gary Peters of Michigan.

In this courtroom artist's sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein, center, sits with attorneys Martin Weinberg, left, and Marc Fernich during his arraignment in New York federal court, Monday, July 8, 2019.  (Elizabeth Williams via AP)

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

Sens. Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren called for Acosta to step down on Tuesday morning, along with former Rep. Beto O’Rourke and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., raised concerns about Acosta’s deal with Epstein during his confirmation hearing. Acosta said at the time that “professionals within a prosecutor’s office” decided on the deal. In April, Kaine and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., sent a letter to the DOJ requesting the results of its investigation into whether Acosta was guilty of “professional misconduct” during the Epstein prosecution. Kaine and Murray both voted against Acosta and have called on him to step down.

Acosta was confronted by two House Democrats in an April hearing, when he again defended the deal.

“I understand the frustration,” said Acosta. “I think it’s important for people to know [Epstein] was going to get off with no jail time or restitution. It was the work of our office that resulted in him going to jail. It was the work of our office that resulted in him having to register as a sex offender.”

Senate Republicans and some Senate Democrats who voted for Acosta have supported the Labor secretary.

“This was up about three months ago, and then all of the sudden it died down, so I don’t know how big of a deal it is,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

“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,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who voted to confirm Acosta. As far as calls to resign, he said: “I’m not getting into that feeding frenzy.”

_____

Read more from Yahoo News:

Read Full Story