The recent arrest of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire financier, on federal child sex trafficking charges brings renewed attention to the fact that the man who oversaw his 2008 sweetheart plea deal — Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta — still has a job.
Acosta oversaw the deal for Epstein in 2008 when he was the top federal prosecutor in Miami. Now, many people are using the Twitter hashtag “AcostaResign” to demand he step down from his role as labor secretary.
In February, a federal judge ruled that under Acosta, federal prosecutors broke the law when they concealed a plea agreement with Epstein from dozens of underage survivors of Epstein’s sexual abuse. In his opinion, Judge Kenneth A. Marra said that not only did prosecutors violate the Crime Victims Rights Act by not telling the victims about the deal, but prosecutors also led victims to believe the FBI’s case against him was ongoing. Thanks to those prosecutors, Epstein pleaded guilty in state court to two prostitution charges and served 13 months in Palm Beach County Jail.
The deal also included language that gave immunity to “any potential co-conspirators’’ involved in his crimes, according to the Miami Herald. The Herald identified nearly 80 girls who said they were victims of Epstein and were anywhere from 13 to 16 years old when the abuse occurred.
Epstein was arrested Saturday for allegedly sex trafficking dozens of minors between 2002 and 2005 in New York and Florida. He would tell underage girls that he would pay them for massages at his lavish homes, sexually abuse them, and tell them to recruit other girls so that they would receive more money.
In February, following Marra’s ruling, 19 Democrats signed a letter asking President Donald Trump to demand Acosta’s resignation.
The letter read, “Despite abundant evidence and multiple witnesses still willing to come forward, then U.S. Attorney Acosta failed to charge Epstein under federal trafficking laws, which could have put Epstein away for life … This despicable unjust plea deal that was arranged by Acosta showed no respect for the suffering of the victims and credible accounts of human trafficking and was a clear abuse of power for political gain.”
A spokesman told the Miami Herald at the time, “For more than a decade, the actions of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida in this case have been defended by the Department of Justice in litigation across three administrations and several attorneys general. The office’s decisions were approved by departmental leadership and followed departmental procedures. This matter remains in litigation and, thus, for any further comment we refer you to the Department of Justice.”
In April, a House Appropriations panel grilled Acosta over the plea deal. Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) asked if he could still act as secretary after the news about how prosecutors broke the law. Acosta responded, “Is that a question?”
He resisted the idea that Epstein’s victims did not receive justice and said, according to Politico, “At the end of the day Mr. Epstein went to jail. Mr. Epstein was incarcerated, he registered as a sex offender, the world was put on notice that he was a sex offender, and the victims received restitution.“
Eight Democrats and one Independent voted to confirm Acosta in 2017. ThinkProgress reached out to those who are still in office, which includes Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Mark Warner (D-VA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Angus King (I-ME), to see if they support his resignation today. No office responded to ThinkProgress’ requests for comment in time for publication.
Several Republicans who voted to confirm Acosta in 2017 are criticizing Epstein, including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Ben Sasse (R-NE). Neither included Acosta in their admonishments.
Epstein has associated with famous actors, a member of the British Royal Family, and U.S. presidents. That includes former President Bill Clinton, President Donald Trump, Woody Allen, Kevin Spacey, and Prince Andrew. Alan Dershowitz was on Epstein’s legal team. He has defended Trump on a number of occasions. Now, two alleged victims of Epstein have said Dershowitz was either present for or participated in Epstein’s sex trafficking ring. Clinton had reportedly taken 26 flights on Epstein’s jet, which had been referred to as the “Lolita Express.”
Trump also described his relationship with Epstein in 2002 to New York Magazine and said, “I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. 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.”