Labor Secretary Alex Acosta is under intense scrutiny for his role in securing a “sweetheart deal” for billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
The Miami Herald reported Nov. 28 that Acosta, in his former capacity as Miami’s top federal prosecutor, orchestrated a deal that saved Epstein, a hedge fund manager, from serving a life sentence and silenced his victims. In the early 2000s, Epstein was the subject of a federal investigation for the alleged sexual abuse of at least 40 underage girls at his West Palm Beach estate.
In 2007, Acosta and Epstein’s lawyer, Jay Lefkowitz, struck a deal. In exchange for unspecified information, Epstein pleaded guilty the next year to charges of soliciting just one underage victim and served 13 months in a county jail. The deal also meant federal prosecutors shut down the probe into other victims or people who may have participated in and enabled the crimes. The accusers were not told about the deal and did not get a chance to appear in court.
Now congressional lawmakers are demanding an investigation into whether the deal represented a miscarriage of justice. Acosta’s fitness as secretary of labor is also in question. His responsibilities include enforcing child labor laws and combating child trafficking. The Department of Labor notes on its website that child labor trafficking is often interconnected with sexual exploitation.
Fifteen Democratic lawmakers wrote a letter to the Department of Justice demanding an investigation. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent three letters to the Justice Department on Monday asking for a probe to be opened as soon as possible.
“I am particularly disturbed by this reporting indicating that federal prosecutors went out of their way to arrange this sweetheart deal for Epstein and conceal it from the women and girls that he abused who could have objected to it, in apparent violation of federal law,” Sasse wrote.
Concerned Women for America called for Acosta’s resignation Wednesday. The conservative group’s CEO, Penny Nance, tweeted that she believed the Trump administration would not have nominated Acosta for his Cabinet position if the report had emerged earlier.
Acosta said in a brief defense: “As part of any plea, it is not unusual to have … professionals within a prosecutor’s office decide that a plea that guarantees that someone goes to jail, that guarantees that someone register generally, and that guarantees other outcomes is a good thing.” —H.P.