Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, facing new scrutiny for his handling of a federal sex abuse investigation against wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein, is leaving President Donald Trump’s cabinet.
Trump said Friday that Acosta is stepping aside. He told reporters that he called Acosta Friday morning and it was Acosta’s decision to resign.
Acosta’s departure follows new charges of sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy against Epstein, brought by the Southern District of New York in Manhattan in an indictment unsealed on July 8. The hedge fund manager is accused of exploiting a vast network of girls, some as young as 14, for sex.
Democratic leaders including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Leader Nancy Pelosi had called for Acosta’s resignation.
Epstein, 66, had been investigated in the early 2000s for molesting young girls in South Florida, where he also has a home, but avoided federal prosecution. The case was closed after he reached a controversial plea agreement with federal prosecutors in the Southern District of Florida, where Acosta was the U.S. attorney.
Epstein, whose friends and acquaintances included Trump, former President Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew of Britain, pleaded guilty to state prostitution charges and served 13 months in a Palm Beach jail. He was allowed to leave six days a week to work at his office and to have his own private security detail. Had he been convicted of the charges in the shelved federal complaint, he could have faced up to life behind bars.
Acosta was actively involved in the negotiations, according to documents that were introduced into evidence in a lawsuit by two victims who said their rights were violated. That included an email between Acosta and one of Epstein’s lawyers, former Whitewater special prosecutor Ken Starr, in which he agreed to hold off on sending out victim notification letters at Starr’s request.
The deal also granted immunity to “any potential co-conspirators,” the Miami Herald reported in November, as part of a series on Epstein.
A day after Epstein’s arrest, Acosta tweeted, “The crimes committed by Epstein are horrific, and I am pleased that NY prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence.”
“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,” he wrote. “Now that new evidence and additional testimony is available, the NY prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him to justice.”
Acosta downplayed his office’s actions at his Senate confirmation hearing last year. “There was a time when keeping something confidential was less of an issue, but the public expectation today is that things be very public,” he testified.
A federal judge ruled in February that the prosecutors had violated federal law when they kept the plea agreement secret from victims. The Justice Department began a probe into Acosta’s actions, the results of which Democrats have demanded.
Photo Credit: Susan Walsh/AP (File)
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