House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called on Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to resign on Monday for his role in protecting indicted child sex predator Jeffrey Epstein. Acosta oversaw a 2008 plea deal for Epstein, the billionaire financier who was arrested over the weekend on federal child sex trafficking charges, when the former was the top federal prosecutor in Miami.
Thanks to the deal, Epstein avoided federal prosecution for an international operation in which he sexually abused underage girls.
Pelosi tweeted on Monday evening that Secretary Acosta “must step down” because he “engaged in an unconscionable agreement.”
.@SecretaryAcosta must step down. As US Attorney, he engaged in an unconscionable agreement w/ Jeffrey Epstein kept secret from courageous, young victims preventing them from seeking justice. This was known by @POTUS when he appointed him to the cabinet. #AcostaResign
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) July 9, 2019
After Epstein pleaded guilty in Florida to two prostitution charges, he served only 13 months in Palm Beach County Jail and became a registered sex offender. The 2008 deal also gave immunity to “any potential co-conspirators’’ involved in his crimes. A federal judge ruled in February that, under Acosta, prosecutors broke the law by not telling Epstein’s victims about the deal and leading them to believe the FBI’s case about him was ongoing. Now he faces new federal charges for the alleged sex trafficking of children in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005, which together carry a 45-year maximum sentence.
Pelosi is one of the most prominent Democrats to call for his resignation recently.
Senate Minority Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called for Acosta to resign on Tuesday morning. Schumer said, “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.”
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) also called on Acosta to resign on Tuesday and tweeted, “We need leaders committed to fighting for justice for survivors of abuse, not protecting predators.”
Alex Acosta should resign as Labor Secretary. We need leaders committed to fighting for justice for survivors of abuse, not protecting predators.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) July 9, 2019
Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) tweeted that the next step to getting justice for Epstein’s victims is “getting rid of” Acosta.
This weekend’s arrest is one step closer to justice for #JeffreyEpstein’s victims. Next step: getting rid of @SecretaryAcosta, who let Epstein get away with these horrendous crimes. https://t.co/GX5sB8Lvum
— Katherine Clark (@RepKClark) July 8, 2019
In April, during a House appropriations panel, Rep. Clark asked Acosta if he could still act as secretary after a federal judge ruled that prosecutors broke the law when they concealed the deal from Epstein’s victims. Acosta defended the deal.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) also joined the chorus of Democrats calling for Acosta to resign, tweeting on Monday, “Acosta must go.”
Acosta must go. He handed a sweetheart deal to a serial sexual predator. Survivors of Epstein’s abuse have been denied their day in court for too long. I’m thankful other prosecutors stepped in to finally deliver justice.
— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) July 8, 2019
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) tweeted that the new charges make it “agonizingly clear that Acosta failed to deliver true justice for the underage girls Jeffrey Epstein mercilessly exploited.” For this reason, she called on Acosta to resign.
The new sex trafficking charges announced today make it agonizingly clear that Acosta failed to deliver true justice for the underage girls Jeffrey Epstein mercilessly exploited. Someone with such poor judgement & utter disregard for survivors should not be our Secretary of Labor
— Rep. Wasserman Schultz (@RepDWStweets) July 8, 2019
Following the February ruling on Epstein’s plea deal, 19 Democrats also signed a letter asking President Donald Trump to demand Acosta’s resignation.
The letter reads in part, “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.”
The February ruling, and a Miami Herald series probing details of the plea deal, brought increased scrutiny to Acosta, and it’s unlikely that senators were unaware about the deal when Acosta was considered as a nominee for labor secretary. Acosta was questioned about the deal by Sen. Kaine at a confirmation hearing in March 2017, and national media outlets wrote about the deal at the time he was being considered to lead the Labor Department.
Several Republicans who voted to confirm Acosta in 2017 have criticized Epstein, including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Ben Sasse (R-NE). They did not acknowledge Acosta as they condemned Epstein’s actions, however. Eight Democrats and one Independent voted to confirm Acosta in 2017.
This article has been updated to include include additional calls for Acosta to resign.