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Democrats Demand Labor Secretary’s Resignation

Feb. 25, 2019, 6:13 PM

A group of House Democrats is demanding the resignation of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, days after a federal judge ruled he and other prosecutors violated the law in hatching a plea deal with Miami hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein on teen sex trafficking charges.

Acosta was the lead federal prosecutor for South Florida when he and state prosecutors reached a deal with Epstein’s lawyers. The agreement allowed Epstein to avoid prosecution for federal sex-trafficking charges related to an alleged sex ring in his Florida home. He served 13 months in prison on state prostitution charges.

“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 group of 19 Democrats led by Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) and Jackie Speier (Calif.) wrote in a Feb. 22 letter to the White House. The lawmakers said Acosta “was negligent in his duty” in representing the victims and the U.S. government.

The letter adds to the growing calls for Acosta’s resignation since a November Miami Herald report on the case renewed public attention to the allegations against Epstein. It comes days after a federal judge said Acosta and other prosecutors violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act by failing to keep Epstein’s victims informed of the plea deal before it was signed.

Acosta made the “best possible decision and deal” in a “very complicated case,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Feb. 22. President Donald Trump later the same day called Acosta “a fantastic labor secretary.”

Other Democrats signing off on the letter included Rep. Lois Frankel (Florida), Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio), and Rep. Jim McGovern (Massachusetts).

Justice Department Investigating

The resignation demand also follows an announcement from the Justice Department that it launched an investigation into whether prosecutors committed professional misconduct. The DOJ’s inspector general has also asked Congress to pass legislation that would allow him to look into the case.

Epstein was accused of using employees to bring local teen girls to his home for sex and paying victims to recruit new victims. His alleged victims were as young as 13-years-old at the time.

The Herald story has already affected Acosta’s professional life including a chance to become a replacement for Jeff Sessions as the U.S. Attorney General. He was rumored to be on the shortlist before the story was published. The former Justice Department civil rights chief and National Labor Relations Board member is also widely believed to be interested in a federal judge seat.

The Labor Department didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment. A DOL spokeswoman has previously told Bloomberg Law that Acosta “welcomes” the DOJ probe.

Acosta has said that he and other prosecutors were subjected to “a year-long assault” from Epstein’s defense lawyers. His supporters also point out that the deal forced Epstein to compensate victims and register as a sex offender.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jaclyn Diaz in Washington at jdiaz@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com