According to McClatchy DC, while Democrats call for Labor Secretary Alex Acosta’s resignation, Republicans are calling for an investigation into Acosta’s role in a 2008 plea deal for Jeffrey Epstein, a multimillionaire sex abuser. Acosta negotiated a deal for Epstein after he plead guilty to two prostitution charges in state court. Epstein was accused of sexually abusing dozens of girls in his Palm Beach house.
GOP Representative Matt Gaetz (FL) stands alone in his approach. He said that reexamining the case would set a “dangerous” precedent for prosecutors.
Last week a federal judge ruled that the U.S. attorney for South Florida along with Acosta’s prosecutors broke the law by not informing Epstein’s underage victims that a plea deal had been reached.
“I don’t know what I don’t know and certainly if there is ever an indication of misconduct, that has to be thoroughly reviewed, but I think it’s a dangerous thing to go back and second-guess decisions that prosecutors have to make in real time,” Gaetz said. “I’m deeply troubled by Mr. Epstein’s actions, I think that he certainly should have faced a far stiffer consequence than he did, but having tried cases I know that it’s hard to go back and sort of second-guess the risk analysis that goes into putting witnesses before a jury and subjecting them to cross examination.”
U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra, the judge in the case, said that while he wasn’t questioning the prosecution’s authority to sign a non-prosecution agreement, he believes the U.S. attorney was obligated to consult Epstein’s victims. Acosta’s decision not to do so violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act. Therefore, the outcome of the case is illegal.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio said that before deciding on what Acosta’s future should be, he wants to see the results of an internal investigation about the case.
“We’d love to have an investigation that looks at all that internal deliberation and who knew what about this, how they talk about it, how was this decision ultimately made and what paper trail is there about that decision-making,” Rubio said. “Obviously, newspaper reporting is important but so is whatever facts the Justice Department has in its possession.”
Senator Rick Scott and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart said that Acosta doesn’t need to resign yet, but the investigation should continue.
“We don’t really know all the facts yet so it ought to come out,” Scott said. “We need more information.”
Out of the seven Democrats from Miami-Dade and Broward, six have called on Acosta to resign. Representative Donna Shalala was the exception. Shalala and a group of democrats signed a letter demanding a bill be passed that would allow the Inspector General in the Department of Justice to review attorney conduct.
Another group of Democrats, Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch signed a letter calling for Trump to demand Acosta’s resignation.
Representative Alcee Hastings agrees that Acosta should resign. “I would think under the circumstances with such a hot lamp on it, he’d be better served to resign,” Hastings said. Hastings was a federal judge who was impeached on allegations of corruption.
Representative Frederica Wilson said that Acosta should be removed if he doesn't resign.
“The ... manner in which he handled the Epstein case clearly demonstrates that he is not the right person to serve as our nation’s labor secretary,” the Democrat said in a statement. “If he could not stand up against Epstein’s white-shoe attorneys, he clearly is not qualified to take on the networks of human traffickers operating in the United States and represent their victims. Members of Congress are not going to give up on this. Not only should Acosta resign, he should never have been named labor secretary to begin with. And if he does not resign, he should be removed.”
Gaetz, on the other hand, suggests that the decision to make a plea deal without the knowledge of the victims could have been an attempt to protect them.
“I don’t know if this was the case in this matter, but as the former criminal justice chairman in Florida, I’ve seen how a lot of these sexual violence cases, the fragility of witnesses and the willingness of witnesses can be a factor,” Gaetz said. “I’m not saying it was here, I’m just saying that in these types of cases it’s something that’s always on the minds of prosecutors.”