WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – Florida lawmakers are weighing in on the resignation Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta over his handling of the Jeffrey Epstein sex abuse case a decade ago.
Acosta, a U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Florida in 2008, and his legal team negotiated with Epstein’s attorneys a controversial secret plea deal.
Under terms of the deal, the financier pleaded guilty to state charges, not federal charges, of soliciting a minor for prostitution and served 13 months in jail. During that time, Epstein was also allowed to leave jail six days a week for 12 hours a day to work out of his office.
Last April during a House Appropriations Committee hearing, Democratic Congresswoman Frankel pressed Acosta on his handling of the Epstein case. He was unwilling to answer her questions and Frankel followed up with a written request for responses which he never gave.
“Secretary Acosta did the right thing by resigning. Still, there are many questions surrounding the sweetheart deal he negotiated for Jeffrey Epstein, a sexual predator who was able to roam free for more than a decade. For the survivors to get justice, we need answers as to what happened at both the state attorney and federal prosecutor’s offices in Florida,” said Frankel in a statement.
“Acosta should have stepped down when I first called for his resignation in February after a federal judge found that he broke the law when he violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act. This law requires prosecutors to inform victims of any plea deal and be involved in negotiations, which he failed to do. Acosta not only violated the victims’ rights, but he also acted unethically by shielding a sex trafficker and pedophile and agreeing to an inappropriate sentence. His resignation is long-overdue. There is no place in public office for sexual predators or those who protect sexual predators,” said Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a member of the Judiciary Committee.
“While the wheels of justice will grind slowly for the survivors of this monster Jeffrey Epstein’s heinous actions, they clearly moved today. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.’ The days of men protecting predatory men without consequences are over,” said US Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in a statement.
U.S. Representative Donna Shalala was in favor of Acosta’s resignation, saying, “Secretary Acosta announced his resignation from his position as Secretary of Labor for failing to vigorously prosecute serial child predator Jeffrey Epstein. Good riddance. We must work to perfect the justice system in this country so that all people – irrespective of their wealth or privilege – are equal in the eyes of the law. My hope is that the victims of Jeffrey Epstein may soon find the justice that has eluded them for so long.”
On Friday, with President Trump standing by his side, Acosta told reporters what prompted his decision.
“In the last weeks, I’ve seen a lot of coverage of the Department of Labor. And what I have not seen is the incredible job creation that we’ve seen in this economy, more than five million jobs. I haven’t seen that workplace injuries are down, bucking a three-year trend. Workplace fatalities are down, bucking a three-year trend. The safest year ever in mining. I have seen coverage of this case, that is over 12 years old, that had input and vetting at multiple levels of the Department of Justice,” said Acosta.
“As I look forward I do not think it is right and fair for this administration’s labor department to have Epstein as the focus rather than the incredible economy that we have today. So I called the president this morning, I told him I thought the right thing was to step aside,” he added.
In recent weeks a growing number of Democrats had called for Acosta to step aside for his handling of the controversial secret plea deal.