Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta has come out in defense of a plea deal he secured for accused pedophile Jeffrey Epstein in the face of Democratic calls for him to resign.
What's the background?
Epstein is a multimillionaire financier who is charged with committing sex crimes, including operating a sex trafficking ring with girls as young as 14 years old. He has pleaded not guilty.
In 2008, Acosta was a U.S. attorney in Miami. In this role, he agreed to a plea deal with Epstein, who was being charged with some of these crimes at the time. Under the terms of this deal, Epstein would spend just 13 months in jail, pay out settlements to victims, and would register as a sex offender. Another aspect of the deal that has now come under intense scrutiny gave immunity to "any potential co-conspirators."
While it is unclear who the co-conspirators mentioned in the plea deal were, Epstein has made friends over the years with powerful people from both sides of the aisle, including Britain's Prince Andrew, former President Bill Clinton, and President Donald Trump. Trump said that he had a "falling out" with Epstein and hasn't spoken to him "for 15 years."
What are Democrats saying?
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told his Senate colleagues on Tuesday that if Acosta did not resign on his own, Trump should fire him.
"Instead of prosecuting a predator, a serial sex trafficker of children, Acosta chose to let him off easy. This is not acceptable," Schumer said.
Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the Epstein plea deal "unconscionable" and also called on Acosta to resign.
Trump defended Acosta
Trump defended Acosta to reporters on Tuesday, saying that he "felt badly" for the labor secretary because he was "somebody that works so hard and has done such a good job."
The president said that while he would have handled the situation "a different way" in 2008, "there were a lot of people involved in that decision, not just" Acosta.
What did Acosta say?
In a series of tweets this morning, Acosta defended his past actions.
"The crimes committed by Epstein are horrific, and I am pleased that NY prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence," he said. "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.
"Now that new evidence and additional testimony is available, the NY prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him to justice."