Updated Jul 9, 2019

Pelosi leads calls for Acosta to resign over Epstein's 2008 plea deal

President Donald Trump with Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta. Photo: Oliver Contreras - Pool/Getty Images)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is leading calls for Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to resign over his role in a 2008 plea deal with financier and registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who now faces sex trafficking charges. And she questioned President Trump's decision to appoint Acosta to the Cabinet.

Context: A judge ruled in February that federal prosecutors, including Acosta, violated the law by striking a sweetheart plea deal with Epstein, in which he averted federal prosecution for his participation in an international sex operation.

  • Acosta, who was then U.S. attorney for the southern district of Florida, opted not to prosecute Epstein on federal sex traffic laws and instead struck a deal that ultimately granted him immunity.

Why it matters: Epstein now faces allegations that he sexually abused and trafficked underage girls in Florida and New York. He denies all charges.

  • Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, asked the Department of Justice in December to investigate its treatment of Epstein in the earlier case. Consequently, the DOJ opened an investigation in February, when the White House said it was "looking into" Acosta's 2008 role, per NBC News.

The big picture: Several Democrats, and some conservatives, have called on Acosta to resign. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted when asked if Acosta should step down, "Fully agree. Epstein’s conduct was despicable, and everyone who participated should be vigorously prosecuted."

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) tweeted, "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."

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) tweeted, "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. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) tweeted, "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."

This article has been updated with more context and comments from lawmakers.

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