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Alex Acosta. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty

Former U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta demonstrated "poor judgement" when he signed off on a plea deal with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, but did not commit “professional misconduct,” the Justice Department concluded in a report released Thursday.

Why it matters: The federal criminal investigation, which took place from 2006 to 2008, allowed Epstein to avoid a possible life sentence. He was released after serving 13 months in prison and largely continued business operations and travels until 2019 when he was charged in a new sex trafficking case.

The big picture: With his decision, Acosta failed to consider that the plea deal "required greater oversight," the DOJ said. He resolved the federal investigation before carrying out important investigative steps.

  • The report did note, however, that the decision was within the scope of Acosta’s broad discretion and did not result from “improper factors.”
  • There is no evidence that a “lack of consultation was for the purpose of silencing victims.”
  • The plea deal waived "federal prosecution in the Southern District of Florida of [Epstein], four named co-conspirators, and 'any potential co-conspirators.'"
  • Acosta resigned as President Trump's labor secretary in 2019 after facing scrutiny over his handling of the Epstein case during his tenure as a federal prosecutor in Florida.

What they’re saying: Paul Cassell, an attorney for multiple Epstein victims, called the report a “cover up,” the Washington Post reports.

  • “[Acosta] and his office failed to give notice to victims, misled victims, misinterpreted the law and did not treat the abuse survivors with decency and respect,” Adam Horowitz, another attorney representing Epstein victims, told the Post. “The mountain of mistakes was not just poor judgment. It was reckless.”

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) demanded the department release its full report, saying in a statement: “Letting a well-connected billionaire get away with child rape and international sex trafficking isn’t ‘poor judgment’ — it is a disgusting failure.

  • “The DOJ’s crooked deal with Epstein effectively shut down investigations into his child sex trafficking ring and protected his co-conspirators in other states. Justice has not been served," he added.

What to watch: Ghislaine Maxwell, a longtime Epstein confidante, is awaiting trial on charges of recruiting and grooming underage girls. Trump came under fire earlier this year for "wish[ing] her well."

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jan 25, 2021 - Economy & Business

Wall Street titan Leon Black stepping down as Apollo's CEO

Credit: Apollo

Leon Black is stepping down as CEO of investment giant Apollo Global Management, following the conclusion of an independent investigation into his interactions with Jeffrey Epstein.

Why it matters: Black has long been one of Wall Street's top power brokers, and he's one of the people responsible for helping to create the modern private equity industry.

Dave Lawler, author of World
1 hour ago - World

Americans increasingly see China as an enemy

One in three Americans, and a majority of Republicans, now view China as an enemy of the United States, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center.

By the numbers: Just 9% of Americans consider China a "partner," while 55% see Beijing as a "competitor" and 34% as an "enemy."

Scoop: Leaked HHS docs spotlight Biden's child migrant dilemma

A group of undocumented immigrants walk toward a Customs and Border Patrol station after being apprehended. Photo: Sergio Flores/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Fresh internal documents from the Department of Health and Human Services show how quickly the number of child migrants crossing the border is overwhelming the administration's stretched resources.

Driving the news: In the week ending March 1, the Border Patrol referred to HHS custody an average of 321 children per day, according to documents obtained by Axios. That's up from a weekly average of 203 in late January and early February — and just 47 per day during the first week of January.

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