Trump Praises Acosta, Says He’ll Look Into Labor Secretary’s Role in Original Epstein Prosecution

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.
July 9, 2019 Updated: July 9, 2019

President Donald Trump praised Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta on July 9 but said he’ll be looking into Acosta’s role in a plea deal given to accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein years ago.

Trump was asked about Acosta by reporters in the Oval Office, where he called Acosta “a very good Secretary of Labor.”

Trump also stressed that the case was many years ago.

“If you go back and look at everybody else’s decisions, whether it’s a U.S. Attorney, or an assistant U.S. Attorney, or a judge, you go back 12 or 15 years ago or 20 years ago and look at their past decisions, I would think you would probably find that they wished they did it a different way,” he told reporters.

“I do hear that there were a lot of people involved in that decision, not just him.”

Trump said he’d be looking “very carefully” at the decisions surrounding the plea deal.

Epstein was accused of molesting more than 100 underage girls in charges brought against him in the Southern District of Florida but only ended up serving 13 months in prison due to a plea deal.

He allegedly operated an international child sex ring at his Palm Beach, Florida mansion and 72-acre private island estate in the Caribbean. The minor-aged girls, mostly 13 to 16 years old, were often transported from the United States to his island estate on his private jet.

U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein appears in court where he pleaded guilty to two prostitution charges in West Palm Beach
U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein (C) appears in court where he pleaded guilty to two prostitution charges in West Palm Beach, Florida on July 30, 2008. (Uma Sanghvi/Palm Beach Post via Reuters)

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra ruled in February that the plea deal broke Florida and federal law.

Acosta, the Labor Secretary, was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida at the time the plea deal was negotiated in 2007.

Acosta took to Twitter on Tuesday to write about the situation, saying: “The crimes committed by Epstein are horrific, and I am pleased that NY prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence.”

“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,” he added.

“Now that new evidence and additional testimony is available, the NY prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him to justice.”

Jeffrey Sloman, who is now in private practice, was Acosta’s top deputy while the case was being secured. He wrote in a Feb. 15 op-ed that Acosta “acted with professionalism and integrity in handling the Jeffrey Epstein case,” and that allegations that Acosta was somehow corrupted by Epstein’s lawyers weren’t true.

Epoch Times Photo
United States Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta at the East Room of the White House in Washington on Oct. 12, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

Sloman said federal prosecutors faced difficulties, primarily when many of Epstein’s alleged victims declined to testify against him. He said Acosta’s hands were legally tied due to “what was, at heart, a local sex abuse case.”

Fresh charges against Epstein were brought on July 8, alleging he operated a sex trafficking network that primarily featured girls under the age of 18.

Epstein was arrested on July 6 when he landed in New Jersey. Prosecutors with the Southern District of New York said the plea deal in Florida didn’t apply to the new charges.

Democratic leaders have urged Acosta to step down in light of the new charges.

“Secretary Acosta must step down. As US Attorney, he engaged in an unconscionable agreement w/ Jeffrey Epstein kept secret from courageous, young victims preventing them from seeking justice,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wrote on July 8.

“This was known by @POTUS when he appointed him to the cabinet.”

“Secretary Acosta must resign,” added Rep Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.). “By letting Epstein off easy in 2008, he prevented victims from receiving the justice they deserved. This type of behavior is inexcusable and should have never been rewarded with a cabinet position.”

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.