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Democrats call on Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to resign over Jeffrey Epstein case

Trump praises Acosta amid resignation calls
Trump praises Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta amid calls for him to resign 09:58

Several Democratic members of Congress and presidential candidates have called on Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to resign over his handling of the sex trafficking case against billionaire Jeffrey Epstein when Acosta was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

In 2008, Epstein reached a plea deal with Acosta's office that allowed Epstein to avoid federal charges. Now that Epstein has been arrested by federal prosecutors in New York for similar allegations that he abused dozens of underage girls as young as 14 years of age, Acosta's role in negotiating that plea deal has placed him under increased scrutiny.

Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, Tim Ryan, John Delaney, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Beto O'Rourke, Seth Moulton, Michael Bennet, Elizabeth Warren, Julian Castro and Joe Biden each said that Acosta should step down.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also called on Acosta to resign. Sen. Mark Warner, who voted to confirm Acosta as labor secretary and who is the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, said that Acosta should resign "if he does not offer a better explanation."

Montana Sen. Jon Tester, another one of the few Democrats who voted to confirm Acosta, told reporters that Acosta should resign, and that he would not have voted to confirm Acosta had he known about his role in the Epstein plea deal.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer gave a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday morning saying that Acosta should resign or be fired by President Trump.

"Instead of prosecuting a predator and serial sex trafficker of children, Acosta chose to let him off easy. This is not acceptable. We cannot have as one of the leading appointed officials in America, someone who has done this, plain and simple," Schumer said.

Conversely, when asked whether Acosta should resign, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell demurred.

"He serves at the pleasure of the president," McConnell said.

As of now, the president seems content to leave Acosta where he is.

"You know, 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'd probably find that they would wish they maybe did it a different way," Mr. Trump told reporters Tuesday.

"I do hear that there were a lot of people involved in that decision, not just him. I can only say this from what I know. And what I do know is that he's been a really great secretary of labor. The rest of it, we'll have to look at, we'll have to look at it very carefully. But you're talking about a long time ago and it was a decision made I think not by him but by a lot of people. So we're gonna look at it very carefully. We'll be looking at it very carefully. OK?"

Mr. Trump, who knew and once praised Epstein, also said that he "wasn't a fan" of Epstein and hadn't spoken to him in 15 years.

In February, a federal judge ruled that Acosta and other federal prosecutors broke the law by concealing a plea agreement from more than 30 underage girls who were allegedly sexually abused by Epstein.

During his confirmation hearings at the U.S. Senate, Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine was the only senator to ask Acosta about the plea deal with Epstein.

Kathryn Watson contributed to this report

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