The New York Times editorial board on Thursday warned Democratic lawmakers against going after Labor Secretary Alexander AcostaAlex Alexander AcostaOn The Money: Trump slams relief bill, calls on Congress to increase stimulus money | Biden faces new critical deadlines after relief package | Labor rule allows restaurants to require broader tip pooling Labor rule allows restaurants to require broader tip pooling Federal litigator files complaint alleging Labor secretary abused his authority MORE over his 2008 plea deal with billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, who is currently facing sex trafficking charges involving minors.
The newspaper cautioned lawmakers that they could make Acosta a political “martyr” and said that the focus should be on a slate of other issues involving the Trump administration, including immigration policies, attempts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census and Hatch Act allegations against at least 10 Trump senior officials.
House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsFormer GOP congressional candidate Kimberly Klacik suing Candace Owens for defamation Former Cummings staffer unveils congressional bid McCarthy, GOP face a delicate dance on Jan. 6 committee MORE (D-Md.) and Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinHouse progressives urge Garland to intervene in ex-environmental lawyer Steven Donziger's case Trump allies leaning on his executive privilege claims Oversight panel eyes excessive bail, jail overcrowding in New York City MORE (D-Md.), who heads the panel’s Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, sent a letter to Acosta Wednesday, inviting him to testify later this month about his role as U.S. attorney in the Epstein plea deal.
The Times editorial board said that going after Acosta is a “poor use of the lawmakers’ limited time and resources.”
“This is a mistake. There’s no doubt that the judicial system must examine the accusations against Mr. Epstein, and that the Justice Department will have many questions about Mr. Acosta’s apparent leniency toward him,” the editorial said. “Congress digging into this case, however, is a poor use of lawmakers’ limited time and resources.”
The editorial board also warned the testimony could cause lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to make the testimony a proxy battle between the Trump administration and congressional Democrats.
“Mr. Acosta’s appearance before House members right now is unlikely to bring much more light to the situation. At best, having lawmakers grill him will give the issue a political rather than a criminal cast. And the second a Democratic member suggests that Mr. Acosta is emblematic of the rot at the heart of the Trump presidency, the partisan battle lines will harden,” the editorial said.
The board pointed to how the accusations against Acosta have already turned political.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzLobbying world On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Democrats advance tax plan through hurdles Florida Democrat says vaccines, masks are key to small-business recovery MORE (D-Fla.) accused the president of “coddling” Acosta after Trump said he “feels badly” for the Labor secretary and said he is doing a “fantastic job.” Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerProgressive groups urge Schumer to prevent further cuts to T plan Collins says she supports legislation putting Roe v. Wade protections into law Biden should seek some ideological diversity MORE (D-N.Y.) and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCongress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight On The Money — Congress races to keep the lights on House sets up Senate shutdown showdown MORE (D-Calif.) have both called for Acosta to step down.
“As for Mr. Acosta’s past failures as a federal prosecutor, better to let the legal system and the court of public opinion carry this particular burden. Some outrages are best kept as free of partisan politics as possible,” the editorial said.