Acosta defends Epstein deal, says new charges could 'more fully bring him to justice'

Labor Secretary Alexander AcostaAlex Alexander AcostaThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by National Association of Manufacturers — Whistleblower complaint roils Washington On The Money: Senate confirms Scalia as Labor chief | Bill with B in wall funding advanced over Democrats' objections | Lawyers reach deal to delay enforcement of NY tax return subpoena Sanders calls Eugene Scalia's Labor Dept. confirmation 'obscene' MORE on Tuesday defended the 2008 non-prosecution agreement with multimillionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, which he helped broker, but acknowledged new sex crimes charges could “more fully bring him to justice.”

“The crimes committed by Epstein are horrific, and I am pleased that NY prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence,” Acosta wrote in a string of tweets. “Now that new evidence and additional testimony is available, the NY prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him to justice.”

Acosta has come under fire for the agreement he helped orchestrate as U.S. attorney in Miami, with top Democrats calling for him to resign from President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial Vulnerable Democrats tout legislative wins, not impeachment Trump appears to set personal record for tweets in a day MORE's Cabinet. 

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Trump on Tuesday defended Acosta, telling reporters at the White House that he has been a “very good” Labor secretary and that he probably wished he handled the Epstein case differently. The president added that he would be looking at the case “very carefully.”

Epstein avoided significant prison time under the 2008 agreement, instead pleading guilty to two prostitution charges and serving just over one year in a Palm Beach, Fla., jail while enjoying work-release privileges that allowed him to leave the penitentiary for 12 hours per day, six days a week. 

Criticism of that deal intensified this week after Epstein was arrested and charged with sex trafficking in an implicit rebuke of the more lenient punishment that Acosta pursued.

Law enforcement officers recovered a slew of photographs of young girls inside Epstein’s New York City mansion during the arrest that were allegedly from the time when he was under investigation in Florida. 

White House officials, who are closely monitoring the fallout, have thus far publicly defended Acosta even as Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiVulnerable Democrats tout legislative wins, not impeachment Photographer leaves Judiciary hearing after being accused of taking photos of member notes Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — House passes sweeping Pelosi bill to lower drug prices | Senate confirms Trump FDA pick | Trump officials approve Medicaid work requirements in South Carolina MORE (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSenate confirms Trump's nominee to lead FDA CEO group pushes Trump, Congress on paid family, medical leave Krystal Ball: Is this how Bernie Sanders will break the establishment? MORE (D-N.Y.) and a number of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have called on the Labor secretary to step down. 

White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayMLB removing marijuana from list of banned substances Grocery store behind viral reusable bag at impeachment hearing offers 'free briefcase' promotion Watchdog report finds FBI not motivated by political bias in Trump probe MORE earlier on Tuesday said Acosta is “doing a great job” and accused Democrats of focusing on attacking the administration rather than “the perpetrator at hand.”

“They’re so obsessed with this president that they immediately go to Alex AcostaAlex Alexander AcostaThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by National Association of Manufacturers — Whistleblower complaint roils Washington On The Money: Senate confirms Scalia as Labor chief | Bill with B in wall funding advanced over Democrats' objections | Lawyers reach deal to delay enforcement of NY tax return subpoena Sanders calls Eugene Scalia's Labor Dept. confirmation 'obscene' MORE,” she said. 

Trump is also facing uncomfortable questions about his relationship with Epstein, with whom he was known to socialize. The then-business mogul said in 2002 that Epstein was a “terrific guy” and “a lot of fun to be with.”

“It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side,” Trump told New York magazine

Conway told reporters on Tuesday that Trump has not had contact with Epstein in more than a decade. 

Updated at 12:33 p.m.