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

Labor Secretary Alexander AcostaAlex Alexander AcostaAppeals court finds prosecutors' secret plea agreement with Epstein didn't break law Florida sheriff ends work release program criticized over Jeffery Epstein The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by National Association of Manufacturers — Whistleblower complaint roils Washington 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 TrumpLincoln Project ad dubs Jared Kushner the 'Secretary of Failure' Pence: Chief Justice Roberts 'has been a disappointment to conservatives' Twitter bans Trump campaign until it deletes tweet with COVID-19 misinformation 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 PelosiGOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe Negotiators remain far apart on coronavirus deal as deadline looms Top federal official says more details coming on foreign election interference MORE (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerGroup of GOP senators back more money for airlines to pay workers GOP super PAC launching August ad blitz Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package 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 ConwayLincoln Project ad dubs Jared Kushner the 'Secretary of Failure' Watchdog group accuses Stephen Miller of violating Hatch Act with Biden comments Hillicon Valley: Trump raises idea of delaying election, faces swift bipartisan pushback | Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google release earnings reports | Senators ask Justice Department to investigate TikTok, Zoom 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 AcostaAppeals court finds prosecutors' secret plea agreement with Epstein didn't break law Florida sheriff ends work release program criticized over Jeffery Epstein The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by National Association of Manufacturers — Whistleblower complaint roils Washington 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.