2020 Democrats call for Labor Secretary Acosta's resignation after Epstein arrest

2020 Democrats call for Labor Secretary Acosta's resignation after Epstein arrest
© Getty Images

Democratic 2020 presidential candidates are rushing forward with calls for 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 to resign over his handling of a 2008 plea deal for billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was charged Monday with sex trafficking.

More than a decade ago, Acosta, then a U.S. attorney in Florida, oversaw a plea deal that allowed Epstein to avoid a life sentence and instead spend just 13 months in prison. A judge ruled in February that federal prosecutors under Acosta violated the law by hiding the agreement from Epstein's victims, according to the Miami Herald.

ADVERTISEMENT

Epstein has pleaded not guilty to the new charges, which allege he abused dozens of underage girls from 2002 to 2005.

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale 'Medicare for All' costs trillion over 10 years MORE, Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Warren leads in speaking time during debate MORE (D-Calif.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Warren leads in speaking time during debate MORE (D-Minn.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale 'Medicare for All' costs trillion over 10 years MORE (D-Mass.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale 'Medicare for All' costs trillion over 10 years MORE (I-Vt.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Warren leads in speaking time during debate Democrats wrangle over whether to break up Big Tech in debate first MORE (D-N.J.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Hunter Biden speaks out amid Ukraine controversy Impeachment threatens to create conflicts for Democratic candidates 2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the October showdown MORE (D-Colo.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandLobbying world 2020 Presidential Candidates Krystal Ball: Yang campaign a 'triumph of substance over the theatre' MORE (D-N.Y.) as well as former Reps. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Warren leads in speaking time during debate Democrats wrangle over whether to break up Big Tech in debate first MORE (D-Texas) and John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field The Hill's 12:30 Report: Hunter Biden speaks out amid Ukraine controversy 2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the October showdown MORE (D-Md.), said they want Acosta to leave office.

Harris, a former prosecutor herself, accused Acosta of "protecting predators." 

"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 should resign as Labor Secretary," she tweeted. "We need leaders committed to fighting for justice for survivors of abuse, not protecting predators."

Klobuchar said in a statement that the victims should have had a say in the agreement. 

"Since when do underage girl sex ring traffickers get to go to their office every day while they serve their time? The victims should have had a say. That’s what the law says. I didn’t vote for former Florida U.S. Attorney Acosta to begin with and he should step down."

Warren called Acosta "ethically compromised and unfit to serve."

Sanders said in an MSNBC interview Tuesday that Epstein’s treatment is indicative of “the ugly two-tier criminal justice system that we have in America.”

Asked if he thinks Acosta should resign or the president should fire him, Sanders said that he thinks so. 

“He should be asked to resign because of his role because in the process with Epstein,” he said.

Biden slammed Acosta's "inexcusably poor judgment" in his call for the labor secretary's resignation.

Booker also called for him to step down and quote-tweeted a similar sentiment from the Miami Herald's editorial board. 

Gillibrand tweeted that Acosta should have never been in a position of power in the first place. 

"There are few crimes more horrendous than sexual violence against minors—and enabling that kind of predatory behavior is disgusting," she wrote. "I voted against Alex Acosta's nomination because he should never have been in a position of power in the first place. He needs to resign now."

Bennet lambasted what he called Acosta's "disturbing failures as a U.S. attorney," adding that he should be disqualified from further public service.

O'Rourke quote-tweeted former prosecutor and current NBC and MSNBC legal analyst Mimi Rocah, who posted a screenshot of Epstein's bail memo.  

Delaney said in a statement that Acosta had displayed "terrible judgment" in the Epstein case. 

"Secretary Acosta should resign immediately," he said. "It is clear that he displayed terrible judgment in the Epstein case and his continued presence in the cabinet is absolutely unacceptable."

The Hill has reached out to the Labor Department for comment. Acosta on Tuesday defended the agreement but said the new charges against Epstein could “more fully bring him to justice.”

"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 tweeted.

Updated at 4:10 p.m.