Graham open to investigating Acosta-Epstein plea deal

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham expects Horowitz investigation to show evidence was manipulated, withheld Trump's exceptionalism: No president has so disrespected our exceptional institutions Trump, GOP shift focus from alleged surveillance abuse to Durham Russia probe MORE (R-S.C.) says he is open to hearings on the controversial plea deal 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 struck with wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein in 2008 to resolve multiple allegations of sexual molestation.

“If this plea deal doesn’t withstand scrutiny then it would be the job of the Judiciary Committee to find out how it got off the rails. What kind of checks and balances do we have to make sure that complaints involving minor children are adequately investigated? This is an area of the law where the tie goes to the kids,” Graham told reporters Tuesday morning.

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“If we think somebody’s out there abusing children, no matter how hard the case may be, you want to bring it forward simply to get these people deterred if nothing else,” he added.

Acosta was the U.S. attorney in charge of Epstein’s case when he struck what has now been criticized as an overly lenient plea deal that allowed him to spend just more than a year in jail and have work release.

The plea deal with Epstein has faced new scrutiny following federal prosecutors unsealing new sex trafficking charges against Epstein on Monday, alleging abuse of dozens of female minors. He has denied all charges.

Epstein, a successful hedge fund manager who counted President TrumpDonald John TrumpLawmakers prep ahead of impeachment hearing Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Warren says she made almost M from legal work over past three decades MORE and former President Clinton among his social acquaintances, pleaded guilty to state charges of solicitation of prostitution but didn’t face federal charges.

Democrats have called on Acosta to resign over the deal that was crafted in secret and effectively potentially blocked dozens of alleged victims of sexual trafficking from pursuing complaints against Epstein.

“As U.S. Attorney, he engaged in an unconscionable agreement w/ Jeffrey Epstein kept secret from courageous, young victims preventing them from seeking justice,” Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing White House, Democrats strike tentative deal to create Space Force in exchange for federal parental leave benefits: report Trump: Fox News 'panders' to Democrats by having on liberal guests MORE (D-Calif.) tweeted on Monday night.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, called for Acosta to resign and for Congress to investigate the plea deal.

“There should be hearings in the United States Senate involving the Epstein-Acosta-Trump connection. Clearly, there is enough basis for unequal justice or excessive leniency and for questions about why that happened,” he said. “There should be hearings here in the United States Senate. The travesty of justice in allowing Epstein essentially a pass in Florida when clearly there were potential violations of law merits hearings.”

Graham on Tuesday said, “I’d like to know more,” noting that Acosta wasn’t the only prosecutor involved in the plea deal.

“This thing was fairly vetted. He didn’t just do it by himself. A lot of people had eyes on the original plea deal. Now it’s being set aside and sounds like there’s more misconduct,” Graham said.

Other Republicans said they would follow Graham’s lead.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills GOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties Congressional leaders unite to fight for better future for America's children and families MORE (R-Iowa), the former chairman of the Judiciary panel, when asked whether Congress should review Epstein’s plea deal, said, “if it’s in this committee, you better ask Graham.”

Grassley said he wants to wait for a report from the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility before making a decision on whether Acosta should step down.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump, GOP shift focus from alleged surveillance abuse to Durham Russia probe Hillicon Valley: FTC rules Cambridge Analytica engaged in 'deceptive practices' | NATO researchers warn social media failing to remove fake accounts | Sanders calls for breaking up Comcast, Verizon Bipartisan senators call on FERC to protect against Huawei threats MORE (R-Texas), an adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKey House and Senate health leaders reach deal to stop surprise medical bills Biden: 'No party should have too much power' Overnight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill MORE (R-Ky.), said if Graham decides to hold hearings “I’ll certainly attend” but added, “I think we ought to let the Justice Department and [the] judiciary do their job and then we need to respond to any new information.”