Graham open to investigating Acosta-Epstein plea deal

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Campaign Report: Even the Post Office is political now | Primary action tonight | Super PACS at war Graham leads Democratic challenger Harrison by 1 point in South Carolina: poll The Global Fragility Act provides the tools to address long-term impacts of COVID MORE (R-S.C.) says he is open to hearings on the controversial plea deal 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 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 TrumpMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Trump camp considering White House South Lawn for convention speech: reports Longtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary 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 PelosiNegotiators hit gas on coronavirus talks as frustration mounts Hillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package 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 GrassleyOn The Money: Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions | Pandemic reveals flaws of unemployment insurance programs | Survey finds nearly one-third of rehired workers laid off again Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions Tensions flare as GOP's Biden probe ramps up  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 CornynNegotiators hit gas on coronavirus talks as frustration mounts The Hill's Campaign Report: Even the Post Office is political now | Primary action tonight | Super PACS at war GOP expects Senate to be in session next week without coronavirus deal MORE (R-Texas), an adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump's election delay red herring On The Money: Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions | Pandemic reveals flaws of unemployment insurance programs | Survey finds nearly one-third of rehired workers laid off again OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump signs major conservation bill into law | Senate votes to confirm Energy's No. 2 official | Trump Jr. expresses opposition to Pebble Mine project 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.”