Graham open to investigating Acosta-Epstein plea deal

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Graham: Senate trial 'must expose the whistleblower' Graham says Schiff should be a witness in Trump impeachment trial 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 TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes 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 PelosiOvernight Health Care: Trump officials making changes to drug pricing proposal | House panel advances flavored e-cig ban | Senators press FDA tobacco chief on vaping ban Speaker Pelosi, it's time to throw American innovators a lifeline Why Americans must tune in to the Trump impeachment hearings 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 GrassleySpeaker Pelosi, it's time to throw American innovators a lifeline Barr: Inspector general's report on alleged FISA abuses 'imminent' Pelosi aide hopeful White House will support drug-pricing bill despite criticism 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 CornynGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Overnight Health Care: Trump officials making changes to drug pricing proposal | House panel advances flavored e-cig ban | Senators press FDA tobacco chief on vaping ban Senate GOP waves Trump off early motion to dismiss impeachment charges MORE (R-Texas), an adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Graham: Senate trial 'must expose the whistleblower' Graham says Schiff should be a witness in Trump impeachment trial 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.”