McConnell: Acosta's future is up to Trump

McConnell: Acosta's future is up to Trump
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHillary Clinton: Voter suppression has led to 'crisis in democracy' in the US New York Times authors blame Kavanaugh correction on editing error: 'There was zero intent to mislead' The Hill's Morning Report - What is Trump's next move on Iran? MORE (R-Ky.) avoided weighing in on whether Labor Secretary Alexander AcostaAlex Alexander AcostaTrump officially nominates Eugene Scalia as Labor secretary pick Our farmers need a better labor program Three more Epstein accusers sue estate MORE should resign over a 2008 plea deal involving financier Jeffrey Epstein, saying his fate is up to President TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness, ballots and battling opioids: Why the Universal Postal Union benefits the US Sanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth MORE.

McConnell, asked if Acosta should step down, called the allegations against Epstein "horrendous," but avoided either defending or criticizing Acosta, who agreed to a plea deal in 2008 that allowed Epstein to avoid a life sentence.

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"There's no question that the accusations against Epstein are horrendous and I think it's good news that they're being pursued further. As to Secretary Acosta's continued service, he serves at the pleasure of the president and I'm inclined to defer the president to make that decision," McConnell said.

McConnell's comments come as Acosta is under growing fire, including from 2020 Democrats calling on him to resign, after federal prosecutors unsealed new sex trafficking charges against Epstein on Monday, alleging he abused dozens of girls. He has denied all charges.

The charges are being contrasted with a 2008 deal Acosta made when he was a U.S. attorney that allowed Epstein to serve 13 months in “custody with work release."

Republicans have largely stood by Acosta, who was confirmed by the Senate for the Labor Department spot in 2017, arguing that they reviewed the plea deal during his confirmation hearing.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneProspects for Trump gun deal grow dimmer Trump, lawmakers consider app that would conduct background checks: report 'Mike Pounce' trends on Twitter after Trump slip at GOP retreat MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, told reporters on Tuesday that Republicans haven't been raising too many concerns about Acosta privately.

"It really hasn't come up much. … If there's new information now and a stronger case and he can be more fully prosecuted, I think everybody is amenable to that. But I just don't think at this point there's been a lot of conversation among our members about it beyond what they're reading in the reports," Thune told reporters.