DOJ watchdog says he lacks authority to probe plea deal involving Labor secretary

DOJ watchdog says he lacks authority to probe plea deal involving Labor secretary
© Greg Nash

The Department of Justice's (DOJ) top watchdog wrote to Congress on Tuesday acknowledging lawmakers' requests for an investigation into the handling of a 2007 plea deal involving Labor Secretary Alex AcostaAlex Alexander AcostaDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Trump officially nominates Eugene Scalia as Labor secretary pick Our farmers need a better labor program MORE, but noting that the office lacks the authority to look into it. 

Bloomberg Law reported that DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz wrote to lawmakers that "important questions" have been raised about Acosta's involvement in a plea deal he struck in 2007 as a U.S. attorney with alleged serial sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

“However, the [Office of the Inspector General] does not currently have jurisdiction over matters involving allegations of misconduct relating to DOJ attorneys’ handling of litigation or legal decisions," Horowitz wrote.

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Horowitz indicated he would have the ability to investigate prosecutorial misconduct within the department if the Senate passed legislation amending the inspector general's powers. The bill has already passed the House, Bloomberg Law reported.

A group of 15 Democratic lawmakers, including 10 representatives from Florida, wrote to Horowitz last month to call for an investigation into Acosta's conduct during his time as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

Acosta's role in the Epstein deal came under fresh scrutiny following a Miami Herald investigation into the case. The story quoted multiple people involved in the 2007 case who accused Acosta of caving to pressure from Epstein's lawyers to cut a preferential plea deal.

Epstein originally faced a 53-page indictment for sex trafficking and related crimes. 

The Department of Labor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.