Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday called for Labor Secretary Alex Acosta’s resignation over his 2008 approval of a deal that allowed hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein to avoid federal charges for allegedly soliciting and molesting minors.
“The newly released evidence of Epstein’s behavior involving dozens of children is sickening, is appalling, is despicable,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “Epstein should have been behind bars years ago.”
Epstein, 66, was arrested Saturday for sex trafficking charges and taken into custody by federal agents and New York City police officers. The new charges included allegations of paying minors for sex since as early as 2002 as part of a scheme in New York and Florida.
His arrest brought new scrutiny to Acosta, who agreed about a decade ago as a U.S. attorney in Miami to end the federal investigation into Epstein’s alleged solicitation of prostitution. He offered Acosta a non-prosecution agreement, which Schumer called a “sweetheart deal.” The hedge fund manager faced only state charges and 13 months in prison after pleading guilty.
Acosta commended New York prosecutors for reopening Epstein’s case in a tweet Tuesday morning.
Schumer made three demands: He called for Acosta’s resignation, for the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility to publicize the results from its review of Acosta’s involvement in the deal, and for President Donald Trump to “answer for his statements he has made about his relationship with Mr. Epstein.” In 2002, Trump called Epstein a “terrific guy” who liked women “on the younger side.”
Law enforcement authorities unsealed information on Epstein’s crimes Monday in Manhattan federal court following a criminal indictment. Epstein pleaded not guilty to the charges that same day.
Schumer joins numerous lawmakers in calling for Acosta’s resignation, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She condemned him for having “engaged in an unconscionable agreement” with the multimillionaire. “This was known by @POTUS when he appointed him to a cabinet,” she tweeted Monday night.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) also said in a tweet Tuesday that Acosta should step down. “Since when do underage girl sex ring traffickers get to go to their office every day while they service their time?” she wrote.
Calling for his resignation Tuesday morning, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) tweeted, “We need leaders committed to fighting for justice for survivors of abuse, not protecting predators.”
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.