Labor Secretary Alex Acosta will not be stepping down over his role in Jeffrey Epstein’s widely-criticized 2008 plea deal after he was accused of abusing more than two dozen underage girls. During a press conference Wednesday, the former U.S. attorney for Southern Florida maintained he did nothing wrong and even attributed his actions, in part, to the cultural context of the time.
“When he talks about the fact that the environment for women was different in 2007 than it is in 2019, these are children, for heaven’s sake,” said CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman, a former prosecutor. “There is no way that we treated, as prosecutors, children differently in 2007 than in 2019. Our job was to protect them, our job was to get them ready for trial.”
Epstein registered as a sex offender and served 13 months in jail but was allowed to leave and go to work six days a week. The Miami Herald reported that Acosta allowed Epstein’s lawyers unusual freedom in dictating the terms of the non-prosecution agreement which was ruled illegal by a Florida judge earlier this year because it was kept secret from the victims.
Acosta also blamed Florida state officials who he said were not eager to prosecute and said Epstein would not have served any jail time if not for him. But former Palm Beach State Attorney Barry Krischer said in a statement Wednesday night that “Mr. Acosta’s recollection… is completely wrong.”
Krischer said “if Mr. Acosta was truly concerned with the state’s case and felt he had to rescue the matter, he would have moved forward with the 53-page indictment that his own office drafted.”
“I’m very glad that the Palm Beach state’s attorney came out and said, ‘Look, he wasn’t Superman – my words, not his – he didn’t put on his cape and fly over and save the day to be a hero,'” Klieman said. “I think he was not up to the job.”
A lawyer for some of Epstein’s accusers told “CBS This Morning” that more victims have already come forward since he was indicted on sex trafficking charges in New York City earlier this week.
Many Democrats are calling for Acosta to resign in part because as labor secretary he is responsible for combating human trafficking. But President Trump is the only person who can decide Acosta’s fate and the secretary says he still has a great relationship with the president.