WASHINGTON, D.C. – Florida Democrats want Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to step down.
A federal judge ruled Thursday that Acosta and other federal prosecutors illegally handled a plea agreement for Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who sexually abused more than 30 underage girls between 1999 and 2007. Acosta was the U.S. attorney for Southern Florida at the time.
In response to the ruling, a chorus of Democrats on Friday called for the ouster of President Donald Trump’s labor secretary.
“The girls were sexually abused by a multimillionaire serial pedophile Jeffrey Epstein and his cronies, and then abused again by prosecutors who failed the victims in a colossal miscarriage of justice,” Florida U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor told the Florida Phoenix in a statement.
“Accountability by the U.S. Department of Justice should be swift after the federal court judge ruled that prosecutors in essence broke the law. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, prosecutor at the time, allowed this travesty to occur and should resign,” she added.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a freshman Florida Democrat, urged the president to “immediately demand Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta’s resignation.”
She added, “Secretary Acosta’s severe mishandling of the Epstein case shows an utter disregard for the law and those he was charged with representing. He showed no respect for the suffering of the victims and credible accounts of human trafficking and clearly abused his power for political gain. As such, he has no place serving as a top official in the Executive Branch.”
Two other Florida Democrats, Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Lois Frankel, were among those collecting signatures Friday for a letter pressing Trump to demand Acosta’s resignation.
“We are requesting that you immediately demand Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta’s resignation,” says a draft copy of the letter obtained by the Phoenix. His “severe mishandling of the Epstein case, reinforced” by this week’s court ruling, “shows an utter disregard for the law and those he was charged with representing.”
Acosta “failed to charge Epstein with federal trafficking laws,” they wrote, which could have put him “away for life. Instead, he pleaded guilty to far lesser prostitution-related charges and served only 13 months in a private wing of a county jail but was able to leave 6 days a week for 12 hours at a time.”
The Florida lawmakers organized the letter campaign along with Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.).
Federal judge Kenneth A. Marra on Thursday said that Acosta and other prosecutors broke the law by concealing the plea agreement from Epstein’s underage victims, according to The Miami Herald. Marra gave federal prosecutors 15 days to come up with a settlement with Epstein’s victims and their attorneys.
Acosta’s role in the Epstein case has been under intense scrutiny since the Herald published an explosive investigation in November.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to say whether the president still has confidence in Acosta.
“My understanding is that it’s a very complicated case, something we’re certainly looking into,” Sanders said Friday.
A Labor Department spokesperson said in a statement, “For more than a decade, the actions of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida in this case have been defended by the Department of Justice in litigation across three administrations and several attorneys general. The office’s decisions were approved by departmental leadership and followed departmental procedures.”
The matter “remains in litigation,” the spokesperson added, “and, thus, for any further comment we refer you to the Department of Justice.”
The Justice Department has opened an investigation into the role that Acosta played in negotiating a lenient 2008 plea deal for Epstein.