UltraViolet, an advocacy organization that seeks to build equity for women, called on the U.S. Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against U.S Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Alexander Acosta following an explosive investigative report by the Miami Herald.
The report, published Wednesday, revealed that Acosta, then a U.S. attorney, had arranged a “nonprosecution” agreement with Jeffrey Epstein after the billionaire was accused in 2007 of sexually assaulting at least 80 underage girls in the early to mid-2000s. The agreement also halted an FBI investigation into Epstein’s co-conspirators, essentially allowing others involved to escape potential prosecution for multiple crimes, including human trafficking.
“American workers—especially women—do not need a Labor Secretary who would rather halt an investigation to shield wealthy sexual abusers from prosecution than protect sexually trafficked teenagers,” said Karin Roland, UltraViolet chief campaigns officer. “Sexual harassment and assault are rampant in the American workplace, and we cannot trust Acosta to oversee labor policy. Congress must begin proceedings to impeach Acosta immediately.”
Roland said that the Trump administration is “rotten to the core with sexual abusers and their enablers.” The president himself has been accused of multiple incidences of sexual harassment and assault, and earlier this year, he nominated and oversaw the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault in his high school days.
A spokesperson for the DOL declined to comment on the story in an email to Rewire.News, saying “[t]his matter has been publicly addressed previously, including during confirmation hearings.” Acosta claimed the Epstein agreement was a “broadly held” decision during his Senate confirmation hearing when asked about it by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). The DOL spokesperson referred Rewire.News to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, Acosta’s former office, which didn’t respond to requests for comment. The U.S. Department of Justice also did not respond to requests for comment.
As a result of the deal with Epstein, the billionaire served just 13 months in county jail. The crimes he was accused of could have resulted in a life sentence in federal prison. The Herald report claimed that Acosta allowed Epstein’s defense attorney, a former U.S. attorney and colleague, to write the agreement.
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Acosta was reportedly under consideration to fill the vacant U.S. attorney general position left by Jeff Sessions. However, McClatchy DC reported on Thursday that two people with knowledge of the situation said that while Acosta’s current job isn’t in jeopardy, his prospects for another federal appointment were slim.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, in a statement provided to McClatchy DC, called for a DOJ investigation into Acosta’s deal with Epstein. “The American people and the victims of these horrific crimes deserve to know why justice was not served in this disturbing case, and the lack of transparency still cloaking it is very troubling,” her statement said. “Therefore, I am calling on the Office of Inspector General in the U.S. Department of Justice to immediately open an investigation into potential corruption surrounding Secretary Acosta’s actions as a federal prosecutor.”
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to clarify the federal agency which commented on the Miami Herald story.