U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta talks to reporters during a news conference in Miami, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008. Acosta announced eight people and eight...
Alan Diaz

Following Epstein’s arrest, Trump cabinet sec faces resignation calls

Updated

The Rachel Maddow Show, 7/8/19, 9:13 PM ET

Past prosecutor Acosta's leniency adds twist to new Epstein case

Mimi Rocah, former federal prosecutor, talks with Joy Reid about why the new Jeffrey Epstein case is being handled by the SDNY’s Public Corruption Unit, and the unusual, improper handling of the previous Epstein case by prosecutors in Florida, including
Mimi Rocah, former federal prosecutor, talks with Joy Reid about why the new Jeffrey Epstein case is being handled by the SDNY’s Public Corruption Unit, and the unusual, improper handling of the previous Epstein case by prosecutors in Florida, including
The Washington Post reported this morning that there was “no substantial vetting” done on Labor Secretary Alex Acosta before Donald Trump chose him for his cabinet. That’s not surprising given this president’s record, but it also means the White House wasn’t fully aware of Acosta’s role in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal.

As many now know, Epstein was originally accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls in the early 2000s, but he benefited from a sweetheart deal that Acosta signed off on. Indeed, as we discussed in February, a federal judge ruled that prosecutors, under Acosta’s leadership, actually broke the law in their handling of the case.

As Rachel summarized at the time, “So, a federal judge just ruled that the current Labor secretary gave a secret non-prosecution agreement to a prolific, serial child sex offender – then broke the law by agreeing with the guy’s defense team that they’d all keep it secret from the victims.”

Five months later, prosecutors have gone after Epstein again, and as Politico reports, Democratic leaders have decided it’s time for the Labor secretary to go.

Chuck Schumer said Tuesday that Acosta should go because of the “sweetheart” deal he cut with Epstein as U.S. attorney in 2008. It’s an escalation from his comments on Monday that Acosta needed to “explain himself” for allowing Epstein to serve 13 months in prison and avoid a federal trial. […]

Schumer joins House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in calling for Acosta’s ouster… Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also said in an interview that Acosta’s involvement with Epstein is “serious enough for him to resign.” And Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the No. 3 Senate Democratic leader, said that the new charges against Epstein and more reporting on Acosta’s handling of the case made “clear it is time for him to step aside.”

The editorial board of the Miami Herald also called for Acosta’s ouster today. “If Acosta had not shown himself to be ethically challenged 10 years ago, we wouldn’t be calling for his resignation as U.S. secretary of Labor now,” the editors wrote. “But we are – again.”

Some observers may be under the impression that Donald Trump and his team are immune to pressure and they’ll easily ignore these latest calls for Acosta’s ouster. I tend to think those assumptions are wildly overstated: several members of the president’s team grew radioactive in the face of scandal and were quickly cast aside. The Labor secretary may very well be next.

A separate Politico report added yesterday afternoon, “White House officials are closely watching the coverage of Labor Secretary Alex Acosta’s past involvement as a prosecutor in billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s plea deal in 2008, concerned that the recent burst of negative publicity could harm him beyond repair, according to four people familiar with the situation.”

It appears Democratic leaders are eager to add to that “negative publicity.”