98°F
weather icon Clear

Trump backs Labor secretary as Democrats demand resignation

Updated July 9, 2019 - 2:14 pm

WASHINGTON President Donald Trump defended Labor Secretary Alex Acosta Tuesday as a growing roster of Democrats demanded Acosta’s resignation.

The calls for Acosta’s political scalp began Monday after Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman charged billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein with two counts of sex trafficking with underage girls between 2002 and 2005. If Epstein, who has pleaded not guilty, is convicted, he could serve 45 years in prison — a lifetime compared to the scant 13 months Epstein served under a 2008 deal negotiated by Acosta, who was then the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

Sitting in the Oval Office with Qatar Emir Tamin bin Hamad al-Thani Tuesday, Trump also spoke of his falling out with Epstein when the two moved in the same high-end social circles of Manhattan and Palm Beach. “I don’t think I’ve spoken to him for 15 years,” Trump told reporters, “I wasn’t a fan.”

According to news reports dating to 2007, Trump’s Palm Beach resort Mar-a-Lago barred Epstein from the premises because of his unseemly pursuit of young females.

Trump’s Tuesday remarks about a freeze with Epstein stand in contrast to a 2002 quote Trump gave New York magazine. In that piece, Trump said of Epstein, “I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”

Also Tuesday, Acosta issued a public statement about the case, praising Berman for charging Epstein “based on new evidence.” Acosta also defended the relatively light sentence meted out to Epstein in 2008 as a deal reached with less available evidence, which nonetheless put a billionaire in jail, required him to “register as a sex offender and put the world on notice that he was a sexual predator.”

Asked if he maintained confidence in his Labor secretary, Trump said Acosta had done an “excellent” job and that many people would do things differently if they had a chance to remake decisions made 12, 15 or 20 years earlier. Trump also said his administration would look at the incident “very carefully.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, however, faulted Acosta for failing to produce a longer sentence and hiding the non-prosecution agreement from Epstein’s victims. In remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday, Schumer called on Acosta to resign, and on Trump to fire Acosta if he does not.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had called for Acosta to step down Monday.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., also called for Acosta’s resignation. “Labor Secretary Alex Acosta failed miserably to deliver justice for the underage girls that Jeffrey Epstein abused and exploited,” Titus said in a statement. “The Department of Labor is responsible for handling sexual harassment cases and it should never have been overseen by someone who allowed a serial sexual predator to live a life of luxury.”

And Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., also joined the call, saying in a statement “as Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta is responsible for enforcing child labor laws and protecting against human trafficking. I’ve reviewed the recent indictment against Mr. Epstein and the reporting by the Miami Herald on Secretary Acosta’s role as U.S. attorney in arranging his plea agreement. Secretary Acosta showed a blatant disregard for the child victims of Mr. Epstein. As a former attorney general of Nevada who has fought against the sexual exploitation of women and children, it’s clear to me that Secretary Acosta must resign.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters he was open to investigation the 2008 deal.

Contact Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
'Evangelicals for Trump' event draws hundreds to Las Vegas hotel - VIDEO
Hundreds of President Donald Trump’s supporters packed the Ahern Hotel in Las Vegas for a faith-based campaign event. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sisolak names new DETR director, head of unemployment task force - VIDEO
Gov. Steve Sisolak named Elisa Cafferata acting director of Nevada’s Department of Training, Employment and Rehabilitation and announced Barbara Buckley as the leader of a rapid response team on unemployment insurance at a press briefing Thursday afternoon. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sisolak unveils long-term COVID-19 plan with Nevada Health Response team - VIDEO
Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Monday a long-term strategy for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in Nevada through a targeted approach. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sisolak: Bars in four counties to stay closed - VIDEO
Gov. Steve Sisolak said bars in four counties, including Clark County, will remain closed to help fight COVID-19. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
COVID-19 case reported at Legislature's special session - Video
A person who was inside the Nevada Legislature Building has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Brenda Erdoes said Friday, July 10. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trump Pushing for Reopening Schools and In-Person Learning - Video
Donald Trump launched an effort on Wednesday to reopen schools across the United States with in-person learning.
Special session to tackle $1.2B budget deficit in special session Wednesday - VIDEO
Closing the state’s $1.2 billion budget hole will be the prime focus of the upcoming special legislative session that will convene at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Carson City, according to a proclamation issued by Gov. Steve Sisolak. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lawmakers to tackle $1.2B budget deficit in special session Wednesday - VIDEO
Closing the state’s $1.2 billion budget hole will be the prime focus of the upcoming special legislative session that will convene at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Carson City, according to a proclamation issued by Gov. Steve Sisolak. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County Democratic leaders resign
Several key Clark County Democratic Party leaders have resigned as progressive leadership has swelled in recent months.
Dream Big Nevada celebrates DACA ruling - VIDEO
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday rejected President Donald Trump’s effort to end legal protections under DACA for 650,000 young immigrants. Astrid Silva, founder of Dream Big Nevada, discusses the temporary victory and the next step for Dreamers.
Councilwoman Michele Fiore walks out of city council meeting - Video
Las Vegas Councilwoman Michele Fiore walks out of a City Council meeting during public comments.
Mitt Romney marches in Washington, D.C., protest - Video
On Sunday, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah joined a group of protesters marching through Washington, D.C. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada gyms, bars that do not serve food can reopen Friday - VIDEO
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak on Tuesday evening said Phase 2 of the state’s Nevada United: Roadmap to Recovery will begin on Friday. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada Rep. Horsford admits to having affair - VIDEO
Nevada Congressman Steven Horsford admitted to having an affair with Gabriela Linder, a former intern for Sen. Harry Reid. Linder detailed her account of the affair in a podcast she called, "Mistress for Congress." (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
 
No help for jobless yet as virus aid talks falter in Washington

A last-ditch effort by Democrats to revive Capitol Hill talks on vital COVID-19 rescue money collapsed in disappointment Friday, making it increasingly likely that Washington gridlock will mean more hardship for millions of people who are losing enhanced jobless benefits.

Sisolak signs 2 police reform bills into law

Gov. Steve Sisolak on Friday signed two police reform bills from a special legislative session. Lawmakers addressed police reform after a wave of national protests.