White House ‘looking into’ Acosta’s role in sex offender’s illegal plea deal

Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined Friday to say whether Trump still has confidence in his labor secretary

Alex Acosta, nominee for Secretary of Labor, talks with Ranking Member Patty Murray, D-Wash., during his Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions confirmation hearing in Dirksen Building, March 22, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Alex Acosta, nominee for Secretary of Labor, talks with Ranking Member Patty Murray, D-Wash., during his Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions confirmation hearing in Dirksen Building, March 22, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted February 22, 2019 at 9:51am

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday declined to say whether President Donald Trump still has confidence in Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta a day after a federal judge ruled the Justice Department broke the law while Acosta was a U.S. attorney. 

Florida-based U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra ruled Thursday that Acosta — then the U.S. attorney in Miami — signed off on a 2008 plea deal with Jeffrey Epstein, the Palm Beach billionaire and serial sex abuser, without informing victims about what they were doing. 

“My understanding is that it’s a very complicated case, something we’re certainly looking into,” Sanders said Friday.

“But they made the best possible deal that they could have gotten at that time,” she said. “But, again, that’s something we’re looking into.”

Asked if Trump still has confidence in the latest member of his Cabinet — which he frequently praises as doing a collective solid job — Sanders declined to say the president does. “Again, that’s something we’re looking into,” the spokeswoman said, “I’m not aware of any changes.”

The judge said in his decision Thursday that he had reviewed evidence showing  Epstein sexually abused more than 30 underage girls at his Palm Beach mansion and elsewhere.

The Crime Victims’ Rights Act promises victims that the Justice Department would make its “best efforts” to protect a victim, the filing said. It allows victims the “reasonable right” to confer with the U.S. attorneys handling the case.

The deal reached between Acosta and Epstein’s attorneys allowed him to not be prosecuted in federal court, and instead sentenced in state court. The immunity from prosecution also extended to some of Epstein’s co-conspirators.

Epstein pleaded guilty to two prostitution charges and served 13 months in county jail, according to the Miami Herald. The victims were not told of the agreement or sentencing until it was too late to intervene.

The Department of Justice announced earlier this month it has opened an investigation into the handling of Epstein’s case.

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