Dozens of House Democrats have called on the leaders of the chamber’s powerful investigative committees to launch an inquiry into the case of accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.
“While we cannot undo the damage Epstein has caused the victims of his abuse, the survivors of Epstein’s exploitation and manipulation deserve a forum to be heard and both they and the public deserve transparency and answers to unresolved questions,” forty-five Democrats said in a letter addressed to the top Democrats and Republicans on the Judiciary Committee and Oversight Committee.
“Government and law enforcement officials involved [should] be required to explain under oath the highly unusual treatment afforded to Jeffrey Epstein,” they continue.
Specifically, the letter calls for further scrutiny of both Epstein’s death and what they call a “sweetheart” 2008 plea deal he struck with former Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, who was then the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
The 2008 plea deal with federal prosecutors in Florida waived wrongdoing by any potential coconspirators in the case, according to The Miami Herald.
“The terms of Epstein’s plea deal, work release conditions, and his treatment as a designated sex offender, have all come under severe criticism, and merit further official inquiry, as does his suicide while in federal custody,” the letter reads.
The letter names several outstanding questions, among them: “What are the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death?”
Epstein, a billionaire who forged connections to politicians over the years including President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton, is believed to have sexually abused and trafficked dozens of young women beginning in the 1990s, according to unsealed court records.
The letter comes amid worries that an investigation into the accusations against Epstein will shutter without new details, or accountability, from alleged accomplices following his death in a cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City.
As many as 30 of Epstein’s accusers testified Tuesday at a hearing in U.S. District Court in New York after prosecutors asked that, since he is now dead, the charges against Epstein be dropped.
U.S. District Judge Richard Berman invited prosecutors, Epstein’s accusers and his attorneys to speak at the hearing before ruling on the prosecution’s motion, The Associated Press reported.
The letter began as an initiative of the Democratic Women’s Caucus and Rep. Lois Frankel, who represents a South Florida district and formerly served as mayor of West Palm Beach.
The Florida congresswoman questioned Acosta about the plea agreement — which sentenced Epstein to 13 months in a private cell with an unlocked door and television, and six or seven days with 12-hour periods out of his cell per week — when he sought confirmation to his cabinet post.
Leaders of the Democratic Women’s Caucus stressed the urgency of shedding light on Epstein’s operation in written statements.
“Despite Jeffrey Epstein’s death, Congress has the responsibility to investigate and shed light on the disturbing agreement reached with the U.S. Justice Department that silenced victims and failed to bring Mr. Epstein to justice,” said Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar, vice-chair of the caucus.