Labor Secretary Alex Acosta says that when he was a federal prosecutor in Florida, his office got the best deal it could at the time when it came to the secret plea deal offered to Jeffrey Epstein a decade ago in a molestation case. At a news conference Wednesday, the AP describes Acosta as "unapologetic," maintaining his office did the best it could and was trying to avoid a deal allowing the wealthy financier to "walk free." Acosta said the case started as a state matter, not with his office. He says that the Palm Beach state attorney's office was "ready to let Epstein walk free. No jail time. Nothing." Acosta says federal prosecutors found that to be unacceptable. He says his office intervened and pressed for tougher consequences. More:
- "Facts are important and facts are being overlooked," he said. "We did what we did because we wanted to see Epstein go to jail."
- Acosta is being assailed for his part in the secret 2008 plea deal he signed that let Epstein avoid federal prosecution on charges that he molested teenage girls. Acosta has long made the case that it was better to use the threat of a federal indictment to force Epstein into a state guilty plea, with restitution to victims and registration as a sex offender, than it would have been to "roll the dice" and take Epstein to trial. But the result, to critics, was egregiously lenient.
- Acosta was asked if he owed an apology to women who said Epstein molested them when they were underage. Acosta says the prosecution didn't want to share with the victims that there were efforts to gain restitution for them from Epstein. He says there was concern that if negotiations fell through, Epstein's counsel could use the prospect of restitution to question their credibility. Acosta says, "In our heart we were trying to do the right thing for these victims."
- Acosta said he welcomed the new case, saying of Epstein: "His acts are despicable."
- As for those calling for his resignation, Acosta says his relationship with President Trump and White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney remains excellent. A senior administration official tells the AP that Trump encouraged Acosta to hold a press conference laying out his thinking and role on the plea deal.
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