When he was a U.S. Attorney in South Florida, Alex Acosta, now President Trump’s Secretary of Labor, gave pedophile Jeffrey Epstein the deal of a lifetime. According to the Miami Herald, a federal investigation revealed 36 underage victims of Epstein (the Herald apparently found dozens of additional ones). Yet, through a plea agreement with then-U.S. Attorney Acosta, Epstein managed to plead to only two state prostitution charges.
Epstein served just 13 months in state prison, where he was housed in a private wing at the Palm Beach County jail and allowed work release privileges. Epstein’s year of “incarceration” reportedly included trips to New York and the Virgin Islands.
Acosta made his deal with Epstein and his attorneys in 2008. The Miami Herald’s expose did not appear until ten years later.
The question now is what can be done about it.
One obvious thing would be to remove Acosta from his cabinet position — a job that gives him authority to pursue human trafficking cases. President Trump apparently is not inclined to do so. He seems convinced that Acosta is doing a good job, Acosta’s studious refusal to reverse the left-wing policies of the Obama administration, notwithstanding.
Trump frequently lumps Acosta together with Alex Azar, his excellent Secretary of HHS, calling them his “two Alexs.” Is it to much to ask of this president that he distinguish between two cabinet members whose first name is Alex and whose ethnic-sounding second name starts with an A?
What else might be done? Overturning the plea deal seems out of the question, and I don’t advocate trying to do so.
Might not the Justice Department at least investigate the deal? That doesn’t seem to be in the cards either, at least not without an act of Congress.
In a letter to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Michael Horowitz, the DOJ’s inspector general, said he is unable to investigate the circumstances surrounding a 2008 plea deal due to statutory limitations. Horowitz agreed that there are “important questions” about the resolution of the Epstein case, but explained that allegations of misconduct relating to Justice Department attorneys’ handling of litigation or legal decisions falls outside his purview.
Over the past 30 years, my three predecessors as DOJ Inspector General and I have objected to this limitation on the OIG’s jurisdiction because it shields prosecutorial misconduct from review by a statutorily independent OIG.
All may not be lost, though. Earlier this month, the House passed a bill, without opposition, that would remove the limitation on the inspector general’s jurisdiction to investigate prosecutorial misconduct.
Now the ball is in the Senate’s court. Will enough Senate Republicans join with Democrats to enable Horowitz to investigate the Epstein-Acosta deal?
Sen. Ben Sasse has expressed support for the proposed change. I’m hoping other GOP Senators will join Sasse. Loyalty to President Trump should not stand in the way of an overdue reform to promote the interests of justice. Nor has Acosta shown any loyalty to the conservative agenda the Trump would be implementing if only Andy Puzder, the president’s first choice for Secretary of Labor, had been confirmable.