Pelosi calls on Labor Secretary Acosta to resign over Epstein deal

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By Allan Smith  with NBC News Politics
Image: Nancy Pelosi
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks at the Federal Building in San Francisco on July 8, 2019.   -   Copyright  Samantha Maldonado AP

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling on Labor Secretary Alex Acosta to resign because of his role as then-U.S. attorney in securing a plea deal that was criticized as lenient with politically connected sex offender Jeffrey Epstein more than 10 years ago.

".@SecretaryAcosta must step down," Pelosi tweeted Monday night, the latest Democrat to demand he quit. "As US Attorney, he engaged in an unconscionable agreement w/Jeffrey Epstein kept secret from courageous, young victims preventing them from seeking justice. This was known by @POTUS when he appointed him to the cabinet."

Acosta served as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida at the time. His office reached a non-prosecution deal in 2008 with Epstein, a rich financier, to halt a federal sex abuse investigation involving dozens of teenage girls in return for him pleading guilty to state charges that allowed him to dodge more serious charges by federal authorities and a potential life sentence.

Instead, Epstein pleaded guilty to state charges of procuring a person under 18 for prostitution and felony solicitation of prostitution, which required him to register as a sex offender and serve about a year in jail, most of it in work release.

Acosta's office said he is not considering stepping down. The White House has not responded to requests for comment.

Acosta has previously defended the Epstein deal, telling a House Appropriations subcommittee in April that Epstein had to go to jail as part of the agreement.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and other Democrats also have said Acosta must go.

This week, Epstein was arrested and charged in the Southern District of New York with sex trafficking girls as young as 14. He has pleaded not guilty.

In February, a federal judge ruled that the Florida prosecutors led by Acosta had violated federal law by failing to notify the accusers of the agreement.

But the Justice Department filed court papers last month that contend Epstein's plea deal cannot be legally challenged because he has complied with its terms. The accusers have until Monday to respond to the federal filing.