WASHINGTON — Nevada lawmakers are calling for embattled Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to step down over his role in prosecuting a sexual abuse scandal more than a decade ago.
“I think Secretary Acosta ought to resign. He was U.S. Attorney and clearly there were some issues in the way that he dealt with the charges brought against [Jeffrey] Epstein, so I do think he ought to resign,” Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) told the Current in a brief interview on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
Acosta, a former federal prosecutor, is facing mounting pressure to step down this week after wealthy hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein was arrested on Saturday and charged with sex trafficking amid accusations that he repeatedly abused underage girls. The accusations were detailed at length in an investigative series published last year by the Miami Herald.
As a U.S. Attorney in Miami, Acosta signed off in 2007 on what critics label a sweetheart deal. The agreement allowed Epstein to avoid federal prosecution and to serve 13 months in jail rather than potentially facing life in prison.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), who voted in favor of Acosta’s confirmation, is also among those now calling for him to leave his post.
“As Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta is responsible for enforcing child labor laws and protecting against human trafficking,” she said in a statement.
“I’ve reviewed the recent indictment against Mr. Epstein and the reporting by the Miami Herald on Secretary Acosta’s role as U.S. Attorney in arranging his plea agreement. Secretary Acosta showed a blatant disregard for the child victims of Mr. Epstein. As a former Attorney General of Nevada who has fought against the sexual exploitation of women and children, it’s clear to me that Secretary Acosta must resign.”
Rosen, a freshman senator, wasn’t yet in the chamber when Acosta was confirmed in 2017.
Nevada Rep. Dina Titus (D-1st) called for the labor secretary’s departure earlier this week.
“Labor Secretary Alex Acosta failed miserably to deliver justice for the underage girls that Jeffrey Epstein abused and exploited,” Titus said. “The Department of Labor is responsible for handling sexual harassment cases and it should never have been overseen by someone who allowed a serial sexual predator to live a life of luxury. Secretary Acosta must resign immediately.”
The Nevadans join top Democrats in both chambers of Congress seeking to push Acosta out of the job.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Acosta chose to let a “serial sex trafficker of children” off easy. “This is not acceptable,” Schumer added on the Senate floor. “We cannot have as one of the leading appointed officials in America someone who has done this, plain and simple.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wrote on Twitter that Acosta “must step down. As US Attorney, he engaged in an unconscionable agreement [with] Jeffrey Epstein kept secret from courageous, young victims preventing them from seeking justice.”
Acosta, meanwhile, is digging in as he attempts to hold on to his title amid increasing pressure to resign. He held a news conference Wednesday in which he boasted of his “outstanding” relationship with President Donald Trump.
“He has very publicly made clear that I’ve got his support. He spoke yesterday in the Oval Office, he and I have spoken,” Acosta said, according to Politico.
The labor secretary has defended his role in Epstein’s prosecution in Florida, and said he welcomed the new charges filed in New York over the weekend.
“The crimes committed by Epstein are horrific, and I am pleased that NY prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence,” Acosta wrote on Twitter.
Trump said he’ll be looking “very closely” at how Acosta handled Epstein’s case, according to the Associated Press. The president also lauded Acosta’s performance on the job and said he felt “very badly” for him.
Although Trump and his aides have recently sought to distance the president from Epstein, Trump told New York Magazine in 2002 that he’d known Epstein for 15 years. “It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side,” Trump was quoted saying.