Jeffrey Epstein: Top Democrats call for US labour secretary to quit

Acosta Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption US Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta

The top Democrats in Congress have called for the US labour secretary to quit over his handling of a 2008 sex crimes case against Jeffrey Epstein.

Secretary Alex Acosta has come under scrutiny for a plea deal he negotiated while a US attorney that resulted in a light sentence for Epstein.

The rich financier was charged with new sex trafficking charges in relation to allegations from the 2000s on Monday.

Senator Chuck Schumer said Mr Acosta should be fired if he does not resign.

“It is now impossible for anyone to have confidence in Secretary Acosta’s ability to lead the Department of Labor,” Mr Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate said during a floor speech on Tuesday.

“We cannot have as one of the leading appointed officials in America someone who has done this, plain and simple.”

Epstein was charged on Monday with allegedly running a “vast network” of underage girls for sex, enticing them to visit his Manhattan and Florida mansions between 2002 and 2005.

He pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy, and will remain in jail until his bail hearing on 11 July.

Who is calling for Acosta to resign?

Senator Schumer’s comments came a day after Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi tweeted after Epstein’s preliminary hearing that Mr Acosta “must step down”.

The California congresswoman said Mr Acosta “engaged in an unconscionable agreement” with Epstein and prevented young victims from “seeking justice”.

Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz are among other Democrats who have called on Mr Acosta to resign.

What was Mr Acosta’s role?

Mr Acosta had been a federal prosecutor in Florida more than a decade ago when he offered Epstein what the Miami Herald called the “deal of a century”.

The deal ended the FBI investigation into whether there were more victims or more people who took part in the alleged scheme.

It allowed him to avoid a potential life sentence, and instead plead guilty to state charges that required him to register as a sex offender.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Epstein’s opulent New York City home was raided over the weekend

He was ordered jailed for 18 months, but was allowed to spend most of each day outside prison as part of work release programme.

During his Senate confirmation hearing for US Secretary of Labor in March 2017, Mr Acosta defended the deal.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A protest group called “Hot Mess” outside the Manhattan courthouse

“At the end of the day, based on the evidence, professionals within a prosecutor’s office decide that a plea – that guarantees that someone goes to jail, that guarantees that someone register generally and that guarantees other outcomes – is a good thing,” he said at the time.

Mr Acosta’s office has said that he has no plans to resign.

Who is Jeffery Epstein?

The New York native taught mathematics and physics at Manhattan’s private Dalton School. He moved into finance in 1976, working as an options trader for investment banking company Bear Stearns. Within four years, he was made a limited partner.

He then went on to found his own financial management firm J Epstein & Co, reportedly managing the assets of clients with more than $1bn (£798m) in net worth.

In 1996, he changed his company’s name to The Financial Trust Co and based it in the US Virgin Islands for tax purposes.

His lavish lifestyle, along with the secrecy surrounding his client list and other details of his business, earned Epstein a reputation as a mysterious moneyman.

Reports of his current wealth vary, with his Virgin Islands-based firm generating no public records.

According to Florida court records, cited by NBC News, Epstein also maintains properties in the US Virgin Islands, Paris and Mexico.

The financier rubbed elbows with many of America’s rich an powerful, including former president Bill Clinton, President Donald Trump and Prince Andrew.

In a 2002 interview, Mr Trump called Epstein a “terrific guy” who he had known for 15 years.

“He’s a lot of fun to be with,” the president said at the time. “It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Epstein has a residence in Palm Beach

On Tuesday, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said that Mr Trump “hasn’t talked to or had contact with Epstein in years”.

On Monday, a spokesman for Mr Clinton said he “knows nothing about the terrible crimes”.


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