U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta was articulate, direct — and utterly unconvincing that he really did all he could almost 12 years ago to punish sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein.
Facing a growing avalanche of questions and calls for his resignation over how he handled Epstein’s (non)prosecution, Miami-raised Acosta held a 53-minute news conference on Wednesday to hold on to his job.
He likely will — for now. We’re sure his boss, President Trump, was pleased for the perverse reason that Acosta never apologized to the young women, who are still looking for justice.
Acosta’s mission was to defend his actions detailed in the Miami Herald series “Perversion of Justice,” published in November. The buzz from reporter Julie K. Brown’s shocking stories was revived by Epstein’s arrest in New Jersey on Saturday by federal agents.
Now, New York’s U.S. attorney will try to do what Acosta failed to do while U.S. attorney in Miami — put Epstein in prison to serve hard time.
Under Acosta’s watch, Epstein walked away with a secret non-prosecution deal. He had lured dozens of underage girls to his waterfront Palm Beach mansion, ultimately to commit sex acts, including rape.
During the charged press conference, Acosta gingerly navigated a minefield. With no apologies and no regrets, he calmly and antiseptically laid out his case, declaring as bogus the idea that he did anything wrong by crafting the secret deal kept from victims.
Acosta followed the Trump playbook: Don’t apologize. Don’t back down. Deflect. Double down. At least he spared us his boss’ bluster.
But his performance filled in some blanks, but did little to quell the questions swirling around his white-glove treatment of Epstein in 2007-2008.
He took responsibility for practically nothing that happened while he was in charge: His career prosecutors did all the wheeling and dealing with Epstein’s attorneys, he said. (But didn’t the buck stop with him?); he had no clue Epstein would be able to leave jail six days a week; one prosecutor tried and tried and tried to contact the victims about the deal — even though, Acosta said, his office was not required to do so by law. (But wasn’t the Crime Victims’ Rights Act enacted in 2004? And what about those emails from Epstein’s lawyers expressing their delight that the young victims would not be kept in the dark?)
At the same time, Acosta portrayed himself as the hero in this sad saga: He swooped in and took the case over from a lackadaisical Palm Beach state attorney. “Simply put, the Palm Beach State Attorney’s office was willing to let Epstein walk free, no jail time, nothing,” Acosta said, throwing those prosecutors, and later his own, under the bus. In response, Barry Krischer, the state attorney in Palm Beach at the time, has said, basically, Nonsense.
Acosta said he ensured Epstein went to jail, ultimately for a whopping 13 months; paid restitution; and registered as a sex offender. In addressing why he swept aside a 53-page indictment against Epstein that could have sent him to prison for a long time, Acosta indicated that the case was not a slam-dunk, that it was, he said, indelicately, “a roll of the dice.” It’s true, there are no guarantees once a judge and jury are involved.
However, why didn’t he — sorry — his career prosecutors take the time to build a stronger case, working with other jurisdictions where Epstein lived and operated?
For a hotshot lawyer, Acosta sure failed to make the case.