White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Friday that Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, then serving as a federal prosecutor in Florida, made the “best possible decision and deal” when prosecuting billionaire Jeffrey Epstein in 2008 for abusing dozens of teenage girls.
“We’re looking into the matter. I’m not aware of any changes on that front,” Sanders told reporters when asked if the president had lost confidence in Acosta in the wake of a federal judge’s ruling that Acosta illegally mishandled the case. “My understanding is that’s a very complicated case . . . but that they made the best possible decision and deal they could have gotten at that time.”
U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Marra ruled Thursday that Acosta violated federal law by concealing the plea deal he offered to Epstein from the billionaire’s many victims. The ruling was issued as part of a years-long lawsuit brought by a number of the victims identified only as Jane Does, but did not address what damages, if any, the women are entitled to.
Epstein was sentenced to just 18 months in prison in what the Miami Herald referred to as “the deal of a lifetime” following an extensive investigation, which found that the hedge-fund tycoon may have abused more than 100 underage girls after luring them to his Palm Beach mansion under the guise that they would be well paid to give him massages.
Epstein pled guilty to just two state prostitution charges despite prosecutors’ having identified as many as 36 victims. Acosta also took the unusual step of granting immunity to “any potential co-conspirators” in Epstein’s sex ring who had yet to be identified.
The Herald investigation, published in November, galvanized public support for Epstein’s victims and led a number of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to demand that the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility open an investigation into Acosta’s handling of the case.