Embattled Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta defends handling of Jeffrey Epstein case — live updates

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Embattled Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta is speaking and taking questions from reporters as he faces intense scrutiny and criticism over his handling of the Florida case against previously convicted sex offender billionaire Jeffrey Epstein when Acosta was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District. 

Acosta has come under scrutiny again after Epstein was arrested on new sex trafficking charges in New York, and investigators say they found inappropriate images of underage girls. Acosta has defended his handling of a 2008 plea deal that gave Epstein only 13 months in a county jail, which he was allowed to leave six days a week for work. 

Acosta called Epstein’s actions as “despicable,” and reiterated his support for the New York case against him moving forward. 

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“Facts are important and facts are being overlooked,” Acosta said, defending the handling of the case. 

Acosta said that without the involvement of his office at the time, Epstein might have gotten away without any punishment. 

The House Oversight Committee has invited Acosta to testify on the plea deal on July 23. Acosta has yet to respond. 

“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 tweeted Wednesday. 

Mr. Trump has defended Acosta’s work as labor secretary, but suggested Tuesday his administration is looking “very carefully” at Acosta’s previous handling of Epstein. The president himself has faced questions over his relationship with Epstein, since the two billionaire used to interact and Epstein used to visit Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club. 

“I knew him like everybody in Palm Beach knew him,” Mr. Trump said of Epstein Tuesday. “People in Palm Beach knew him. He was a fixture in Palm Beach. I had a falling out with him a long time ago. I don’t think I’ve spoken to him for 15 years. I wasn’t a fan — I was not — yeah, a long time ago. I’d say maybe 15 years.”

“I was not a fan of his. That I can tell you,” the president continued. “I was not a fan of his. So, I feel very badly for actually for Secretary Acosta because I’ve known him as being somebody that works so hard and has done such a good job. I feel very badly about that whole situation. But we’re going to be looking at that and looking at it very closely.”

The news conference can be watched above. 

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