House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to resign over the “unconscionable agreement” he made in 2007 to allow billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein to escape federal charges of sex trafficking minors, a deal “kept secret from courageous, young victims preventing them from seeking justice.” But, as Pelosi noted in her tweet, Donald Trump knew about this when he appointed Acosta—and, while the renewed attention thanks to federal charges finally being filed against Epstein is not strengthening Acosta’s position, that’s not the only reason his job is in danger.
If Trump forces Acosta out, it will be as much or more because he’s not anti-worker enough. Bloomberg reports that “Corporate lobbyists and some White House officials have grown frustrated that Acosta hasn’t moved fast enough on deregulation and other business-friendly initiatives.” Specifically, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney is frustrated that Acosta isn’t moving more quickly to undo Obama-era workplace protections.
So Epstein could be a convenient excuse for Trump to get rid of a guy for the sin of not being enough of an extremist—after all, Trump sure doesn’t have anything but a public relations problem with Epstein. Not only did he appoint Acosta knowing about the non-prosecution deal that allowed Epstein to serve just 13 months in a county jail, with 12 hours a day of “work release,” but Trump has his own history with Epstein.
Epstein has, of course, joined the long list of people Trump denies having ever really known—along with many of Trump’s former campaign officials—but in 2002, Trump said that “I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy.” And Trump knew just who Epstein was: “He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.” While Trump might argue, in his own defense, that he’ll say he knows anyone in order to get quoted in a magazine story, The Washington Post reports that, in addition to that quote and pictures of the two men together from 1997 and 2000, “Epstein’s voluminous personal address book—leaked by an Epstein employee in 2009—contained 14 phone numbers for Trump, his wife, Melania, and members of his staff, according to media reports.”
Trump can try to kill two birds with one stone by dumping Acosta—and no question Acosta’s handling of Epstein’s case is disqualifying, even if his departure will leave U.S. workers even worse off than they already are under Trump—but he can’t send his own Epstein ties into the memory hole.
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