House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings wants Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to testify at a hearing later in the month on his handling more than a decade ago of a plea deal for multi-millionaire Jeffrey Epstein who now faces new charges in New York for human trafficking.
The request comes as top congressional Democrats have called for Acosta to resign over the matter after federal prosecutors unsealed a criminal indictment on Monday charging Epstein with having allegedly operated a sex trafficking ring in which he sexually abused dozens of underage girls.
In a letter to Acosta on Wednesday, Cummings and Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, who chairs the panel’s subcommittee on civil rights and liberties, invite the labor secretary to testify in a hearing on July 23.
The letter states that “the hearing will examine your actions as US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida in authorizing a non-prosecution agreement for Jeffrey Epstein, as well as the finding by a federal court that you violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act by keeping this non-prosecution agreement secret from the victims of Mr. Epstein’s crimes.”
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, along with a host of other congressional Democrats, have called for Acosta’s resignation this week. Congressional Republicans have not joined in the calls, however, and the labor secretary has pushed back.
“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 wrote in a series of tweets on Tuesday. “With the evidence available more than a decade ago, federal prosecutors insisted that Epstein go to jail, register as a sex offender and put the world on notice that he was a sexual predator.”
In addition to asking Acosta to testify, Cummings and a group of other House Democrats sent a separate letter to the Department of Justice requesting a briefing.
“We request that you provide the committee with an update on the status of your investigation of alleged misconduct by Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta during his tenure as United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida,” said the letter, which was addressed to the director and chief counsel at the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
It’s not yet clear, however, how far congressional Democrats are willing to go in efforts to conduct oversight in the matter.
When asked on Tuesday if Congress should investigate Acosta, Pelosi pointed to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue and said, “The President should.”
Asked earlier that day whether House committees should investigate, Pelosi again referenced the President, saying, “I have spoken on the subject. It’s up to the President. … We have a great deal of work to do here for the good of the American people and need to focus on that. It’s up to the President to endorse the integrity of his Cabinet.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.