— Tina Kim (@TinaKimCNN) July 9, 2019
this post has updates below including news of Ghislaine Maxwell’s arrest // header image via DonkeyHotey on Flickr
BREAKING: Secretary Acosta has resigned, effective in 7 days (see update below)
Why is @realDonaldTrump Alexander Acosta resigning? The free press.
Thank you to the mainstream press for continuing to investigate misconduct by Trump officials. https://t.co/N5mRdaP6TX
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) July 12, 2019
ORIGINAL POST: I’ve been working sources for my post on Alexander Acosta, current Secretary of Labor for the past few days. While writing/researching we just got word that Acosta will make public comments soon, on or around 2:30 pm. I’ll update this post with his comments.
Investigating a ‘Sweetheart Deal’
Meantime, my investigation has uncovered a few interesting factoids about Acosta’s work as U.S. attorney for the Southern District, where he was appointed when “sweetheart deal” was granted to longtime Trump pal Jeffrey Epstein in Florida. Epstein was permitted to plead to state charges, with considerably more-lenient terms, under Acosta’s direction.
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.
— Secretary Acosta (@SecretaryAcosta) July 9, 2019
So the questions are: what is the provenance of this deal, and was Acosta specifically granted power to permit Epstein to plead to lesser state charges?
“Acosta has never been a member of The Florida Bar,” says Francine Andia Walker, director of communications. “Federal rules generally authorize an attorney licensed in any state to work for any U.S. Attorney’s office.”
In that quote “generally” feels a bit wishy-washy and, like with many cases in Trump land, laws and rules need to be tightened to prevent these things in the future. But hey I’m old-fashioned.
I have a query in to the Florida Bar Association, South Florida Chapter, with further questions about whether a non-state-licensed attorney would be permitted to make this deal based on rules. Even thought federal attorneys are “generally” permitted to work in any capacity this situation is *not* normal. I’ll update if/when I hear back.
Acosta was appointed dean of Florida International University College in of Law in 2009 even though he wasn’t licensed by the state to practice law; will be reporting this further with later updates
Walker also further explained Florida’s attorney-accreditation system whereby “board certifications are voluntary” and “licensure is done by the Florida Supreme Court, not the state.” I don’t find that to be awfully reassuring, either.
Has Acosta been referred for disciplinary action?
I’ve since learned that, in fact, Acosta is a member of the D.C. Bar in Washington. Per its website to which I was directed, Acosta was admitted to D.C. Bar in July 1996 and is current/in “good standing.” But I wanted to extrapolate further and find out—even if I was going to get “no comments”—if Acosta is under investigation by D.C. Bar’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
Speaking by phone only on background, my source told me they can’t confirm or deny existing referrals for disciplinary action and that privilege would have to be waived by the person in question, in this case Acosta. Whether or not complaints against Acosta exist, and are actionable, this specific D.C. office of Disciplinary Counsel would handle them.
Labor secretary wants to slash funding to anti-sex trafficking agency by 80% https://t.co/PMhoOouPRB
— GStuedler🇺🇸🇧🇧 (@gstuedler) July 10, 2019
Even if Acosta resigns today: “it doesn’t mean if we had an investigation we would stop it because he’s no longer part of the Trump cabinet,” the source told me. “We would go forward or not based on the evidence.”
My source added that adjudicating bar-related offenses differ state-by-state; D.C.’s process, they said, is more of a hybrid civil/criminal process. “We don’t have the ability to depose people, so it’s a hybrid—neither criminal nor civil.” Regardless, “clear and convincing evidence” would guide them to their conclusions, the source added.
In other words, even if Acosta—like Tom Price, Ryan Zinke, Mike Flynn, KT McFarland and so many others prior—flees the TrumpTanic™ he’d still be on the hook for Epstein’s sweetheart deal.
DEVELOPING—more to come. 🔵
UPDATE (11 July 2019)—Acosta’s 53-min. presser yesterday may have pleased his boss given all the grotesque lying he did, but in the real world Acosta’s problems are just beginning. Twitter’s down right now so I can’t import my live-tweets but suffice to say he threw a great many folks under the bus, including of course Epstein’s victims and Palm Beach County prosecutor at the time Barry Krischer. I urge you to read Barb McQuade’s recap of Acosta’s shitshow press conference, which was 100% designed to placate colicky toddler Donald Trump—and no one else.
Here's Alexander Acosta gaslighting by trying to make it sound like 2007 was an eternity ago.
"Today's world does not allow some of the victim-shaming that could take place at trial 12 years ago."
(Christine Blasey Ford & E. Jean Carroll would likely disagree.) pic.twitter.com/od3pUWEJpk
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 10, 2019
UPDATE 2 (12 July 2019)—Acosta has resigned his Secretary of Labor post, effective in 7 days. As my friend Glenn Kirshner writes on twitter Acosta is not off the hook for violating victims’ due process. In my view as a layperson he multiplied his own legal peril exponentially by gaslighting and transferring blame to Florida prosecutor at the time Barry Krischer; that was a fully self-inflicted wound that will likely come back to haunt him in the future. Remember, public statements are admissible as evidence in court proceedings, if it ever got to that point. As I reported above, D.C. Bar couldn’t confirm or deny existence of complaints against Acosta but if they do exist they’ll still be investigated based on their process. I’ll update as events warrant.
The available evidence makes it clear that Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta should be investigated for criminally conspiring to violate the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, (CVRA) 18 US Code Section 3771. Here’s why. . .
— Glenn Kirschner (@glennkirschner2) July 10, 2019
UPDATE 3 (12 July 2019)—With Acosta’s departure, I did a little digging on Donald’s choice for acting secretary of labor, Patrick Pizzella. Turns out Mr. Pizzella is a fan of slave labor and Jack Abramoff—in no particular order.
UPDATE 4 (12 July 2019)—Stick a pin here: why did AG* William Barr recuse, then swiftly unrecuse, from the Epstein investigation? There is chatter out there that Donald himself—longtime Epstein pal and alleged pedophile in his own right—could be implicated in this mushrooming sex-trafficking investigation, along with Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew. I don’t see anyone else asking this question and I think it’s completely fair to wonder.
UPDATE 5 (22 July 2020)—Now that longtime Epstein enabler and gal pal Ghislaine Maxwell is under arrest we need to look back at Alex Acosta’s “sweetheart deal” in 2008 (for which he was forced to resign from donald’s criminal regime). The only reason why Maxwell was able to avoid justice is because Epstein was basically set free via Acosta’s actions. Someday when adults are back in charge of DOJ we will need a full accounting of what happened. For now, though, stick a pin here because you’ve not heard the last of Acosta in this widening sex-trafficking scandal. donald “wishing her well” is either a fake platitude or a signal to one of his goons to off her in prison so she doesn’t squeal—the same fate that befell Epstein. Watch this space.
Will Pollock is a perpetually crabby New York City escapee based in Midtown Atlanta. He’s a freelance multimedia journalist, media analyst and author of two books (award-wining Pizza for Good & Leaving Triscuit), with more on the way.
In 2001, Will earned his Masters from The Medill School of Journalism, graduating with highest honors from the magazine sequence. As permanent member of Journalism’s National Honors Society, he’s been active in monitoring, writing and blogging about media and journalism ever since he graduated.
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