Federal prosecutors in NY accused Jeffrey Epstein, the multimillionaire charged with sex trafficking, of possible witness tampering, saying in a court filing Friday he made $350,000 in payments to two possible co-conspirators after a series of newspaper stories alleged he sexually abused dozens of girls.
The arrest set in motion a chain of events that led to the resignation Friday of Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who was the USA attorney in Miami during the earlier investigation of Epstein.
Acosta came under renewed scrutiny in recent days over his role years ago as a US attorney in Miami, during which time he cut a secret non-prosecution agreement in 2008 with billionaire Jeffrey Epstein.
The deal wasn't just unusual.
The financial records obtained by prosecutors from an unnamed institution also provided one of the first hints to Epstein's true wealth.
Officials have credited investigative journalism with helping reignite the investigation into Epstein, who resolved the early 2000s sex crimes investigation by pleading guilty to just two state charges and spending about 13 months in jail, with work release privileges. They said Epstein recently paid $100,000 to one individual "named as a possible co-conspirator" in a non-prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors in Florida 12 years ago. This is not normal; it is astounding.
The case is being brought more than a decade after Epstein secretly cut a deal with prosecutors to dispose of almost identical allegations.
"Alex called me this morning and wanted to see me", Trump told reporters.
Trump announced the resignation with Acosta by his side at the White House as the president left on a trip to the the U.S. state of Wisconsin.
"My point here today is we have an unbelievable economy, and the focus needs to be on the economy", he said.
"Mr. Acosta now joins the sprawling parade of President Trump's chosen advisors who have left the administration under clouds of scandal and corruption, leaving rudderless and discouraged agencies in their wake".
Both Trump and former president Bill Clinton were acquainted with Epstein, but have taken pains after the Herald reporting to distance themselves from the hedge fund manager.
In a 2002 profile in New York Magazine, Mr Trump referred to Epstein as a "terrific guy". Whether or not all of those people were engaged in the disgusting violation of fundamental human rights this monster was engaged in, we can't say. Acosta had argued that it was the only way to prevent an even lighter sentence, saying he would make the same decision again faced with the same situation.
"We now have 12 years of knowledge and hindsight and we live in a very different world". The letter also said that since the indictment was unsealed on Monday, "several" more women have come forward alleging that they were victims of Epstein when they were minors.
Acosta was confirmed in the Senate in early 2017 by a 60-38 vote, with all Republicans on board, along with eight Democrats and one independent. Epstein's case and Acosta's role in the plea deal had come under scrutiny earlier this year after an investigation by the Miami Herald.
Acosta gave a press conference Wednesday defending his 2008 actions, though a judge ruled in February that Acosta violated the law by neglecting to tell Epstein's victims about the deal and the Justice Department has opened an investigation into Acosta's handling of the case.
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