Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday gave Labor Secretary Alex Acosta a full endorsement Wednesday, joining President Trump with his public support of the cabinet official.
“We were pleased to see Secretary Acosta step forward and explain the basis of the plea agreement in 2008,” Mr. Pence told reporters hours after Mr. Acosta addressed his role more than a decade ago in securing a lenient plea deal that allowed billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein to serve 13-months in a state prison.
During his press conference, Mr. Acosta said Mr. Epstein would have gone free had his office not intervened. He said the plea agreement, which called for a 13-month jail sentence, restitution and requiring Mr. Epstein to register as a sex offender was the best outcome he could get based on the evidence.
That explanation appeared to satisfy Mr. Pence.
“We welcome Secretary Acosta’s explanation to the country today about the basis of the plea agreement eight years ago,” he said. “A plea agreement that resulted in a guilty plea, jail time and restitution.”
The 2008 plea agreement has come under intense scrutiny since New York prosecutors this week lodged child sex trafficking charges against Mr. Epstein. Calls for Mr. Acosta’s resignation have swelled since Mr. Epstein pleaded not guilty on Monday.
The vice president said administration welcomes the new prosecution, saying there should “no tolerance” of child sexual abuse.
“The crime he has been alleged of now are horrific,” Mr. Pence said.
On Tuesday, Mr. Trump also gave his labor secretary a thumbs up, saying he was doing a good job and that he “felt very badly” about the situation.
• Jeff Mordock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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