U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 9, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump backed Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta on Tuesday but said he would look into how Acosta handled financier Jeffrey Epstein’s case during his tenure as a U.S. prosecutor in Florida.
“I can tell you that for two and a half years, he’s been just an excellent secretary of labor. He’s done a fantastic job,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday called for the resignation of Acosta, whose plea deal with Epstein in 2008 over sexual crimes has now drawn renewed scrutiny.
The agreement allowed Epstein to plea to a lesser offense. He served 13 months in a county jail in Florida with leave during the day and was required to register as a sex offender.
Trump said he felt badly for Acosta
“I do hear that there were a lot of people involved in that decision, not just him,” he said. “The rest of it, we’ll have to look at. We’ll have to look at it very carefully. But you’re talking about a long time ago.”
Reporting by Roberta Rampton; writing by Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Susan Thomas