WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday left open the possibility that he might fire Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta over his handling of a sex trafficking case involving billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, though he also praised Acosta's Cabinet work.
Speaking to reporters, Trump said he feels "very badly" for Acosta and praised him as "very good" at his job.
"If you go back and look at everybody else's decisions, whether it's a U.S. attorney, or an assistant U.S. attorney or a judge, if you go back 12 or 15 years ago or 20 years ago and look at their past decisions, I would think you would probably find that they would wish they'd maybe did it a different way," said Trump. When Acosta was a U.S. attorney in Florida in 2007, he struck a plea deal with Epstein that many are now calling too lenient. Trump on Tuesday left open the possibility that he could fire Acosta.
"The rest of it, we'll have to look at it very carefully," Trump said in response to a question from a reporter.
Epstein, who has ties to Trump and former President Bill Clinton, was arrested Saturday and charged in a Manhattan federal court on Monday. The indictment alleges that he "sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes" in New York City and Palm Beach, Florida.
Palm Beach also is home to Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, which the president visits frequently during the winter months. Trump said he hasn't talked to Epstein in 15 years.
A parade of Democrats called for Acosta's resignation this week.
Acosta also weighed in on the Epstein charges for the first time, saying in a series of tweets that new evidence emerging in New York "offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him to justice." He said Epstein's actions were "horrific" and expressed pleasure that prosecutors in New York were presenting a new case.
He made no mention of the calls for him to step down.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.