Labor Secretary Acosta's press conference is about to begin. I'll be following along remotely.
For now, my scene-setter and developing story, for @CourthouseNews https://www.courthousenews.com/new-epstein-accuser-goes-to-court-as-acosta-plays-defense/ …
Acosta: "Let me start by reiterating that I'm pleased that the New York prosecution is going forward."
Citing new evidence, Acosta says: "His acts are despicable and the New York prosecution affords an opportunity to more fully bring Jeffrey Epstein to justice."
"Facts are important, and facts are being overlooked," Acosta claims.
He says that the state attorney's office deal was worse, in that it would have let Epstein walk free. Then, the U.S. Attorney's office jumped in, he says.
As @jkbjournalist noted, Acosta is downplaying what evidence they had.
Acosta says that victims were scared to testify and backed out, reading from affidavits from law enforcement officials at the time.
"These cases... are hard," he added.
"This case, people have said, was unusual, and it was. It was complicated by the fact that it started as a state investigation."
Acosta, in short: Blame Florida.
"Today, we know a lot more about trauma affects victims' testimony," he notes.
"I have viewed the victim interviews. They are hard to watch.... I wanted to help them. That is why we intervened."
No assertion yet on why he did not inform them, per his legal obligation.
First question asks Acosta's relationship with the president, which Acosta says is "outstanding."
Second question: "Do you owe [victims] an apology [for not notifying them]?"
Acosta dances around it by calling it a "difficult decision."
If it went to trial, he said: "Talking about this would allow him to make the argument at trial that their testimony was compromised."
He doesn't say whether he owes them an apology, or address his legal obligation.
Another question: Why not a stronger charge? (Unstated: Epstein was charged with prostitution offenses.)
He says it was a question of avoiding "rolling the dice" at trial.
Question of whether he has regrets.
"No regrets is a very hard question," Acosta says.
"We expect a lot more transparency today," he continues. "As you watch these victim interviews, it's very obvious that the victims feel this was not a sufficient outcome."
Question notes Acosta currently heads an agency that deals with human trafficking, and notes the Labor Department stopped issuing certain visas to victims of human trafficking.
Acosta claims it's a "mischaracterization."
Reporter asks about Acosta's meeting with opposing counsel at a Marriott hotel, as reported by the Miami Herald.
Acosta claims that the meeting happened after the deal was struck.
Asked about the deal violating CVRA, Acosta said that it complied with department policy.
Acosta is truly defending everything to the hilt, not giving an inch about any aspect of his deal.
Q: Would you make this same agreement today?
A: With "knowledge and hindsight," Acosta said: "We live in a very different world."
Not asked yet: Why did you immunize all of Epstein's accused co-conspirators from prosecution?
Finally, someone asks two excellent questions: Did you consider Epstein's victims to be prostitutes and why did you immunize the co-conspirators?
Acosta replies "no" the victims "were not prostitutes, they were victims." He claims the work-release was not what they bargained for or what they expected--but those were the state charges and work-release was state law.
Blame Florida, again.
Acosta danced around the immunization question, vaguely alluding to scoring a conviction, casting it as the "safe play" versus the "big score."
Telemundo reporter asks for the same statement en español.
Acosta: "Las víctimas han sufrido mucho," su decisión fue "muy difícil."
Acosta on Epstein: "He's a bad man, and he needs to be put away."
Question asks whether Epstein was an intelligence asset of some sort: "I would hesitate to take this reporting as fact... I can't address it directly because of our guidelines."
NYT reporter asks about possibility of Trump replacing him.
Acosta: "I serve at the pleasure of the president," adding that he'd accept any decision Trump makes.
Q: Would you agree to meet with the victims, per their requests?
A: "That's an interesting question," which he does not answer, citing pending litigation.
Waxing philosophical, he says he has an "open-door policy," and commends "transparency," in the abstract.
A couple observations:
1) Acosta took a large number of questions and extended the Q&A past their expected endpoint multiple times. Ultimately, he showed a talent for fielding them and replying in ways that avoided direct answers.
No apology, no apparent regrets.
"Alex Acosta blamed Florida. He blamed how trauma distorts the memories of the victims of sexual assault. He blamed a pre-#MeToo society that viewed women accusing powerful men of sexual assault with a jaundiced eye."
Story update, @CourthouseNews. https://www.courthousenews.com/new-epstein-accuser-goes-to-court-as-acosta-plays-defense/ …
Florida responds to Acosta’s blame game.
You can follow @KlasfeldReports.
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