Bush admin official explains why Republicans are painfully silent about Alex Acosta’s plea deal with Jeffrey Epstein
R. Alexander Acosta, Labor Secretary (CSPAN/Screenshot)

Democrats on Capitol Hill have been demanding the resignation of Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta for the lenient plea deal he once gave billionaire financier and registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who pled “not guilty” this week to new sex trafficking and conspiracy charges. Conservatives, meanwhile, have mostly remained silent, but a major exception is former GOP insider and anti-Trump conservative Peter Wehner — who explained to MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace why he believes Republicans are showing blatant “hypocrisy” where Acosta is concerned.

During an MSNBC appearance on Tuesday, Wehner told Wallace — another anti-Trump conservative — “Remember the context of this: Secretary Acosta is accused of not prosecuting a sexual predator. The president is a sexual predator.” And he went on to say that President Donald Trump was “credibly accused of rape” last month.

The person who accused Trump of sexual assault last month was veteran journalist and long-time Elle Magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll, who alleges that Trump sexually assaulted her in a Manhattan department store, Bergdorf Goodman, in the 1990s. Trump has flatly denied Carroll’s allegation.

Wehner has a long history with the GOP. He was a senior White House aide under President George W. Bush and before that, served in the administrations of President Ronald Reagan and President George H.W. Bush. And Wehner recalled, “Once upon a time, this was a party that appointed itself as a party of family values.”

In 2008, Epstein was accused of sexually abusing under-age girls in his mansion in Palm Beach, Florida — and he was facing the possibility of being sentenced to life in prison. But Epstein worked out a plea deal with Acosta, who was a prosecutor at the time. And he was sentenced to only 13 months of incarceration, which was a light slap on the wrist in light of the severity of the charges.

Wehner, speaking to Wallace, denounced GOP silence on Acosta as “a joke and hypocrisy and just an extraordinary offense” — adding, “I mean, these are young girls who are being sexually assaulted, and they don’t care. And they’re siding with rich, powerful men against these kids, and the fact that they’re not blinking twice is such an indictment.”

Wehner is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a right-wing think tank. But he hasn’t been shy about criticizing Trump or expressing vehement disdain for Republicans who reflexively excuse his behavior. In a February piece for The Atlantic, Wehner cited Trumpism as the reason he decided to leave the GOP after many years.

Like Wehner, Wallace was part of the George W. Bush Administration: the MSNBC host served as White House communications director under Bush and went on to serve as a senior advisor to the late Arizona Sen. John McCain when he ran for president against Democratic nominee Barack Obama in 2008. And Wallace joined Wehner in criticizing the response of Republican lawmakers to Acosta, calling it a “joke.”