Why is Steve Daines silent about the fact that the current Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, while U.S. Attorney, gave a sweetheart deal to billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, likely allowing him to continue his abuse of young women?
Once again, while some members of the Republican caucus in the Senate are demonstrating the courage to stand with victims of sexual abuse, Montana’s Senator Daines is letting his silence speak for the perpetrator, part of a troubling pattern Daines has demonstrated of always taking the side of those who commit sexual assault.
Republican Senator Ben Sasse lays out just how inappropriate Acosta’s malfeasance was:
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, set the tone in a Fox News interview Monday in which he called Epstein’s sentence “pathetic.”
“The guy victimized dozens, probably scores, of little girls and the sentence he got was pathetic. And every mom and dad in America — frankly, not just moms and dads, but anybody with a heart should be heartbroken by what happened to those girls, to those victims but also with the absurdity of a sentence that short.”
Republican Senator Susan Collins criticized Acosta’s failure to notify victims about the deal as the law required:
“The allegations are so horrendous and the conduct so reprehensible that standard practice would be that the victims would be notified of a plea agreement, so that, to me, is a big question,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).
Collins also said the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility “should take a look at the case and whether or not it was properly handled.”
And it just keeps getting worse for Acosta and for survivors of sex trafficking, The Guardian is reporting that Acosta plans to slash the budget for the agency he oversees that combats child sex trafficking by 80%:
Acosta’s plan to slash funding of a critical federal agency in the fight against the sexual exploitation of children is contained in his financial plans for the Department of Labor for fiscal year 2020. In it, he proposes decimating the resources of a section of his own department known as the International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB).
The bureau’s budget would fall from $68m last year to just $18.5m. The proposed reduction is so drastic that experts say it would effectively kill off many federal efforts to curb sex trafficking and put the lives of large numbers of children at risk.
The most charitable reading of Acosta’s actions when he gave Epstein the sweetheart deal a decade ago is that he was utterly incompetent, but it seems far more likely that Acosta acted as those in the American justice system so often do, deferring to someone because of his wealth and status. He protected a serial predator of young girls because he was wealthy and connected, and his failure to do his job almost certainly ensured that more young women were assaulted, abused, and coerced.
And Steve Daines? Silent.
Is he using the power of his position in the Senate to demand that Acosta answer questions about his failure to secure a stronger deal? No.
Challenging his decision to slash funding to fight child sex trafficking? Not one word.
And this is part of a troubling pattern for Daines. He was one of the very last Republicans in the Senate to abandon Alabama’s Roy Moore despite repeated, credible allegations that Moore had abused young women. In a crowded field of male Senators who attacked Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Daines stood out for his (and his staff’s) willingness to attack Blasey Ford and call her a liar.
And let’s not forget that Daines offers unqualified support for President Trump, even though 24 women have accused the President of sexual misconduct ranging from harassment to rape and we all heard the President admit to assaulting women on that infamous October ’16 audio.
Maybe Senator Daines has a reason that he’s so eager to protect those who are accused of sexual assault and remain silent about those who permitted it to continue; maybe he just believes that women repeatedly lie about sexual assault; maybe he thinks that political gamesmanship is more important than sending a strong message that we must reject sexual assault.
No matter the reason, he owes us an explanation, and it’s up to the press to demand that he provide one.