This phase I/II trial studies the side effects and the best dose of 6,8-bis(benzylthio)octanoic acid (CPI-613) when given together with cytarabine and daunorubicin hydrochloride and to see how well it works in treating older patients with newly diagnosed acute myeloid leukemia. CPI-613 may kill tumor cells by turning off mitochondria (small structures in the cancer cells that are found in the cytoplasm [fluid that surrounds the cell nucleus]). Mitochondria are used by cancer cells to produce energy and are the building blocks needed to make more tumor cells. By shutting off mitochondria, CPI-613 may deprive the cancer cells of energy and other supplies that they need to survive and grow. Drugs used in chemotherapy, such as cytarabine and daunorubicin hydrochloride, work in different ways to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells, by stopping them from dividing, or by stopping them from spreading. Giving CPI-613 together with cytarabine and daunorubicin hydrochloride may kill more cancer cells.