Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Observations on the Epstein-Acosta human trafficking scandal

I conflate these two threads, Epstein’s network of underage girls, and now Labor Secretary Acosta’s dereliction of duty, purposefully.

Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein was apprehended this last week as federal officers entered his Manhattan apartment and seized a“trove” of documents. Particularly, reports the NY Times, Nude Photos of Girls Seized From Jeffrey Epstein Mansion The prosecutors are seeking to detain the financier while he awaits trial on sexual trafficking charges, saying he is a flight risk. Of course. This guy has planes and places.

A parallel report appeared in The Daily Beast: Indictment Alleges Jeffrey Epstein Created ‘Vast Network’ of Underage Sex Victims as Young as 14. The FBI found nude photos of girls when it raided his Manhattan mansion, which the feds now want to seize.

But there is more to the story. Who knew about Epstein and his network that snared young girls? The network that fed Epstein’s appetites – and those of who else? How did Epstein walk in the first place? How did the Florida prosecutor get to be Trump’s Labor Secretary - who now is reducing funding for trafficking investigations?

Here’s a story from Judd Legum (popular.info) in a subscriber’s post.

The vote Republican Senators want you to forget

Jeffrey Epstein appeared in federal court in New York on Monday and pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking. The charges carry sentences of up to 45 years, effectively a life sentence for the 66-year-old Epstein.

After his arrest, law enforcement searched Epstein’s palatial Manhattan townhouse. According to prosecutors, they found hundreds of naked pictures of underage girls, some of which were found in a locked safe. They also found numerous compact disks with handwritten labels: “Young [Name] + [Name],” “Misc nude 1,” and “Girls pics nude.”

These materials suggest that Epstein was unrepentant and unreformed. But he was on the street thanks to the sweetheart deal he struck with then-U.S. attorney Alex Acosta. Despite dozens of minors alleging they were sexually abused by Epstein, Acosta agreed to let Epstein plea to state solicitation of prostitution charges. Acosta then broke the law by failing to inform victims of the plea deal. Epstein served about a year in jail but most of his time was spent on “work release” in a nearby luxury office building.

On Twitter, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) blasted Epstein, calling his conduct “despicable.”

Ted Cruz
Fully agree. Epstein’s conduct was despicable, and everyone who participated should be vigorously prosecuted.
Jake Tapper@jaketapper
If there is justice in this world: Every. Last. One of them. https://t.co/3Ede4gg1Ye
July 8th 2019

It’s hard to argue with Cruz’s tweet. But he didn’t mention that he voted to confirm Acosta as Trump’s Secretary of Labor on April 17, 2017, even though Acosta’s involvement in Epstein’s favorable plea deal was well known. As Secretary of Labor, Acosta is responsible for overseeing the nation’s human trafficking laws.

Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) also called out Epstein and specifically criticized his lenient plea deal.

Jeffrey Epstein has evaded justice for too long - this child rapist belongs in prison and should not be allowed to post bail and hurt more girls.

This monster received a pathetically soft sentence last time and his victims deserve nothing less than justice. Justice doesn’t depend on the size of your bank account, this billionaire can’t be let out just because he can cut a bail check. The Justice Department needs to see this through.

Sasse previously called for an investigation of the Justice Department’s conduct in striking the plea bargain with Epstein. (An internal investigation is underway.) But Sasse also voted to confirm Acosta. Overall, Acosta was confirmed 60–38 with every Republican, seven Democrats, and one independent voting in favor.

Yesterday Legum filed this report in a public post, The Rotten Cabinet. Excerpts follow.

Among Epstein’s friends was another billionaire, Donald Trump. In 2002, Trump joked about Epstein’s sexual habits. “I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side,” Trump quipped.

One of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Giuffre, says she was brought into Epstein’s orbit while working at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, where Trump and Epstein have been photographed together.

Asked Sunday about Epstein’s arrest, Trump said, “I don’t know anything about it.”

Julie K. Brown, the Miami Herald reporter who broke open the Epstein story, said she expects “very powerful people” are “sweating a little bit” with Epstein’s arrest.

We don’t know how much, how deep this went, how far-reaching it went in government, but there have been a lot of names that I could see on these message pads [listing clients] on a regular basis as part of the evidence. These message pads where they would call and leave Epstein messages, such as, ‘I’m at this hotel.’ Why do you do that, unless you’re expecting him to send you a girl to visit you at your hotel? So there are probably quite a few important people, powerful people, who are sweating it out right now. We’ll have to wait and see whether Epstein is going to name names.

Brown noted that both Trump and Epstein owned modeling agencies. She said that she suspected Epstein used his modeling agency “to bring in underage girls from overseas.” According to Brown, Epstein is quoted in court documents as saying, “I want to set up my modeling agency the same way Trump set up his modeling agency.” (Brown cautioned that she does not “know what that means.”)

During the 2016 campaign, Trump drew attention to Epstein’s friendship with President Bill Clinton. Trump noted that Clinton visited Epstein on his private Carribean island.

Scriber thinks that Trump’s choice of campaign issues is quite suspect on general grounds (Trump is the man of 10,000 lies) and for connections between Trump’s resort, Trump’s mouth and Epstein.

Flight logs show that Clinton flew on Epstein’s jet at least 26 times between 2001 and 2003. Epstein was a major Democratic donor.

There is no evidence that Clinton or Trump was involved in Epstein’s sexual abuse of minors. Epstein’s plea deal with Acosta secured immunity not only for himself but also his unnamed co-conspirators. Now, all bets are off.

Report: Bill Clinton Flew on Disgraced Donor’s Jet 26 Times. Donald Trump has made ex-president’s personal life a campaign issue and that would be the 2016 campaign. This report from Roll Call was published in May of 2016.

When I first read that I immediately thought of the Clinton Foundation and its Global Initiative. Clinton’s statement concurs with my recall. The Daily Beast reports on Bill Clinton’s statement, I Flew With Jeffrey Epstein but Knew ‘Nothing’ About ‘Terrible Crimes’. The ex-president said he took four trips on Epstein’s plane to Europe, Asia, and Africa.

In a statement issued hours after Epstein was arraigned on a sex-trafficking indictment, Clinton said he took “a total of four trips” with the financier in 2002 and 2003—to Europe, Asia and Africa.

It’s not clear how many flights were involved in each trip or how that number would square with flight logs that reportedly show Clinton on 26 flights on Epstein’s plane between 2001 and 2003. Gawker reported in 2015 that the logs also appear to show Clinton on a 2002 domestic flight between Miami and Westchester County, with Epstein also on board.

In his statement, Clinton said the trips included stops in connection with the Clinton Foundation and that he was accompanied by staff, foundation supporters and Secret Service agents on “every leg of every trip.”

The statement said Clinton made “one brief visit” to Epstein’s apartment in New York—alongside a “staff member and his security detail”—in 2002. The two men also met at Clinton’s Harlem office “around the same time” as the apartment visit, the statement said.

“He‘s not spoken to Epstein in well over a decade, and has never been to Little St. James Island, Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico, or his residence in Florida,” the statement read.

The guy who cut a secret deal with Epstein is still at it …

… according to Catherine Rampell at the Washington Post: Alex Acosta gave a pass to Epstein years ago. He’s still at it as labor secretary.

Before we go on, let me insert a reminder. Acosta as Labor Secretary is a perfect example of X/AntiX. Intentions aside, appointment of the guy who was soft on Epstein before was certain to have a negative affect on Labor’s dealing with human trafficking.

It’s scandalous that more than a decade ago then-U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta gave a sweetheart deal to a known sexual predator.

Even more scandalous? That now as labor secretary, Acosta (among other Trump appointees) is overseeing policies that encourage and enable many more such predators today.

We know about this egregious miscarriage of justice because of a heroic series by the Miami Herald’s Julie K. Brown. Incidentally, Brown began reinvestigating this case just after President Trump nominated Acosta to head the Labor Department — which is on the front lines of, you guessed it, detecting trafficking crimes.

Justice Department human trafficking cases have dropped, from 282 newly initiated prosecutions in fiscal 2017 to 230 in fiscal 2018. Federal protections afforded victims, including those who cooperate with authorities to hold their traffickers accountable, have also frayed.

For years victims of severe forms of trafficking have been able to apply for a special category of visa (T visa) allowing them to remain in the United States for up to four years if they assist in a trafficking investigation. (A similar category of visa, a U visa, exists for victims of other crimes.) The point is to provide more security to victims, whose abusers can keep them in line by threatening retaliation — including by calling ICE.

But now, under Acosta, the wait time for such visas has increased due to bureaucratic delays.

Victims waited an average of nine months in fiscal 2017 before getting a decision, according to Citizenship and Immigration Services. The estimated wait today is 16 to 33½ months.

You can fill in the details in Rampell’s report. The bottom line is this.

"If a person is really caught up in a trafficking web, time is of the essence,” says D. Michael Hancock, who served as the division’s assistant administrator in the Obama administration. “They’re here today, gone tomorrow.”

Acosta’s dereliction of duty in the Epstein case might sound like ancient history. But it also looks an awful lot like the present.

We’ve not heard the last of this one.

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