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The case of super-rich sex offender Jeffrey Epstein is so disturbing, not only because dozens of women say he victimized them as young girls, and not only because he went almost unpunished, but because his wealth appears to have enabled his criminality for years. While the sources of Epstein’s enormous fortune remain mysterious and may never be fully revealed, it is vital that we learn how he eluded justice until now.

The answer may not lie among the prominent politicians, businessmen, scientists and entertainment figures once cultivated by Epstein. Names like Donald Trump and Bill Clinton always make titillating copy, especially in this sordid tale, and it isn’t surprising that coverage has focused on the two presidents. Perhaps seeking to deflect attention from Trump, Trump’s henchmen, such as political consultant Roger Stone (now under indictment) and former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker (who narrowly escaped indictment), have long tried to use Epstein to smear Clinton. And they have succeeded in spreading urban legends about Clinton and Epstein that bear little resemblance to the known facts.

Epstein loaned his airplane for several Clinton Foundation trips abroad, including at least one to Africa that he joined. He also gave financial assistance to the foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative. Clinton’s spokesman says that whenever they met, Clinton’s staff and Secret Service detail accompanied him. There is no evidence that Clinton knew of Epstein’s crimes or maintained the connection after those offenses were revealed.

As for Trump, he never needed Epstein to exercise his own troubling predilections and fantasies. He owned a modeling agency and a beauty pageant, often bragging how those enterprises gave him access to young girls without clothes. Indeed, he became infamous for intruding on the dressing rooms of the Miss Teen USA pageant. “You know, they’re standing there with no clothes,” he told radio personality Howard Stern in 2005. “And you see these incredible-looking women. And so I sort of get away with things like that.”

Getting away with things like that and much worse is what Trump has done all his life. The question of the moment is how Jeffrey Epstein could have gotten away with raping and trafficking minors — even after the authorities collared him.

At the center of that scandal is neither Clinton nor Trump but a trio of right-wing lawyers from Kirkland & Ellis, one of the nation’s most powerful law and lobbying firms. One of those lawyers is Kenneth W. Starr, who achieved a kind of fame as the independent counsel who pursued Clinton and sought his impeachment. Another was Starr’s partner Jay Lefkowitz, who joined Starr to defend Epstein against the charges he faced in Florida. And then there is Alexander Acosta, their old friend, hired to work at Kirkland & Ellis by Starr before winning appointment as U.S. attorney in Florida — and brokering the plea deal that saved Epstein from life in prison.

Although there is nothing unusual about lawyers negotiating with former colleagues who go on to work for the Justice Department, the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s deal deserve the most searching scrutiny. Undoubtedly, Epstein hired Starr and Lefkowitz to take advantage of their friendship with Acosta — but what remains to be determined is whether they violated ethical boundaries in securing his undeserved freedom.

According to the Miami Herald, Acosta met with Lefkowitz in October 2007 to negotiate a way out of his office’s 53-page draft sex trafficking indictment of Epstein. “Instead of meeting at the prosecutor’s Miami headquarters, the two men … convened at the Marriott in West Palm Beach, about 70 miles away,” where “a deal was struck,” the Herald reported. Epstein would plead guilty to state prostitution charges that freed him after only 13 months and allowed him to leave jail for his office six days a week. Moreover, according to a letter Lefkowitz wrote to Acosta, Acosta agreed not to inform “any of the identified individuals, potential witnesses or potential civil claimants” against Epstein about the sweetheart deal.

Legal ethics experts told The American Lawyer that the circumstances of the breakfast between Lefkowitz and Acosta were “troubling.” New York University law professor Stephen Gillers, a top legal ethicist, said that their meeting outside work hours at a “remote location … will inevitably suggest special treatment in the public’s mind and the appearance that Acosta was trying to hide his conduct.”

As Epstein’s prosecution finally moves forward in New York, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility will investigate why justice was delayed and almost denied. The career attorneys there must stand firm against any interference by Attorney General William Barr, another Kirkland & Ellis partner who has already proved himself untrustworthy. Both he and Trump must back off — and let the truth emerge at last.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

IMAGE: Financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

 

 

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was on CNN Sunday morning with Jake Tapper on his State of the Union show. In part because Democratic reps, like Republican reps, going on Sunday shows is about this coming election, and in part because newscasters are not particularly deep or creative when it comes to talking about politics, Tapper decided to spend a lot of time trying to get Ocasio-Cortez to attack Joe Biden for their differences of political opinions. Newsflash: Ocasio-Cortez, progressive hero, co-author of the ambitious Green New Deal environmental package, and Vice President Joe Biden aren't exactly on the same page as to how to handle climate change.

More to the point, Tapper asked Ocasio-Cortez whether or not she was bothered by the fact that Biden has not said he would outright ban fracking. The move to ban fracking in states across the country has been a seesaw battle of fossil fuel interests fighting against progressive environmentalism and science. Biden's refusal to provide full-throated support for a ban on fracking is disappointing to many of us on the left, but it isn't surprising. Even more importantly, it is below the most essential first step the progressive movement—and the country for that matter—needs to take: getting rid of Donald Trump and getting rid of the Republican majority in the Senate.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez isn't going to be pulled into a pointless argument about fracking with Jake Tapper. Her position is well-reported. So is Biden's. AOC explains very clearly that this is how politics work in a representative democracy.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: It does not bother me. I believe, and I have a very strong position on fracking. You know, the science is very clear, the methane emissions from fracking are up to 64 times more powerful than CO2 emissions and trapping heat in the air, and just from a perspective of stopping climate change there is a scientific consensus. However, that is my view. Vice President Biden has made very clear that he does not agree with the fracking ban and I consider that, you know—it will be a privilege to lobby him should we win the White House but we need to focus on winning the White House first. I am happy to make my case but I also understand he is in disagreement on that issue.

Tapper wonders whether this will depress the youth vote, a vote that AOC represents more closely than Biden. This, of course, is literally the only reason Trump and his surrogates have been bringing up this difference of positions the last couple of weeks. The hope is that it will depress the more progressive vote, while spooking some more conservative-leaning folks in fossil-fuel heavy states like Pennsylvania and Texas. Ocasio-Cortez points out that the youth vote over the past couple of years has not simply become more sophisticated since 2016, it has brought in more progressive candidates and officials into local elections. The turnout in 2018 showed that, and Ocasio-Cortez believes that this election is very clearly a choice between Donald Trump, someone who is a non-starter of a human being, and Joe Biden.

Tapper then plays a clip of Biden telling reporters that he isn't "getting rid of fossil fuels for a long time," but that he's talking about getting rid of the subsidies the fake free-marketeers enjoy in the fossil fuel industry. While Tapper is hoping that this will illustrate how Biden isn't AOC and the youth vote may be turned off by this statement, she sees it as an important step in the right direction.

REP. OCASIO-CORTEZ: When he says we are eliminating subsidies, I think that is, frankly, an important first step. A lot of folks who like to tout themselves as free market capitalists, while still trying to make sure they get as much government subsidy, and propping up of the fossil fuel industry as possible. ... If you do believe in markets, solar and renewable energies are growing less and less expensive by the day in many areas. They are starting to become less expensive than fossil fuels. When you eliminate government subsidies, it becomes more difficult for fossil fuels to compete in the market. I think while the vice president wants to make sure that he is not doing it by government mandate or regulation. I do believe that we are moving towards that future. I believe that there's a way and that we should push that process along but again, the vice president and my disagreements are, I believe, recorded and that is quite all right.