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On Thursday, a federal judge ruled that Trump’s secretary of labor, Alex Acosta, violated the law when he facilitated a lenient plea deal for a serial child sexual predator. But as of now, Trump isn’t planning to fire Acosta. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump is “looking into” the matter and that is “not aware of any changes” in Trump’s confidence in Acosta.

The ruling stems from a 2007 plea deal that Acosta, then a U.S. attorney, struck with Jeffrey Epstein, a Florida billionaire accused of molesting — and in at least one case, raping — more than 80 young women and underage girls. The case received renewed attention after a blockbuster investigation by the Miami Herald late last year uncovered the extent to which Acosta bent over backward to go easy on a child molester.

Under the terms of the deal Acosta negotiated, Epstein served only 13 months in county jail on two reduced charges of soliciting prostitution.

Now, as head of the Labor Department, Acosta is in charge of U.S. policy regarding sex trafficking.

District Judge Kenneth A. Marra ruled Acosta violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, a law giving victims the right to know about significant events in their cases. While Acosta and his team spent hours and hours working on the plea deal with Epstein, he kept Epstein’s victims in the dark. According to the judge, Acosta and his fellow prosecutors tried “to conceal the existence” of the plea deal “and mislead the victims to believe that federal prosecution was still a possibility.”

While the case and allegations are horrific, Trump has long known Epstein and had nothing but wonderful things to say about him in the past.

In 2002, Trump called Epstein “terrific guy,” and “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 added.

Trump’s refusal to fire Acosta for being lenient on a child rapist fits a disturbing pattern regarding Trump’s view of women survivors of sexual abuse. Trump enthusiastically embraced Roy Moore in a 2017 Senate race, even after Moore was credibly accused of being a child predator. The following year, Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, and defended him after credible allegations surfaced that he once attempted to rape someone at a high school party.

Then again, Trump himself bragged about being a serial sexual predator, laughing about “grabbing women by the pussy” and getting away with it.

After the Miami Herald investigation, more than a dozen lawmakers sent a letter to the Department of Justice demanding an investigation into the plea deal. Earlier this month, the department opened an investigation, but it will be limited in scope and led by the Office of Professional Responsibility. The Washington Post notes that the investigation may drag on so long that Alex Acosta may not be in government service by the time it concludes.

But given Trump’s reluctance to stand up for the victims of sexual exploitation, it looks like Acosta could stay in place for quite some time.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

Targeting Battleground States

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Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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