Tuesday Reads: Jeffrey Epstein, Trump, and the Politicized DOJ

Summertime, by Mary Cassatt, 1894

Good Morning!!

The news is full of Jeffrey Epstein stories; I can only hope that this time his victims will finally get justice. Bill Barr has recused himself from the case, but will that keep Trump and the Justice Department he now controls from helping his old pal Epstein?

Trump Has Politicized the DOJ

Chris Smith at Vanity Fair: “It Would Be Ridiculously Naive Not To Be Concerned”:   Trump has Politicized the DOJ. How Long Can the SDNY Hold Out?

Sally Yates tried to warn us. Way back in January 2017, at the end of the very first week of the Trump administration, the new president signed an executive order banning refugees and immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. It was a blatantly political act, following months of Trump campaign promises, and it immediately provoked lawsuits challenging the order as religious discrimination. Yates, the acting attorney general, refused to defend the legally indefensible and was summarily fired. “The president is attempting to dismantle the rule of law, destroy the time-honored independence of the Justice Department, and undermine the career men and women who are devoted to seeking justice day in and day out,” Yates wrote in a New York Times op-ed published in July 2017.

Summer’s Day, by Berthe Morisot

Two Julys later, Trump’s politicization of the DOJ is gaining new momentum and depth. The president’s choice of William Barr as attorney general, and Barr’s entirely predictable attempts to undercut the Mueller report, has been the highest-profile, highest-stakes move to weaponize the department for partisan purposes. But two fresh episodes demonstrate Trump’s relentless push to subvert the DOJ, and how far-reaching the damage will be to the rule of law. First came Sarah Fabian, the senior attorney in the DOJ’s Office of Immigration Litigation, telling a California appeals court that it is “safe and sanitary” for jailed immigrant children to go without soap or toothbrushes and to sleep on concrete floors under bright lights. “I actually felt somewhat sorry for her,” a former federal prosecutor says. “You could hear how half-hearted she was in making the point. But there is no way she would have been making that argument at all without it being approved at the highest levels of DOJ….”

The second, ongoing case echoes the events that got Yates fired. Last week, the Supreme Court ruled against adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, after documents from a now deceased Republican consultant’s hard drives were exposed. The census citizenship question, Thomas Hofeller wrote in an analysis, “would clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats” and “advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.” The DOJ announced it would not be fighting the Supreme Court ruling; the Commerce Department announced it would begin printing the census forms without the question in question.

Trump didn’t care. “We are absolutely moving forward,” he declared on Twitter. Which was news to DOJ lawyers, who found themselves fumbling during an emergency conference call with a Maryland district court judge….

Summer Afternoon in Rockport, by Carl Peters

After a few more days of confusion, the DOJ said on Friday it would demur from pursuing the case, at least until the Commerce Department “adopts a new rationale for including the citizenship question.” That new spin should arrive very soon. Over the weekend Trump and Barr replaced the DOJ legal team handling the case. Whether the prior group of career lawyers balked at returning to the Supreme Court with a new, possibly untenable argument or whether Barr simply wants fresh minds on the case, the shift was all but unprecedented, and is yet another indication that Trump sees the DOJ as a political tool.

Will Trump find a way to force the DOJ to help Epstein? I think he’s likely to try. Smith concludes:

…it’s hard to imagine Trump won’t try to intercede if the famously independent SDNY—currently back in the headlines for charging billionaire Jeffrey Epstein with sex trafficking—moves to indict one or more of the president’s high-ranking associates. (Epstein has pleaded not guilty.) “The fear is that Trump doesn’t even need to say it out loud anymore, because Barr is so protective of him,” Rocah says. “It would be ridiculously naïve not to be concerned.”

Also recommended from Zoe Tillman at Buzzfeed News: Trump Is Bringing In New Lawyers On The Citizenship Question Case And No One Knows What’s Happening.

Epstein stories to check out

Ken White provides a good backgrounder on the case at The Atlantic: Jeffrey Epstein Is Out of Luck.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, famously aggressive in pursuing high-profile prosecutions, charged Epstein last week with child sex trafficking in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1591. These new charges represent the Department of Justice’s attempt to redeem a reputation soiled by the extremely questionable plea deal it gave Epstein in 2008.

Summer Landscape, by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1875

In 2006 and 2007, Epstein— once a reliable companion of the well-connected — faced extensive, detailed allegations that he paid multiple minors for sexual contact and for their services in procuring other minors. Most people, hammered with that kind of evidence, would spend the rest of their lives in prison. But Epstein could afford the lavish attention of a defense team staffed by legal luminaries like Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth Starr. Most of us hope an attorney will defend us competently at trial, but the super-rich can afford to go on the offense. Epstein’s lawyers hounded the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, which was considering federal charges based on reports that Epstein procured underaged girls across state lines. Former U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta – now President Trump’s Secretary of Labor – characterized it as a “year-long assault on the prosecution and prosecutors,” and complained that Epstein’s team investigated prosecutors and their families “looking for personal peccadilloes that may provide a basis for disqualification.”

The strategy worked. Epstein’s team secured the deal of the millennium, one utterly unlike anything I’ve seen in 25 years of practicing federal criminal law. Epstein agreed to plead guilty to state charges, register as a sex offender, and spend 13 months in county jail, during which time he was allowed to spend 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, out of the jail on “work release.” In exchange, the Southern District of Florida abandoned its criminal investigation of Epstein’s conduct, agreed not to prosecute him federally, and – incredibly— agreed not to prosecute anyone else who helped him procure underaged girls for sex. This is not normal; it is astounding.

Read the rest at the link.

Barbara McQuade at New York Magazine: The Jeffrey Epstein Case Shows What Sex Trafficking Really Looks Like.

Interior at Etretat, the 14th of July, by Henri Matisse, 1920

When jurors hear “sex trafficking,” they conjure up images of victims bound by chains, subjected to physical force and imprisonment. While some cases include those aggravating facts, more often, the victim instead chooses to stay with her assailant, who preys upon a vulnerability. Defendants recruit victims in a variety of ways and then force them to engage in sex acts with them or with paying customers. Jurors are sometimes persuaded that if the defendant was truly engaging in sex trafficking, the victim would have simply run away or called the police.

As a former federal prosecutor, I have seen cases of sex trafficking, and none of those cases involved victims in ropes or chains. More often, the cases involved runaways, undocumented immigrants, or victims of sexual abuse.

A high-profile case like Epstein’s provides a teachable moment for American jurors. The indictment notes that some of his victims returned to his home to perform sex acts for money, even after they knew full well what was in store for them. The indictment also notes that the victims were “for various reasons, particularly vulnerable to exploitation.” That is the secret sauce of sex trafficking….

Sex trafficking is particularly egregious when it involves children, as in Epstein’s case. Children by definition are unable to consent to sex. In Epstein’s case, girls were lured to his home for sex with promises of hundreds of dollars and the prospect of modeling careers — offers that can be head-spinning and irresistible for a young teen.

by

Summer day, Gloucester Harbor, by Alice Judson

One of the reasons that we prosecute crimes is to deter others from committing similar acts. By seeing criminals punished for wrongdoing, others learn from their example. Another potential benefit of the Epstein case is to educate the public that not all victims of sex trafficking are found in chains. Here is hoping that jurors will learn from this example.

Read the whole thing at The Intelligencer.

Vicky Ward (who researched and wrote an in-depth piece about Epstein for Vanity Fair in 2003) at The Daily Beast: Jeffrey Epstein’s Sick Story Played Out for Years in Plain Sight.

For almost two decades, for some nebulous reason, whether to do with ties to foreign intelligence, his billions of dollars, or his social connections, Epstein, whose alleged sexual sickness and horrific assaults on women without means or ability to protect themselves is well-known in his circle, remained untouchable.

As many people know, I spent many months on his trail in 2002 for Vanity Fair and discovered not only that he was not who he claimed to be professionally, but also that he had allegedly assaulted two young sisters, one of whom had been underage at the time. Very bravely, they were prepared to go on the record. They were afraid he’d use all his influence to discredit them—and their fear turned out to be legitimate.

As the article was being readied for publication, Epstein made a visit to the office of Vanity Fair’s then-editor, Graydon Carter, and suddenly the women and their allegations were removed from the article. “He’s sensitive about the young women,” Carter told me at the time. He also mentioned he’d finagled a photograph of Epstein in a swimsuit out of the encounter. And there was also some feeble excuse about the article “being stronger as a business story.” (Epstein had also leaned heavily on my ex-husband’s uncle, Conrad Black, to try to exert his influence on me, which was particularly unwelcome, given that Black happened to be my ex-husband’s boss at the time.)

Summer Evening Wheat Field at Sunset, by Vincent Van Gogh

But much worse was to come from Epstein’s army of willfully blind lobbyists. In 2007 and 2008, as the FBI prepared a 53-page indictment that would charge Epstein with sex crimes, Epstein’s powerful legal team played the influence card.

After one meeting with then-U.S. Attorney Acosta, where presumably “intelligence” was mentioned, the indictment was shelved and, instead, Epstein signed a non-prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors, pleading guilty to one count of solicitation of prostitution and one count of procurement of minors for prostitution, which earned him a cushy 13 months in county jail, from where he was allowed to leave to work at his office and go for walks.

It’s worth reading the whole thing.

More helpful Epstein stories, links only

The New York Times: Seized Photos of Nude Girls Deepens Questions About Jeffrey Epstein’s 2008 Deal.

The New York Times: Inside Epstein’s $56 Million Mansion: Photos of Bill Clinton, Woody Allen and Saudi Crown Prince.

The Washington Post: Epstein indictment renews questions about earlier case handled by Trump Cabinet official.

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

Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: Jeffrey Epstein Is the Ultimate Symbol of Plutocratic Rot.

Bloomberg: Mystery Around Jeffrey Epstein’s Fortune and How He Made It.

What else is happening? What stories have you been following?


54 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: Jeffrey Epstein, Trump, and the Politicized DOJ”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Yesterday Trump gave a mind-boggling speech on “the environment” filled with lies and dementia-induced ramblings. This on his obsession with sweeping forests is beyond bizarre.

    • bostonboomer says:
    • bostonboomer says:

      Mother Jones: The Biggest Lie in Trump’s Environmental Speech Today. And there were many to choose from.

      “I’m glad you finally let people know what we’re doing,” Trump said, taking the podium from his Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler, who was one of the string of speakers appearing Monday in an event billed as touting America’s environmental leadership. “We’re working hard, maybe harder than all previous administrations, maybe almost all of them.”

      The audience laughed in response, as if in on the joke. (Since I was denied press credentials, I did not attend the East Room event and watched it on C-SPAN.)

      Flanked by Ivanka Trump, half his Cabinet, and some select Republican members of Congress, Trump gave a rare and strange speech that meandered into the economy, plastics, particulate matter, the Paris climate agreement, and the Green New Deal. He claimed outright success on the environment despite the fact that for most of his administration, Trump and his Cabinet have participated in high-profile events at the EPA to celebrate rolling back major environmental and climate regulations—often with coal miners as a backdrop. The administration has already reversed more than 80 regulations protecting the air, water, and climate, while civil penalties for polluters were down 85 percent last year compared to the decade average.

      To then claim he’s leading the world in environmental leadership is a lot like gaslighting, environmentalists pointed out before the speech. For instance, when Wheeler, who has been instrumental in rolling back many rules targeting ozone, methane, fuel efficiency, and water pollution announced at the same event, “Pollution is on the decline.”

      • dakinikat says:

        Trump is a menace to all living things.

        The McQuade article is an eye opening read
        And the DOJ stuff just makes me cry. The Republicans might as well be an occupying Confederate rebel army.

    • RonStill4Hills says:

      Seems like I remember hearing that denuding the forest of underbrush and ground clutter has the effect suppressing smaller natural wildfires and ultimately leads to less frequent but bigger more catastrophic wildfires. In other words, “Forest management by asshats bad.”

      • quixote says:

        Brush clearing around houses to try to prevent fires from reaching them does actually help. I’ve suspected for a while that this is where the Stable Genius gets his idea that all you need to stop forest fires is a bit of housekeeping. Maybe also that he never sees forest fires on his neatly manicured golf courses.

        Sometimes I wonder what it’s like to live inside of a garbage dump of a mind like his with all kinds of unrelated trash all stuck together, but within about a microsecond I ricochet off the thought as fast as I can.

      • NW Luna says:

        For large tracts of forests, stripping out the underbrush and humus from generations of decayed and composted leaves robs the trees of nutrients from the humus, takes away habitat from ground cover plants, ferns, mushrooms, mosses & lichens, rabbits, ground-feeding birds & insects, deer, and bear, and then the foxes, weasels, coyotes, wolves, bobcat and more can’t find enough food. Most underbrush is moister and doesn’t provide the dry resiny tinder that feeds wildfires.

        In areas with sagebrush and resiny shrubs and sub-trees you do want to clear those out around homes.

  2. bostonboomer says:

  3. dakinikat says:

  4. Pat Johnson says:

    I am convinced that we would not be involved in the “immigration issue” if only Stephen Miller could find a woman willing to date him. We all know that Trump could not care less about the issues and it is through Miller that we are witnessing the worst behavior at the border than ever before. It’s Miller’s issue more than Trump’s.

    I recently read an article about Miller that explained that all through high school Miller was made fun of and ridiculed by his classmates. He was truly unliked and the girls couldn’t stand him. He has carried his resentment into the public square as his chance to “get even” for the rejection he suffered at the time.

    And again, not a day goes by that we aren’t once again swimming in the sleaze that is known as the Trump administration. Everyone who surrounds this criminal is tainted by one thing or another.

    But even if it is proven that Trump consorted with Jeffrey Epstein his base will find an excuse to defend him. After all, isn’t having sex with a teenager what most men fantasize over?

    As a grandmother to 2 teenaged girls it is beyond appalling.

    • dakinikat says:

      I actually heard Julie Brown the Miami Reporter telling Lawrence O’Donnell that Trump kicked him out of Mar a logo after another member complained that Epstein had hit on their young daughter. Not sure what the motive was … possibly just money but that rather surprised me and that reporter has been at this story for like 10 years so I doubt she’d say it on national TV without some feeling it was true.

      • Pat Johnson says:

        I remember reading back in 2016, right after the Access Hollywood tape was made public, that a girl was suing Trump for having sexual relations with her when she was 13.

        The girl eventually withdrew her complaint because she was “under threat” due to the allegations and the story eventually disappeared under the weight of all the other allegations of his conduct.

        No one pursued it at the time. It may be we see it examined once again now that Epstein is facing charges in New York.

        The sad thing is I would not doubt the veracity since no woman is willing to put herself out there just for the sake of publicity.

        If they could have demeaned Christine Ford in her testimony they will go after these young girls with the same amount of slander.

      • Enheduanna says:

        I read that it was a Mar-a-shit hole employee – a masseuse that Epstein tried to manhandle. Dump does have a sense of self-preservation. Epstein was well-known in those circles even then.

  5. dakinikat says:

    Sweet Kingcake Baby Jayzeus! The nerve of this man!!

  6. RonStill4Hills says:

    Hey Boomer,

    By the way, you hit all my faves Mary Cassat, Berthe Morisot and August Renoir.

    I like Monet as well, but I feel like the others don’t always get their due.

    Awesome choices!

  7. dakinikat says:

    Well, D’oh Hair Furor must’ve thrown a fit

    • Enheduanna says:

      LOL – I have not waded into the swamp that is his Twitter feed; how bad is it? I hope he gets inundated with garbage tweets.

      • NW Luna says:

        I have him blocked so I won’t see his idiotic tweets. Sometimes I see a cleverly cutting reply to him and do click thru to see his tweet. But he’s all garbage, and he sure won’t listen to any replies (except to insult them).

        However, since he uses his personal account to discuss policy, it is a defacto official account and I agree with the far more expert legal minds who made this ruling.

  8. bostonboomer says:

  9. RonStill4Hills says:

    I guess he finally could. Finish, I mean. He was always asking, “Can I finish? Can I finish?”

  10. dakinikat says:

    • NW Luna says:

      But will the Republicans listen? Do they have enough mental development to understand?

  11. dakinikat says:

  12. dakinikat says:

  13. bostonboomer says:

    Thread on the girl who says Trump raped her at age 13

    • RonStill4Hills says:

      When Trump can do something like this and the country NOT CARE, why would we expect there to be accountability for the sexual assault of a 15 year old reported back in April.
      Rachel reported the details on her show last night.

      I am enraged when I see the extreme measures employed to shield these oligarchs from accountability for there criminality, juxtaposed to the grueling punishment meted out to asylum seekers, many of whom are minor children, who have acted lawfully.

      Every time Trump says the word “loophole” he admits that he knows that he is not preventing illegal immigration, he is trying the poison the well for all immigration from non-white countries.

      It is a shame and disgrace. The fact that it being done by a child raping racketeer, with overwhelming support from evangelicals, add insult to injury.

  14. bostonboomer says:

    Judge refused to let Trump’s new team of lawyers take over the census case: Thread.

  15. bostonboomer says:

  16. bostonboomer says:

  17. dakinikat says:

  18. NW Luna says:

    Arrests should be made here.

    • RonStill4Hills says:

      They will cancel this and claim they didn’t know.

      Pompous Magnate is bluster and audacity until confronted, then he is a lily-livered coward.

      He will blame someone and. I truce a way to do it somewhere else and still get paid.

  19. bostonboomer says:

  20. NW Luna says:

    Trump’s bankrupting the country just like he does his businesses.

    Mayor: Trump’s July 4 event and related protests have bankrupted D.C. security fund

    President Trump’s overhauled July Fourth celebration cost the D.C. government $1.7 million, an amount that — combined with police expenses for demonstrations through the weekend — has bankrupted a special fund used to protect the nation’s capital from terrorist threats and provide security at events such as rallies and state funerals.

    In a letter to the president Tuesday, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) warned that the fund has now been depleted and is estimated to be running a $6 million deficit by Sept. 30. The mayor also noted that the account was never reimbursed for $7.3 million in expenses from Trump’s 2017 inauguration.

  21. NW Luna says:

    Yay for Amy!