July 12, 2019

Jeffrey Epstein

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

“Billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein was charged Monday with sexually abusing dozens of underage girls in a case brought more than a decade after he secretly cut a deal with federal prosecutors to dispose of nearly identical allegations.” AP News

On Wednesday, Acosta defended his handling of the case in a press conference, “insisting he got the toughest deal he could at the time.” AP News

Many on both sides condemn Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta’s handling of the 2005 case against Epstein:

“Acosta has suggested that the charges against Epstein would have been difficult to prove. But this assertion was never plausible, and will likely become less so once the prosecution’s file becomes public and the new prosecution of Epstein, by the Trump Department of Justice, proceeds. Another of Acosta’s defenses is that he was not personally responsible for the ‘terms of Epstein’s incarceration.’ He may not be responsible for how cushy Epstein had it during his time served, but it was Acosta who negotiated the ridiculously short duration of the sentence.”
Paul Mirengoff, Power Line Blog

“It’s true that the public has a better understanding of the trauma of sexual abuse now than in 2008, in part because of the many people who have told their stories publicly as part of the #MeToo movement. But as CNN’s Kara Scannell has reported, Acosta’s office appears to have prosecuted other, less high-profile offenders than Epstein far more aggressively at around the same time, and obtained significant sentences for them that included prison time… No one is disputing that Jeffrey Epstein had extremely powerful lawyers who put pressure on victims and prosecutors alike. They were no doubt formidable adversaries. But it was part of Acosta’s job as US attorney to stand firm against formidable adversaries. In his press conference on Wednesday, Acosta did not make a compelling case that he did that where Epstein was concerned.”
Anna North, Vox

“Acosta had firsthand witnesses. God only knows how many girls have been victimized by Epstein since he finished serving the wrist-slap sentence Acosta arranged for him. And that’s not all. Reporter Vicky Ward, who’s been chasing this story for nearly 20 years, notes today at the Daily Beast that “federal prosecutors agreed to keep the [plea] deal secret from Epstein’s victims, which meant they would not know to challenge it in court. As it turned out, this actually broke the law, because victims have a right to know of such developments, under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act.’”
Allahpundit, Hot Air

“Pending further revelations, one thing is clear: Acosta should step down from his Cabinet position for dereliction of duty in his prior role — and because he has the spine of a mollusk. In deciding not to fully prosecute Epstein in 2007 — and then agreeing to bury the proceedings without advising the victims — he violated the law, betrayed the victims’ trust and displayed rare cowardice before justice.”
Kathleen Parker, Washington Post

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

The left supports eliminating the electoral college, arguing that all votes should count equally regardless of which state they're from.

“The Epstein case is first and foremost about the casual victimization of vulnerable girls. But it is also a political scandal, if not a partisan one. It reveals a deep corruption among mostly male elites across parties, and the way the very rich can often purchase impunity for even the most loathsome of crimes.”
Michelle Goldberg, New York Times

“When most people get out of jail, they can barely get a job at a fast food joint. Not our man Epstein… Celebrities were still turning up at Epstein-hosted parties even after he was released from jail. The NYPD seemingly waived requirements that Epstein, a convicted sex offender, report in on a regular basis — [a] kindness the department doesn’t extend to the nonwhite or non-wealthy. More than a few charities and nonprofits continued to line up at the trough for a chance at his money… the Jeffrey Epstein scandal is something, I predict, that will come to be viewed in future years as one of the defining events that brings our age of excess to a close.”
Helaine Olen, Washington Post

“It took a network of people putting their own personal, financial, and sexual interests over the safety and dignity of girls to keep Epstein’s alleged child-abuse operation running. It will take a network that’s just as substantial to uncover the extent of Epstein’s possible crimes. It’s perverse, but there’s a direct relationship between the magnitude of a system of abuse and the magnitude of the effort required to end it. The fact that so many people appear to have known about and participated in Epstein’s alleged child-trafficking enterprise has not been a liability for him; indeed, it has been his foremost strength.”
Christina Cauterucci, Slate

Regarding Acosta, “perhaps there was nothing [he], amid mounting criticism, could have said at Wednesday’s press conference to make things right. But the proper approach, obvious to many, was to show some contrition. He could have acknowledged his mistakes and apologized for them. He could have highlighted why others shouldn’t discount victims of sexual abuse in the future as he once did. He could have even resigned. Acosta chose another path. He gave an astonishingly Trumpian performance: admit no error, shift responsibility, and blame the media.”
Matt Ford, New Republic

“There’s no doubt that the judicial system must examine the accusations against Mr. Epstein, and that the Justice Department will have many questions about Mr. Acosta’s apparent leniency toward him. Congress digging into this case, however, is a poor use of lawmakers’ limited time and resources. More dangerous, in the midst of the Trump administration’s war on congressional oversight in general, such hearings carry a high risk of turning the Epstein case into a partisan battle — and Mr. Acosta into a political martyr around whom the president and his followers feel moved to rally… better to let the legal system and the court of public opinion carry this particular burden.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

“It is customary, when faced with the grotesque inequalities of the criminal-justice system, to decry the preferential treatment that people such as Jeffrey Epstein enjoy. Rather than complain that Epstein got too much justice, it would be far more productive to complain that most people get too little. Adequately funded criminal defense, bail reform, and other commonsense changes would do far more to improve the system than the prosecution of an occasional billionaire.”
Ken White, The Atlantic

Some suggest that Congress “remove Trump from office, so that he cannot abuse incumbency to subvert the electoral process, but let the American people make the judgment on whether or not he gets a second term… Removing Trump from office for the remainder of his term would disable him from abusing presidential power again and protect the integrity of the electoral process from inappropriate interference. At the same time, letting him run for a second term would permit the American electorate to decide whether Trump, despite his attempt to subvert the system, should have another chance… Decoupling removal from disqualification lowers the stakes and changes the constitutional calculus. As long as Trump can run again, Republicans cannot hide behind a claim that they are [the] ones protecting voter choice by opposing impeachment.”
Edward B. Foley, Politico

From the Right

The right argues that Bevin’s loss was an outlier, but nevertheless is concerned about what the overall results say about GOP prospects.

From the Right

“Perhaps the most historic, in the sense of era-defining, moment in the history of the Academy Awards was that standing ovation Roman Polanski got when he was given Best Director honors in 2003. There they are, leading Hollywood liberals, leaping to their feet to cheer for a man who, at age 43, gave a 13-year-old girl Quaaludes for the purpose of having sex with her and sodomizing her. Polanski suffered in no significant way for his crime…

“The Jeffrey Epstein case should end a nearly 50-year era in which the mandarins of our cultures — the intellectuals, writers, and artists — almost unanimously ignored, laughed off, or even outright celebrated sexual exploitation of girls and very young women, even in many cases prepubescent ones… Epstein’s habits were so unremarkable that Bill Clinton and Donald Trump were happy to be associated with him. Clinton and Trump were not outliers. They were simply symptoms of a disease.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

Regarding Acosta, some note that in 2005 “police brought the case to the local prosecutor, Barry Krischer, an elected Democratic official. But Krischer wasn’t interested in pursuing felony charges against Epstein, a well-known donor to political candidates (mostly Democrats)... When Krischer refused, [local police] took the case to federal law enforcement. Federal prosecutors, it is important to note, generally have no jurisdiction over sex crimes. But they agreed to investigate whether Epstein violated federal law by, among other things, using the facilities of interstate commerce to induce young girls into prostitution…

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office determined that federal charges against Epstein might not stick. But they were able to leverage their investigation to extract a plea… While the punishment was inadequate to the crime, from all reports, the experienced, career prosecutors reporting to Acosta felt it was better than any alternative. The deal put Epstein behind bars, allowed his victims to seek restitution, and put the public on notice that Epstein is a sexual predator.”
Jennifer Braceras, Washington Examiner

“The vast majority of criminal cases end with plea bargains — about 94% at the state level and 97% at the federal level… Perhaps one of the only good things to come from Epstein’s case is the exposure of inappropriate or fraudulent plea deals in the justice system that let accused criminals walk away from a trial, and force others to plead guilty without a chance to claim innocence. Plea bargains guarantee efficiency: costly, time-consuming trials are avoided more often than not. But at what cost?…

“If anything, Acosta is a symptom of a justice system that is broken and rotting from within. He is not responsible for Epstein’s crimes, but he did facilitate a deal that resulted in a total lapse of accountability. President Trump must decide if this past failure requires Acosta’s resignation. And we must decide what to do about a criminal justice system that let a monster walk free.”
Kaylee McGhee, Washington Examiner

“On social media, lots of people seem to think that any revelations from this prosecution will be devastating to the party they oppose and avert their eyes from the possibility that Epstein could start talking about sordid and criminal behavior by prominent figures in their preferred party. Investigate them all, name them all, indict them all, prosecute them all. No figure is so important to a political party or the country that we need to avert our eyes from underage sex trafficking.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

It’s worth noting that “conservative ideas were much more popular when not associated with the Republican party. In Washington State, voters narrowly rejected bringing affirmative action back to state contracting and university admissions…

“In Seattle, the self-proclaimed socialist city-council member appears to have lost her seat to a pro-business challenger. In Colorado, voters gave fiscal conservatives a big win by rejecting letting the state keep any tax revenues above the state spending cap, money that the state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights currently guarantees as refunds to taxpayers. In Sussex County, N.J., voters approved, by a 2-to-1 margin, a referendum directing the local freeholder board to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Washington, Colorado, New Jersey — notice these are places where Republican candidates have had no luck lately.)”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

Baby bird shows up alone in Uber at Ogden rescue center.

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