July 12, 2019

Jeffrey Epstein

“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 is critical of Trump’s negotiating tactics, and argues that this deal will not solve the underlying problems with the immigration system.

“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

“The two issues with which he is most often associated, support for a balanced budget and opposition to free trade, put him at odds with both of our major political parties. An old-fashioned, soft-spoken Southerner, he nevertheless held views on so-called ‘social issues’ that would be to the left of the mainstream of the Republican Party, both then and now. He was a fervent supporter of the Vietnam POW/MIA movement in the late '80s and early '90s, but he was not in any sense a hawk. Never mind 2003. Perot opposed the first war in Iraq in 1990… Perot's death should be mourned by all Americans who regret the fact that it is no longer possible to make reasoned, non-ideological arguments about questions of public import, and by the devolution of our political life into mindless partisan squabbling.”
Matthew Walther, The Week

From the Right

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

“Not only did [Trump] attack the ‘squad,’ he managed to do it in a way in which no other prominent Democrat can continue to criticize them publicly, lest they be perceived as echoing the president’s contention that they should go back where they came from. At the exact moment the accusations and counter-accusations were set to do lasting damage, Trump just had to jump in and give them an attack that would unify them all. It often seems like Trump would rather have a bad news cycle that focuses on him than a beneficial news cycle that focuses on someone else… Everyone around the president can read a poll and knows that his rage-tweeting is a liability; it is perhaps the biggest liability in a presidency that, with prosperity and a perception of peace, ought to be comfortably cruising to reelection.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“If Joe Biden can win his way through the primaries, he’s almost lab-engineered to beat Trump. He doesn’t cause Republican panic, he has the potential to connect with white working-class voters in a way that Hillary couldn’t in 2016, and he has a potential to connect better with black voters than Hillary did… if Biden emerges from [this] crucible, Trump will face a very different challenge than he faced in 2016.”
David French, National Review

“NBC and MSNBC embraced Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the first debate of Democratic presidential candidates Wednesday night, treating her like the star of the show. The debate led off with Warren, who had a huge popularity advantage from the start… NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie started it off sounding more like Warren’s press secretary. ‘You have many plans – free college, free child care, government health care, cancelation of student debt, new taxes, new regulations, the breakup of major corporations,’ Guthrie said, before teeing up an economy question. Guthrie even used Warren’s plan to break up tech companies as the foundation for a question for Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey… the round-robin final comments also ended with Warren, as Maddow asked her for the ‘final, final statement.’ That let NBC bookend the entire debate with Warren and Warren.”
Dan Gainor, Fox News

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

“The fans who avidly followed the men’s tournament certainly weren’t doing anything wrong. And it’s hard to argue that each of them had a moral obligation to be exactly as interested in women’s soccer. Even if we could stop them from watching the men more than the women, should we?…

“It’s tempting to answer that the fan choices aren’t innocent, they’re sexist. But since we can’t peek into their hearts, to say that definitively, we’d have to assume that men’s greater speed, strength and endurance definitely make nodifference to the sport’s quality. Fair enough, but then why do fans prefer to watch Megan Rapinoe play instead of the sedentary elderly who could presumably use some exercise? Alternatively, maybe pay should be equalized precisely because biology is unfair. But that seems to be an argument for curbing the pay of all top-level athletes, who have to hit the genetic lottery just to get on the field. It might be easier to focus on the distributions across society at large, rather than every individual industry, especially when fundamental biology is in play.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

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

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