July 09, 2019

Donald Trump defends Alex Acosta as fallout from Jeffrey Epstein case spreads
Donald Trump’s labour secretary is facing mounting calls to resign over his role in the decade-long saga of accused sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, as powerful men across America scrambled to distance themselves from the financier. Alex Acosta was the US attorney for Southern Florida when, in 2008, he agreed to a non-prosecution deal aggressively pushed by Epstein’s high-powered legal team. Epstein, 66, was accused of procuring girls as young as 14 to visit his mansion, and paying them to perform massages, which then turned into sexual acts. Epstein pleaded guilty to a state charge of soliciting prostitution, paid a fine, registered as a sexual predator and served 13 months of an 18-month sentence. Much of the sentence was spent at Epstein’s Palm Beach office, under a work-release programme. No federal charges were filed. Epstein’s arrest on Saturday, and his appearance in court in New York on Monday, have shone an uncomfortable spotlight on Mr Acosta’s role in the story. Jeffrey Epstein in court in Manhattan on Monday, with his lawyers Martin Weinberg, left, and Marc Fernich. He pleaded not guilty On Tuesday Mr Trump praised his labour secretary’s record in the White House, and defended the embattled Cabinet member – one of the few who has been in his role from the beginning. "What happened with respect to 12 or 13 years ago - you know, if you go back and look at everybody's decisions, I would think you would probably find they wish they did it in a different way,” said Mr Trump. “I think there were a lot of people in that position not just him. We'll have to look very carefully but it was a decision made I think not by him but a lot of people." Mr Acosta insists that his deal ensured that Epstein faced a degree of punishment. "The crimes committed by Epstein are horrific, and I am pleased that NY prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence," tweeted Mr Acosta. "With the evidence available more than a decade ago, federal prosecutors insisted that Epstein go to jail, register as a sex offender and put the world on notice that he was a sexual predator," he continued. "Now that new evidence and additional testimony is available, the NY prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him to justice." Kellyanne Conway, Mr Trump’s senior advisor, also sprang to his defence, saying: “I hope we’re all paying attention to who the true perpetrator is here.” But the Democrats have seized on Mr Acosta’s involvement, and both Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House, and Chuck Schumer, leader of the Senate, have called for him to resign. They claim that the 2008 deal was made without out informing Epstein’s accusers – a legal requirement. A series of articles in the Miami Herald in November led to court challenges to the deal Mr Acosta brokered. “@SecretaryAcosta must step down,” said Mrs Pelosi. “As US Attorney, he engaged in an unconscionable agreement w/ Jeffrey Epstein kept secret from courageous, young victims preventing them from seeking justice. This was known by @POTUS when he appointed him to the cabinet. AcostaResign” Mr Schumer went further, demanding that Mr Trump account for his own friendship with Epstein. In 2002 Mr Trump was asked about Epstein for a New York magazine profile, and was reported as responding: “I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He’s 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. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life.” Mr Schumer said: “The president needs to answer for his relationship with Epstein. Epstein was reportedly a regular at the Mar-a-Lago club. ‘I don’t recall is not an acceptable answer in this case’, particularly given that Mr Trump appointed Mr Acosta.” Geoffrey Berman, US attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks during a news conference about the arrest of Epstein Mr Trump is attempting to distance himself from Epstein, saying on Tuesday: "I knew him like everyone in Palm Beach knew him. I had a falling out with him a long time ago, maybe 15 years ago. I was not a fan of his I can tell you.” Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, has said Mr Trump had “no relationship” with Epstein. Mrs Conway insisted that Mr Trump was unaware of the scandal and called the allegations “disgusting”. “I talked to the president this morning,” she said. “He hasn't talked or had contact with Epstein in years and years and years — and over a decade at least, he said. “And he, like everyone else, sees these charges, the description of these charges against Epstein, as completely unconscionable and obviously criminal. Disgusting, really.” Epstein’s address book, published by the website Gawker in 2015, listed Mr Trump’s contact information alongside that of hundreds of other people, including former president Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew. On Monday night Mr Clinton issued a statement saying he had taken four trips on the billionaire’s private plane, and made “one brief visit” to Epstein’s home in New York - alongside a “staff member and his security detail” - in 2002. Jeffrey Epstein's home in the Upper East Side of New York The $56 million (£45m) property, one of the largest private homes in Manhattan, featured photos of Woody Allen and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia on the wall, besides photos of Epstein with Mr Clinton. The two men also met at Clinton’s Harlem office “around the same time” as the apartment visit, the statement said. "President Clinton knows nothing about the terrible crimes Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty to in Florida some years ago, or those with which he has been recently charged in New York," said Angel Ureña, Mr Clinton’s spokesman. The statement did not mention that a former charity of Epstein’s, the C.O.U.Q. Foundation, donated $25,000 to Bill and Hillary Clinton’s charity in 2006 and was recently listed among past and present donors on the Clinton Foundation’s website.



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