Making the click-through worthwhile: an abominable tale of the rich and powerful escaping serious consequence for years of horrific criminal behavior, with disturbing questions about what two presidents knew and when; Stormy Daniels trusts the wrong man again; unnerving new statistics reveal what’s killing Americans; and a strange reboot prepares to exit the stage.
An Ugly Story about Powerful People Escaping Consequences
The Miami Herald writes an extensive, detailed exposé about that long-lingering scandal and stench coming from Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, friend to many powerful and politically connected people.
The focus of the story is former U.S. attorney Alexander Acosta, now the U.S. secretary of labor and, according to the rumor mill, a potential option to be the next nominee for attorney general. The Herald’s description of the deal Acosta agreed to with Epstein’s lawyers is jaw-dropping and horrifying:
But on the morning of the breakfast meeting, a deal was struck — an extraordinary plea agreement that would conceal the full extent of Epstein’s crimes and the number of people involved.
Not only would Epstein serve just 13 months in the county jail, but the deal — called a non-prosecution agreement — essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe into whether there were more victims and other powerful people who took part in Epstein’s sex crimes, according to a Miami Herald examination of thousands of emails, court documents and FBI records.
The pact required Epstein to plead guilty to two prostitution charges in state court. Epstein and four of his accomplices named in the agreement received immunity from all federal criminal charges. But even more unusual, the deal included wording that granted immunity to “any potential co-conspirators’’ who were also involved in Epstein’s crimes. These accomplices or participants were not identified in the agreement, leaving it open to interpretation whether it possibly referred to other influential people who were having sex with underage girls at Epstein’s various homes or on his plane.
As part of the arrangement, Acosta agreed, despite a federal law to the contrary, that the deal would be kept from the victims. As a result, the non-prosecution agreement was sealed until after it was approved by the judge, thereby averting any chance that the girls — or anyone else — might show up in court and try to derail it.
You may be wondering what Acosta’s side of the story is. Apparently he chose not to provide it: “Acosta did not respond to numerous requests for an interview or answer queries through email.”
The scale of this criminal enterprise is mind-boggling:
The Herald also identified about 80 women who say they were molested or otherwise sexually abused by Epstein from 2001 to 2006. About 60 of them were located — now scattered around the country and abroad. Eight of them agreed to be interviewed, on or off the record. Four of them were willing to speak on video.
Acosta is about to get tons of criticism, and, from what we can see, deservedly so. But there’s an aspect of the story that the Herald puts off in a separate piece — Epstein’s connections to Donald Trump and to Bill Clinton. The newspaper is quick to point out that there is no evidence of either man engaging in illegal underage sexual activities.
But there’s this unnerving quote from Trump in a 2002 profile of Epstein:
. . . if you talk to Donald Trump, a different Epstein emerges. “I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy,” Trump booms from a speakerphone. “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.”
Er . . . what was Trump referring to? What had he heard?
And then there’s Epstein’s other extremely powerful and well-connected friend:
Former President Bill Clinton was a much more frequent flyer on a registered sex offender’s infamous jet than previously reported, with flight logs showing the former president taking at least 26 trips aboard the “Lolita Express” — even apparently ditching his Secret Service detail for at least five of the flights, according to records obtained by FoxNews.com.
Clinton’s presence aboard Jeffrey Epstein’s Boeing 727 on 11 occasions has been reported, but flight logs show the number is more than double that, and trips between 2001 and 2003 included extended junkets around the world with Epstein and fellow passengers identified on manifests by their initials or first names, including “Tatiana.” The tricked-out jet earned its Nabakov-inspired nickname because it was reportedly outfitted with a bed where passengers had group sex with young girls.
Are we really expected to believe that in all of that time Clinton spent with Epstein, he never saw, heard, or encountered anything that was connected to Epstein’s ongoing criminal activities?
Did the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign never play the Epstein card against Trump because of Bill Clinton?
When Your Own Client Is Publicly Trashing You . . .
There are a lot of snarky jokes to be made about Stormy Daniels right now. But for now, let’s open up a jar of empathy and observe that she keeps trusting men who want to use her. Here’s part of her latest statement:
For months I’ve asked Michael Avenatti to give me accounting information about the fund my supporters so generously donated to for my safety and legal defense. He has repeatedly ignored those requests. Days ago I demanded again, repeatedly, that he tell me how the money was being spent and how much was left. Instead of answering me, without my permission or even my knowledge Michael launched another crowdfunding campaign to raise money on my behalf. I learned about it on Twitter.
I haven’t decided yet what to do about legal representation moving forward. Michael has been a great advocate in many ways. I’m tremendously grateful to him for aggressively representing me in my fight to regain my voice. But in other ways Michael has not treated me with the respect and deference an attorney should show to a client. He has spoken on my behalf without my approval. He filed a defamation case against Donald Trump against my wishes. He repeatedly refused to tell me how my legal defense fund was being spent. Now he has launched a new crowdfunding campaign using my face and name without my permission and attributing words to me that I never wrote or said. I’m deeply grateful to my supporters and they deserve to know their money is being spent responsibly. I don’t want to hurt Michael, but it’s time to set the record straight. The truth has always been my greatest ally.
A sentence I write with surprising frequency: “Avenatti denies the accusations.” For what it’s worth, the Los Angeles district attorney declined to file felony domestic-abuse charges against him, but it could still pursue misdemeanor charges.
This all started, according to Daniels’s own account, because she thought, er, cozying up to Trump would get her on Celebrity Apprentice and further her career. Now she’s much more famous than she probably ever imagined. But is she better off?
Some Deeply Ominous Numbers on What’s Killing Americans
If life in the United States is generally getting better — low unemployment, the threat of terrorism quieter than in years past — why is the suicide rate increasing? According to new numbers from the Centers for Disease Control, “last year, 47,000 people committed suicide, for a rate of 14.0 per 100,000 people. That is up from 10.5 in 1999 and from 13.5 last year. The total number of suicide deaths was the highest in a half century and up more than 2,000 from 2016.”
Considering everything being thrown at the opioid epidemic, why is the rate of drug overdoses still increasing dramatically?
Drug overdoses set another annual record in 2017, cresting at 70,237 — up from 63,632 the year before, the government said in a companion report. The opioid epidemic continued to take a relentless toll, with 47,600 deaths in 2017 from drugs sold on the street such as fentanyl and heroin, as well as prescription narcotics. That was also a record number, driven largely by an increase in fentanyl deaths.
Since 1999, the number of drug overdose deaths has more than quadrupled. Deaths attributed to opioids were nearly six times greater in 2017 than they were in 1999.
ADDENDUM: The Murphy Brown reboot lasted 13 episodes. I barely watched the new one; I had relatively fond memories of the old version and believed that it’s remembered for being more political than it really was. I wrote back in January, “Politics actually made Murphy Brown a worse, less funny, less enjoyable show; it will be interesting to see how political the new version is.” The answer was: extremely political. Outside of the pilot’s pretty funny Hillary Clinton cameo, little in the new sitcom stood out, beyond how much the cast had aged since the early 1990s. It’s fair to wonder what the point was of putting together a weekly sitcom that focused so much on mocking Trump when the average liberal with an appetite for laugh-plause (political jokes that really aren’t that funny but that the audience feels obligated to applaud for because they agree with the argument) had the nightly options of the Daily Show, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, and Seth Meyers, and the weekly options of John Oliver and Saturday Night Live.