The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Jeffrey Epstein’s Powerful, Criminal Crew

Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts )

Making the click-through worthwhile: Justice for the victims of politically connected multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein has been delayed, but it may not be denied much longer; President Trump gets his best numbers in the ABC News-Washington Post poll; a few good nonfiction books to look for this summer; and one of the Democratic presidential candidates may not be around for much longer.

Jeffrey Epstein’s Back in Jail. Will Any of His High-Powered Friends Join Him?

Back in November, the Miami Herald cracked open the case of Jeffrey Epstein after authorities seemed to have sealed it shut forever. Epstein was a Palm Beach multimillionaire and friend to many powerful and politically connected people, who had long been suspected of appalling criminal sexual behavior. If you’re well-read and on the right, the term “Lolita Express” has probably already popped up in your mind; back in May 2016, Fox News found records indicating that Bill Clinton flew on Epstein’s private jet at least 26 times. If you’re well-read and on the left, you probably recall Donald Trump calling Epstein a “terrific guy” and making an odd, unnerving comment that “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.” The allegations against Epstein — underage prostitutes, a cult-like network of sex slavery, trafficking minors — would make anyone short of the Marquis de Sade recoil. In 2007, Epstein reached a deal to serve only 13 months in jail, and the U.S. attorney who signed off on the deal — Alexander Acosta — agreed to keep the terms of the deal secret.

Alexander Acosta is currently the Secretary of Labor. Acosta has not discussed the case in detail since the Herald’s report came out, but David Oscar Markus, a Miami criminal-defense lawyer who practiced against Acosta when he was U.S. Attorney, offered a defense of Acosta in the pages of the Herald:

 . . . the federal government only prosecutes federal crimes. At the time this case was being investigated, there were serious questions about whether Epstein’s crimes had the required federal nexus. These were traditional state court crimes with local victims, which the federal government decided should be prosecuted by the state system… To argue that Acosta was persuaded to sign off on passing the case to state authorities because of Epstein’s wealth or Epstein’s lawyers is to ignore Acosta’s record as a tough prosecutor who put away Jack Abramoff, Jose Padilla, Broward Sheriff Ken Jeanne, executives of Hamilton Bank, and many more.

Our Kyle Smith recalled that the Epstein prosecution barely came up at all during Acosta’s confirmation hearings. When he was questioned, Acosta answered, “A plea that guarantees someone goes to jail, that guarantees he register [as a sex offender] generally and guarantees other outcomes, is a good thing.”

This morning, Epstein is in jail, and according to the Heralda lot of people who enabled him are sweating.

His Saturday arrest capped months of investigating, led by federal agents and prosecutors with the Southern District of New York’s Public Corruption Unit, assisted by investigators with the sex-trafficking division. Although details of the case remain undisclosed, there are indications that others involved in his crimes could be charged or named as cooperating witnesses.

Among those potentially on the list: Ghislaine Maxwell, a 57-year-old British socialite and publishing heir who has been accused of working as Epstein’s madam; and Jean-Luc Brunel, who, according to court records, was partners with Epstein in an international modeling company.

Epstein, 66, was arrested at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey shortly before 4 p.m. Saturday, as he arrived on his private jet from Paris, where he had been vacationing since June 14, aviation records show. About an hour after they picked him up, federal agents arrived at his imposing Manhattan townhouse, breaking down the door to execute search warrants.

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.

Trump’s Riding High! Okay, High-ish, Hitting 44 Percent Approval in the ABC News Survey

In the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll, Trump’s approval rating hits the highest point of his presidency in that particular survey — but don’t get too excited, it’s only 44 percent. The survey finds 53 percent disapproving. But they also note, “roughly one-fifth of those who say he is not presidential say they approve of the job he is doing, and he runs even against four possible Democratic nominees in hypothetical ­general-election matchups. He trails decisively only to former vice president Joe Biden.”

The economy’s doing well right now, but it’s been doing well for quite a while now. Pulling back from a conflict with Iran? The visuals from stepping over into North Korea?

Is it too early for voters to be comparing and contrasting him with a Democratic alternative? At the end of June, the Democrats on the debate stage committed to ending deportation of those who enter the country illegally, promised government-funded health care and education to those who cross the border illegally, promised to ban private insurance, most want to ban and confiscate popular firearms, Bernie Sanders said he would raise taxes on the middle class, and Kamala Harris sounded like she wanted to bring back forced busing of schoolchildren to improve diversity in schools. (Harris being Harris, she later flip-flopped on the private insurance and busing issues.) Meanwhile, Colin Kaepernick argued that the Betsy Ross flag was an offensive symbol of white supremacy, and the likes of Beto O’Rourke and Julian Castro agreed with him. Displaying U.S. military vehicles on the mall was compared to Tiananmen Square and a chunk of the chattering class insisted that Andy Ngo had asked for that violent assault.

Americans who find Trump “unpresidential” or worse might look at their lives and conclude that despite the president’s myriad flaws, they personally are doing pretty well and the country is, too. The economy’s thriving, businesses are hiring, we haven’t suffered a terrorist attack lately and it’s easy to forget the country is at war.* Enacting the Democrats’ agenda would bring sweeping changes to their lives, and the Democrats seem to feel fonder about black-masked thugs in the streets of Portland than the flag of the thirteen colonies. What clear-thinking American would want to empower that crowd?

*The country is still very much at war; not seeing a lot of news coverage about the threats to our men and women in uniform in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Niger, Yemen and, until very recently, Libya doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

Summer’s Hot Political Books, As If Your Bookshelves Aren’t Already Creaking

Between Two Scorpions is up to 50 reader reviews on Amazon! Thank you, dear readers. I realize some of you are probably sick of hearing about the book, but keep in mind when you see authors go into overdrive promoting their work: Selling books is hard.

The average U.S. nonfiction book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 2,000 copies over its lifetime . . . Publishers have managed to stay afloat in this worsening marketplace only by shifting more and more marketing responsibility to authors, to cut costs and prop up sales.

Few authors get much in terms of advertising and marketing budgets. Nor can most authors count on people spotting their book in the bookstore; big publishers negotiate with the big chain bookstores to get their books on those front tables, prominently displayed as you enter the store. (They may not need to do it with highly-anticipated books, like a new Harry Potter book, etc.) Only a handful of authors get ads in the book review sections of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, and most are lucky to get a book review in a big publication at all.

So when you see a National Review writer or newspaper columnist or pundit or someone else known for non-book work sudden turn into that malfunctioning sales cardboard cutout from The Critic, just accept that it’s a necessary part of the process of writing a book in the modern media landscape.

Publishing a book is never predictable. For example, our old colleague Tim Alberta’s got a new book coming out about the Trump’s relationship with the rest of the Republican party, full of original reporting, entitled American Carnage . . . and the U.K. Guardian got an advance copy of the book and reported some of the juiciest quotes. If you’re interested in the subject, you’ll probably want to pre-order — Tim’s as dogged, thorough, and resourceful a reporter as you will find in today’s Washington. (On Amazon Prime, you can get it for about two-thirds the cover price.)

Next month Kevin Williamson’s latest, The Smallest Minority, arrives, and it sounds scathing, insightful, and blisteringly funny, with “biting appraisals of social media (“an economy of Willy Lomans,”) political hustlers (“that certain kind of man or woman . . . who will kiss the collective ass of the mob”), journalists (“a contemptible union of neediness and arrogance”) and identity politics (“identity is more accessible than policy, which requires effort”). The cover image of the bird in the Twitter icon as an ominous, World War Two-style bomber is genius.

This week brings Justice on Trial, by old friends Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino, promising the “definitive deep dive into the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.” Ordinarily, you might wonder if a recently completed Supreme Court confirmation fight warranted a whole book, but a lot about the Kavanaugh fight never quite got explained: Just why did Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation sit on the desk of Senator Dianne Feinstein for weeks? Who leaked her allegations to the press? Who performed the remarkably thorough scrub of her existence on social media? Did Senate Democrats coordinate their efforts with Michael Avenatti, or was he a genuinely unexpected wild card? We might be studying this fight for a long time, as it probably ushered in a new era of confirmation battles where absolutely no holds are barred and truth is the first casualty.

ADDENDUM: Eric Swalwell — he’s the congressman who’s always trying too hard, and who ran around the Democratic presidential primary debate stage demanding, “Pass the torch! Pass the torch!” – might be calling it quits today. I’d say, “Gone but not forgotten,” but let’s face it, you’ve forgotten him already.

But just as we lose one . . . we might be getting another: Billionaire Tom Steyer is thinking about running again.

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