Trump’s attorney general recuses himself from Jeffrey Epstein child sex trafficking case

Move comes amid fears raised by some critics William Barr could potentially interfere in case

Tom Embury-Dennis
Tuesday 09 July 2019 14:25
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Prosecutors detail new charges against well-connected financier Jeffrey Epstein

Donald Trump’s attorney general has recused himself from a case against sex offender Jeffrey Epstein because he once worked for a law firm that represented the billionaire financier.

William Barr announced the move on Monday following the arrest of Epstein, who is accused of paying underage girls for massages and molesting them at his various homes.

“I am recused from that matter because one of the law firms that represented Epstein long ago was a firm that I subsequently joined for a period of time,” Mr Barr told reporters in South Carolina.

A senior partner at Kirkland and Ellis, the law firm in question, was one of a number of high-profile lawyers to represent Epstein when he agreed an infamous plea deal in 2008.

The recusal came amid fears Mr Barr could look to interfere in a case that could potentially implicate Mr Trump, who was a former friend of Epstein’s from the period of the alleged crimes.

“It’s possible” Mr Barr would attempt to interfere in the case, former FBI assistant director Frank Figliuzzi said before Mr Barr’s recusal, noting that the attorney general’s headteacher father, Donald Barr, hired Epstein as a teacher at a school in New York in the 1970s.

The arrest of Epstein on child sex trafficking charges is raising questions about how much his high-powered associates knew about the hedge fund manager’s interactions with underage girls, and whether they turned a blind eye to potentially illegal conduct.

In an interview with New York Magazine in 2002, Mr Trump said he had known “terrific guy” Jeffrey Epstein for 15 years.

“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 Trump said.

Trump Organisation lawyer Alan Garten has since distanced Mr Trump from Epstein, telling Politico in 2017 that his boss “had no relationship with Mr Epstein and had no knowledge whatsoever of his conduct”.

Asked about the charges on Sunday, Mr Trump said, “I don’t know about it.”

Epstein pleaded the fifth amendment in 2010 when asked by a lawyer representing one of his victims about his relationship with Mr Trump, according to Vice News.

The case is also putting new scrutiny on labour secretary Alexander Acosta, who as US attorney for the Southern District of Florida was involved in the 2008 secret plea deal that ended a probe involving at least 40 teenage girls.

The agreement allowed Epstein to avoid federal charges and a possible life sentence. Instead, Epstein pleaded guilty to state charges and served 13 months in jail, during which he was allowed to leave for work during the day.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Monday night that Mr Acosta should resign from Mr Trump’s cabinet over the “unconscionable agreement”.

Her daughter, Christine Pelosi, a Democratic National Committee official, warned darkly that the “horrific” case would “quite likely” implicate “some of our faves”.

“We must follow the facts and let the chips fall where they may – whether on Republicans or Democrats,” she tweeted.

Epstein was also an associate of Bill Clinton’s, repeatedly lending the former president his jet to travel overseas. Flight logs obtained by Fox News showed the former president took at least 26 trips aboard Epstein’s Boeing 727, nicknamed the “Lolita Express”, from 2001 to 2003.

Clinton spokesman Angel Urena said the former president “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”.

Epstein is accused of paying underage girls hundreds of dollars in cash for massages and then molesting them at his homes in Florida and New York.

He “intentionally sought out minors and knew that many of his victims were in fact under the age of 18,” according to prosecutors, who said he also paid some of his victims to “recruit additional girls to be similarly abused”.

Additional reporting by AP

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