As it happenedended1562790641

Trump news: President's labour secretary defends handling of Jeffrey Epstein case as new alleged child victim comes forward

Labour secretary refuses to resign amid growing calls from Democrats

Trump's labour secretary says 'no regrets' over handing of Jeffrey Epstein case as new alleged child victim comes forward

Donald Trump has tried to downplay his relationship with disgraced billionaire Jeffrey Epstein after previously labelling the former Mar-a-Lago guest “a terrific guy”, insisting: ”I don’t think I have spoken with him for 15 years. I was not a fan.”

The financier was arrested and charged in a New York court on Monday with sex trafficking, accused of luring dozens of underage girls to his luxury homes and paying them for sex, a development inspiring Democratic calls for labour secretary Alexander Acosta to resign over his involvement in the Epstein case while working as an attorney in Florida in 2008.

The news comes as the president prepares to host a social media summit at the White House on Thursday, with alt-right meme-makers and a political cartoonist whose work has been branded “blatantly antisemitic” by the Anti-Defamation League in attendance.

Mr Acosta meanwhile addressed his involvement in the Florida case during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, saying that when he was a federal prosecutor in Florida, his office acted appropriately when it came to the secret plea deal offered to Epstein.

Mr Acosta was asked if he owed an apology to women who said Epstein molested them when they were underage.

He said the prosecution didn’t want to share with the victims that there were efforts to gain restitution for them from Epstein.

He also said there was concern that if negotiations fell through, Epstein’s counsel could use the prospect of restitution to question their credibility.

Mr Acosta said, “In our heart we were trying to do the right thing for these victims.”

Epstein has pleaded not guilty to new charges in New York.

The labour secretary also said he was not intending to resign and that his relationship with the president is “outstanding.”

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

Additional reporting by AP

Please allow a moment for our liveblog to load

1562748120

Hello and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the Donald Trump administration.

Joe Sommerlad10 July 2019 09:42
1562748450

Donald Trump has tried to downplay his relationship with disgraced billionaire Jeffrey Epstein after previously labelling the former Mar-a-Lago guest “a terrific guy”, insisting: ”I don’t think I have spoken with him for 15 years. I was not a fan.”

The financier was arrested and charged in a New York court on Monday with sex trafficking, accused of luring dozens of underage girls to his luxury homes and paying them for sex.

"I knew him like everybody in Palm Beach knew him. The people in Palm Beach knew him. He was a fixture in Palm Beach," Trump told reporters, in a seemingly awkward exchange at the White House, where the president was meeting with Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim Bin-Hamad Al-Thani

"I had a falling out with him a long time ago. I don’t think I have spoken with him for 15 years. I was not a fan. A long time ago. I’d say maybe 15 years. I was not a fan of his, that I can tell you."

While Trump's dismissal of Epstein at the White House yesterday was emphatic, he gave a very different take on the man in conversation with New York magazine in October 2002.

Here's Andrew Buncombe's report.

Joe Sommerlad10 July 2019 09:47
1562749500

Also under fire over Epstein is Trump's labour secretary Alexander Acosta, who is facing calls to resign after it emerged he agreed a plea deal on behalf of the billionaire while serving as a US attorney for Florida's Southern District in 2008.

Acosta is understood to have negotiated a secret "non-prosecution" agreement with Epstein's legal team at the time, suspending a federal grand jury investigation into the accusations against him regarding the sex trafficking of underage girls and silencing 36 witnesses who would have spoken out in exchange for a guilty plea on two state prostitution charges. It was "the deal of a lifetime", according to The Miami Herald.

According to CNN, citing the White House, an internal review of Acosta's standing is under way, with the president saying yesterday he felt "very badly" for Acosta. 

"I do hear that there were a lot of people involved in that decision, not just him," he said. "The rest of it, we’ll have to look at. We’ll have to look at it very carefully. But you’re talking about a long time ago."

Acosta himself sought to address the matter yesterday.

The Democrats have meanwhile been unequivocal on the need for Acosta to step down.

Joe Sommerlad10 July 2019 10:05
1562750400

The Trump Organization is meanwhile facing questions over the news that the president’s Miami Doral golf resort will host a tournament this weekend sponsored by a local strip club called the Shadow Cabaret, with its dancers being auctioned off to work as “caddy girls” for those taking part, writes The Washington Post.

Journalist David Fahrenthold spoke to the cabaret's marketing director, Emanuele Mancuso, who explained: "There would be no nudity at the resort. On the course, he said, the caddies would wear pink miniskirts and what he called 'a sexy white polo'. Afterward, however, the golfers and the dancers would return to another venue - the cabaret itself - for what he described as a 'very tasteful' burlesque show, which could involve nudity."

At a time when his friendship with men like Epstein and Robert Kraft is under scrutiny (the latter attended a White House dinner for the Emir of Qatar on Tuesday evening despite being caught up in a spa prostitution scandal earlier this year) and just weeks after E Jean Carroll became the 23rd woman to make a sexual misconduct allegation against Donald Trump, the staging of such an event, however "tasteful", is surely concerning in the extreme.

Joe Sommerlad10 July 2019 10:20
1562751300

The president's Social Media Summit takes place at the White House on Thursday with some highly questionable guests, from alt-right meme-makers @CarpeDonktum and @mad_liberals to QAnon conspiracy theorist Bill Mitchell and Ben Garrison, a right-wing political cartoonist beloved of pro-Trump Reddit threads whose work has been branded "blatantly antisemitic" by the Anti-Defamation League.

 

Here are some more examples of his work.

Facebook and Twitter have, meanwhile, not been invited to the event labelled "a far-right troll convention" by Vanity Fair, a calculated snub from a president who insists the Silicon Valley giants harbour a liberal bias and actively seek to silence conservative voices.

You can almost see the portraits of Lincoln and Washington rolling their eyes in dismay.

Here's Tom Embury-Dennis with more.

Joe Sommerlad10 July 2019 10:35
1562752500

President Trump continued to rage about his frustrated efforts to get a potentially prejudicial citizenship question added to the 2020 census on Twitter last night after his attempt to replace the 11 Justice Department attorneys pursuing the matter was thwarted by US district judge Jesse Furman in New York.

Judge Furman ruled the “defendants provide no reasons, let alone 'satisfactory reasons', for the substitution of counsel.”

Attempting to defend the White House's doggedness on the matter in defiance of the Supreme Court, counsellor Kellyanne Conway said the census already asks much more intrusive questions than the proposed new citizenship one, citing an inquiry about toilet usage, which is actually asked by the American Community Survey, not the census.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi has meanwhile accused the president of pushing the issue in order to "make America white again".

Here's the latest on the legal battle from Chris Baynes.

Joe Sommerlad10 July 2019 10:55
1562753400

Trump also ranted about former Marine Amy McGrath's newly announced campaign to replace Mitch McConnell as Kentucky senator...

....And calls for a consumer boycott of Home Depot over its co-founder's support for his re-election campaign.

Joe Sommerlad10 July 2019 11:10
1562754300

Under a new directive implemented by US Citizenship and Immigration Services acting director Ken Cuccinelli, migrants at the US-Mexico border will be given just one day to prepare for their initial screening interview with asylum officers, according to BuzzFeed News, as the Trump administration seeks to speed up the process.

Here's Jon Sharman with the latest horror story from the migrant detention centres being run by US Border Patrol.

Joe Sommerlad10 July 2019 11:25
1562755200

The House Judiciary Commitee will vote on Thursday on whether to authorise subpoenas for 12 witnesses of former FBI special counsel Robert Mueller, including the president's son-in-law Jared Kushner and ex-attorney general Jeff Sessions

Rod Rosenstein, Corey Lewandowski, John Kelly and Michael Flynn could also be summoned to appear before Congress to testify regarding the obstruction of justice instances recounted in the Mueller report.

The White House previously blocked testimony from former officials Don McGahn and Hope Hicks as part of a determined campaign of stonewalling

Here's more from Victoria Gagliardo-Silver.

Joe Sommerlad10 July 2019 11:40
1562756100

The highly presidential Team USA World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe is back on home soil after starring in France and was interviewed by Anderson Cooper on CNN last night.

She had some strong words for President Trump.

"Your message is excluding people. You’re excluding me, you’re excluding people that look like me, you’re excluding people of colour, you’re excluding Americans that maybe support you."

"You’re harking back to an era that was not great for everyone," the 34-year-old continued. "It might have been great for a few people, and maybe America is great for a few people right now, but it’s not great for enough Americans in this world.

"You have an incredible responsibility as the chief of this country to take care of every single person, and you need to do better for everyone."

The MAGA crowd will want to lock her up but anyone who can score a penalty under pressure is all right with us.

Here's more from Tom Kershaw.

Joe Sommerlad10 July 2019 11:55

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments