Seriously, does this surprise you? Donald Trump, an old partying pal of confessed pervert Jeffrey (“terrific guy”) Epstein, said yesterday that he “feels badly” for Alex Acosta — his beleaguered Labor Secretary who, in a previous life as a federal prosecutor, gave Epstein a sweetheart deal. And yet, while voicing sympathy for Acosta, Trump never said that he “feels badly” for all the girls Epstein allegedly sexually abused.
How many times do we need to be reminded that powerful men instinctively protect other powerful men, at the expense of female victims? How many times do we need to be reminded that Trump’s “drain the swamp” rhetoric is fraudulent, and that, quite the contrary, he has stocked it with new creatures?
Acosta is a classic example. Did anybody bother to vet this Trump nominee? Thanks to the new federal indictment, unsealed on Monday, that charges rich financier Epstein with child sex trafficking, and thanks to the federal raid on his New York mansion, which uncovered a photo cache of naked underage girls, Acosta is finally being scrutinized (and will hopefully be ousted from the Cabinet) for his 2007 decision to slap Epstein on the wrist.
Back then, down in Miami, Acosta was the U.S. attorney. Given the severity of the federal sex-abuse indictment filed against Epstein at that time — 53 pages long, listing 36 potential victims, some young enough to be in middle school — the negotiated plea deal was a veritable gift to the defendant. Yes, it forced Epstein to register as a sex offender. But after pleading guilty in a state court to just two counts of soliciting prostitution, he only served 13 months in a county jail, and six days a week he was allowed to leave the place and work for 12 hours a day in his West Palm Beach office.
But Acosta’s servility to the rich and powerful was far worse than that. His deal gave Epstein — and four accomplices, along with “any potential co-conspirators” — full immunity in Florida. And, most importantly, the entire non-prosecution agreement was kept secret from Epstein’s victims, a blatant violation of the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act. As a result, the victimized girls had no opportunity to protest the deal in court.
You would think that a regime that vowed to “drain the swamp,” a regime that vowed to be tough on crime, would flinch from nominating, for a cabinet post, a guy who gifted a veritable get-out-of jail free card to a notorious predator of young girls. But you are not surprised to discover, yet again, the chasm between promise and performance. And how ironic it is that Acosta oversees the federal agency that is tasked with the oversight of the nation’s labor laws — including those that prohibit human trafficking.
Michael Reiter, who helmed the Palm Beach Police Department at the time of the ’07 deal, said yesterday: “The appropriate authorities should apologize to the victims for the way that this was handled by prosecutors in Florida.” And Jack Scarola, a lawyer who represents several of the victims, said yesterday that Acosta’s deal was “unprecedented and a patent abuse of prosecutorial discretion.”
We don’t know whether Trump, Bill Clinton, or the other high-flying Epstein bros shared their host’s predilections; federal prosecutors in Manhattan, who filed the new indictment, alleged nothing of the sort. Yesterday, Clinton’s office put out a statement denying any and all knowledge and participation. Trump said yesterday that “I was not a fan” of Epstein, although that clashes with his previous praise of Epstein. In 2002 he told New York magazine: “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.”
We may never learn whether, or to what extent, Epstein’s powerful male partying pals were in any way complicit. But what we do know is bad enough. The current regime in Washington is a misogynist sinkhole.
Trump defended his staff secretary, Rob Porter, long after it was obvious, via documented photographs, that Porter had beaten his wife: “He said very strongly that he’s innocent.” Trump defended Alabama Senate candidate and accused molester Roy Moore, despite a slew of credible women: “He totally denies it. He says it didn’t happen.” Trump, himself accused of sexual misconduct by at least 18 women, last month ridiculed alleged rape victim E. Jean Carroll by insisting that she wasn’t his “type.” And yesterday, he said he feels badly for Acosta, who’s doing an “excellent” job. In this fetid climate, is it any surprise that so many victimized women believe that vindication is a pipe dream?
Trump also said yesterday, in light of the new federal indictment in Manhattan, that he will look into the Acosta-Epstein plea deal “very carefully.” Perhaps due diligence should have been done before Acosta was elevated to Trump’s orbit. And given this latest vivid evidence of how powerful men protect each other at the expense of justice, perhaps some of the women who voted for Trump in 2016 — 53 percent of all white women, by the way — will wake up in time for 2020.
On a related note: The new indictment filed against Epstein, and his arrest and incarceration over the weekend, would never have happened if not for the investigative journalism conducted last year by The Miami Herald. Now more than ever, this is why we need in-depth reportage.