Barr recuses himself from Epstein plea deal review

July 9, 2019

Attorney General William Barr recused himself from a review of accused pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s 2008 plea deal. However, despite an earlier statement, Barr will not recuse himself from the new Epstein case in New York.

Barr told reporters Monday that he would step aside from the DOJ’s prosecution of the billionaire pedophile Epstein, who was charged on Monday with sex trafficking of underage girls, because Barr’s former law firm once represented the convicted sex offender. But the Justice Department clarified Tuesday that Barr will not recuse himself from the new case, although he is still recusing himself from a review of a controversial 2008 plea deal that let Epstein evade justice.

“The Attorney General has and will remain recused from any retrospective review of the resolution of the [Miami plea deal],” a Justice Department spokesperson said Tuesday. “After consulting with career ethics officials … [Barr] will not recuse from the current [Manhattan] matter.”

Barr not recusing himself from Epstein case

Prosecutors in New York on Monday unsealed indictments against Epstein for sex trafficking of minors and conspiracy to sex trafficking of minors. He pleaded not guilty. The new case against Epstein has raised speculation over who else will go down with him, as the billionaire counted the high and mighty among his acquaintances, including President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton.

Epstein’s arrest revived criticism of a sweetheart 2008 plea deal that let Epstein go with a slap on the wrist. Trump’s Labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta, was one of the prosecutors who arranged a hushed plea agreement with Epstein that required him to register as a sex offender, pay restitution to victims, and serve 13 months in jail for sex crimes with underage girls. Epstein pleaded guilty to two state solicitation charges instead of crimes that could have sent him to prison for life. He was even allowed to leave jail during the day to spend time operating his business.

Barr told reporters on Monday that he would step aside from the case because his former law firm, Kirkland and Ellis, represented Epstein in the previous case. Barr joined the firm in 2009. But on Tuesday, Barr had reportedly decided not to recuse himself from the new case against Epstein in the Southern District of New York after consulting with  DOJ ethics officials — although he will recuse himself from any review of the 2008 plea deal.

This is not the first time Barr was questioned about the Epstein case. During his confirmation hearings to his current post in January, Barr was asked by Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) if he would oversee a thorough investigation of the non-prosecution agreement in the Epstein case, which Sasse blasted as unjust.

“Senator, I have to recuse myself from Kirkland & Ellis matters, I am told,” Barr said. “And I think Kirkland & Ellis was maybe involved in that case, so I need to sort out exactly what my role can be. I will say that if I’m confirmed I’ll make sure your questions are answered on this case.”

Trump admin, Clinton scrutinized

The New York case against Epstein alleges that he “sexually exploited and abused dozens of underage girls” between 2002 and 2005 at his mansions in New York and Palm Beach, Florida, and other estates. The indictments also allege that he paid victims to recruit more underage girls for him to prey upon.

Barr’s decision not to recuse himself has provided another opening for Trump critics to attack the president over an alleged connection between Trump and Epstein. Trump critics have zeroed in on Acosta, now Trump’s Labor Secretary, who was the U.S. attorney in Miami when Epstein got his sweetheart deal. The secretary is facing calls to step down from Democrats, who have criticized Trump’s decision to hire him.

Acosta was also a former partner at Barr’s former law firm. Kirkland and Ellis partner Jay Lefkowitz represented Epstein in the 2008 case, along with Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz and others. Lefkowitz met with Acosta to arrange the secret plea deal, according to the Miami Herald.

Acosta has defended his handling of the case, and he has received support from Trump, who said he would look “carefully” at Acosta’s handling of the case, while expressing sympathy for his embattled secretary. “The crimes committed by Epstein are horrific, and I am pleased that NY prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence,” Acosta tweeted Tuesday.

While the Trump administration has been scrutinized over the case, Epstein’s connections with former President Clinton have also received renewed attention. On Monday, a spokesman for Clinton denied that the former president knew anything of Epstein’s crimes. According to Fox, flight logs show that Clinton flew on Epstein’s private jet, the “Lolita Express,” 26 times.

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Matthew Boose

Matthew Boose is a staff writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor's degree from Stony Brook University and has contributed to The Daily Caller and The Stony Brook Press.