- Prominent billionaire Jeffrey Epstein was charged with sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy for crimes involving victims allegedly as young as 13.
- By 2008, federal prosecutors had identified 36 minors that Epstein had abused, and the Miami Herald later reported that they had independently identified nearly 80 women who had been victims of Epstein.
- He faced life in prison, but was given only 13 only months in jail after his lawyers made a deal with then-prosecutor Alexander Acosta, who is now the Secretary of Labor, and who many are calling on to resign in wake of the new charges.
- Epstein also has ties to prominent political circles, like those of Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, causing many to wonder if they knew about the crimes Epstein committed.
Billionaire hedge-fund manager and financier Jeffrey Epstein was charged with sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy by federal prosecutors, according to an indictment that was unsealed Monday.
Epstein was arrested on Saturday and held in custody in New York, where he stood trial on Monday.
According to the indictment, Epstein, “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes in Manhattan, New York, and Palm Beach, Florida, among other locations.”
From 2002 to 2005, Epstein “enticed and recruited” minors to “engage in sex acts with him, after which he would give the victims hundreds of dollars in cash,” the indictment stated. “Epstein also paid certain of his victims to recruit additional girls to be similarly abused by Epstein.”
“[The victims] were as young as 14 years old at the time they were abused by Jeffrey Epstein,” it continued. “Epstein intentionally sought out minors and knew that many of his victims were in fact under the age of 18, including because, in some instances, minor victims expressly told him their age.”
The indictment also said that Epstein “worked and conspired with others, including employees and associates who facilitated his conduct by, among other things, contacting victims and scheduling their sexual encounters with Epstein.”
If found guilty, Epstein could face up to 45 years in prison. During his court appearance on Monday, he pleaded not guilty to the charges.
However, shortly after, the Justice Department released a memo saying that federal agents had raided Epstein’s New York mansion and found “At least hundreds—and perhaps thousands—of sexually suggestive photographs of fully- or partially nude females.”
“Some of the nude or partially-nude photographs appear to be of underage girls, including at least one girl who, according to her counsel, was underage at the time the relevant photographs were taken,” the memo continued.
After the news of Epstein’s arrest broke, it was reported that prosecutors said several women came forward with complaints, including accusers who had not previously spoken to the government about their cases.
Epstein is no stranger to these serious accusations. For years, Epstein has been accused of preying on minors both in court cases and in police complaints.
An investigation into his misconduct was first opened in 2005 after the parents of an accuser in Florida went to the police.
That investigation grew rapidly. By 2008, federal prosecutors had identified 36 underage victims, according to documents reviewed by the Miami Herald.
The Herald reported that investigators found evidence of abuse dating back to 2001, and said that Epstein had abused girls as young as 13. The Herald also identified about 80 women who said they were sexually abused by Epstein and ultimately located about 60 of those women.
Federal prosecutors in Miami prepared a huge 53-page federal indictment against Epstein. If found guilty, he could have faced life in prison.
Then in 2008, prosecutors negotiated a last-minute secret deal with Epstein’s lawyers.
Under that deal, Epstein pleaded guilty to two prostitution charges and was sentenced to only 13 months in jail. However, while in jail, he was given work-release privileges which allowed him to leave six days a week for 12 hours a day.
The deal also protected any co-conspirators, and notably, the prosecutors did not tell the victims they were representing about the deal they made until after it was approved.
After the deal was made public, it was met with significant backlash. Many accused the Justice Department of mishandling the case, and in turn, the department has faced litigation from Epstein’s accusers over the years.
In February, the Justice Department finally opened its own internal review into the decision.
Connections to Powerful People
Since the 2008 deal, some have claimed that Epstein was able to get off so easy because he is a powerful and influential man, and also because he prides himself on having a long list of even more powerful and influential friends.
Among other high-profile and powerful people, Epstein’s circle of friends included former President Bill Clinton and President Donald Trump.
In a statement, Clinton’s office said that he had flown on Epstein’s private plane several times for work involving the Clinton Foundation after his term as president.
The statement also said that the former president “knows nothing” about the crimes Epstein has been accused of.
President Trump also has ties to Epstein that go far back, with reports of Trump attending parties hosted by Epstein, and Epstein visiting Mar-A-Lago.
In 2002, Trump spoke to New York Magazine about Epstein.
“I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with,” Trump said. “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.”
Additionally, in 2016, Trump was sued by a girl who claimed Trump raped her in 1994 when she was 13 at a party hosted by Epstein. The lawsuit has since been dropped, as the woman said she was receiving threats.
However, in 2017, an attorney for the Trump Organization, said that Trump “had no relationship with Mr. Epstein and had no knowledge whatsoever of his conduct.”
Connections to Others in Trump Administration
Beyond Trump himself, other officials in the administration have also been linked to Epstein.
On Monday, Attorney General William Barr said he was going to recuse himself from Epstein’s sex trafficking case, citing the fact that he had previously worked at a law firm Epstein has used in the past.
However, on Tuesday morning, Barr decided not to recuse himself from the case, though he will still be recused from department’s review of the 2008 plea deal Epstein reached with prosecutors.
That is not where the complications for the Trump administration end. The prosecutor that agreed to the controversial deal was Alexander Acosta, who is now Trump’s Labor Secretary.
Acosta responded to the situation in a tweet on Tuesday, and said that he was “pleased that NY prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence.”
Acosta’s tweet followed numerous remarks from top Democrats calling for him to resign. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called for Acosta to step down in a tweet on Monday.
Speaking on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on Trump to fire Acosta if he does not resign.
“I am calling on Secretary Acosta to resign,” Schumer said. “It is now impossible for anyone to have confidence in Secretary Acosta’s ability to lead the Department of Labor. If he refuses to resign, President Trump should fire him.”
Others in the Republican party chimed in as well. On Monday, Senator Ted Cruz responded to a tweet posted by CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Tapper retweeted a Miami Herald article that named Acosta and others who they said enabled Epstein. In his tweet, Tapper indicated that he hoped Acosta and the others would go down with Epstein.
Cruz responded to the tweet, writing, “Fully agree.”
When asked by a Fox News anchor if he thought Acosta should resign, Cruz did not outright answer the question.
“I’m concerned about the allegations, but the Department of Justice has an ongoing investigation,” he said. “I think we should find out what happened, I think we should have imposed the toughest penalty we could have, based on the evidence, and I think we need to inquire if we did that.”
Epstein is due back in court on Thursday. On Monday, Epstein’s lawyer, Reid Weingarten, said in a statement that the accusations had been settled in 2008.
“To us this indictment is essentially a do-over,” Weingarten said. “This is old stuff. This is ancient stuff.”
However, U.S. Attorney for Manhattan, Geoffrey Berman, who is prosecuting the case, said the agreement from 2008 only is only binding in the Southern District of Florida.
See what others are saying: (Miami Herald) (The New York Times) (The Daily Beast)
Donald Trump and Eldest Three Children Hit With Fraud Lawsuit From New York AG
AG Letitia James says that the former president “falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself.”
Lawsuit Filed Against Trump
New York Attorney General Letitia James announced on Wednesday that she filed a civil lawsuit against former president Donald Trump and his three eldest children over allegations that they fraudulently inflated asset valuations within the Trump Organization.
Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump are all listed alongside their father in the lawsuit. Executives Jeffrey McConney and Allen Weisselberg, the latter of whom recently pled guilty to tax crimes, are also listed alongside other Trump businesses.
“Donald Trump, with the help of his children…and senior executives at the Trump Organization, falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to induce banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms than would otherwise have been available to the company, to satisfy continuing loan covenants, to induce insurers to provide insurance coverage for higher limits and at lower premiums, and to gain tax benefits, among other things,” a press release announcing the lawsuit claimed.
The Attorney General’s office claims that between 2011 and 2021, Trump and the Trump Organization made 200 false and misleading claims about asset values on annual financial statements.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in a State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
“The complaint demonstrates that Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and to cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us,” James said while announcing the complaint.
Her office is seeking to permanently ban Trump and his children from serving as an officer or director in any New York corporation and to bar Trump and his organization from entering into any New York real estate acquisitions for five years. The office is also seeking to recover $250 million in penalty payments, among other forms of relief.
The Office of the Attorney General has also referred the matter to the federal attorneys in New York and to the IRS for criminal investigation.
“There aren’t two sets of laws for people in this nation: former presidents must be held to the same standards as everyday Americans,” James added in a statement on social media.
“Trump’s crimes are not victimless,” she continued. “When the well-connected and powerful break the law to get more money than they are entitled to, it reduces resources available to working people, small businesses, and taxpayers.”
Trump Allegedly Inflated Key Assets
According to James’ release, Trump “made known through Mr. Weisselberg that he wanted his net worth on his statements to increase every year.”
“And the statements were the vehicle by which his net worth was fraudulently inflated by billions of dollars year after year,” the release continued.
Among the assets Trump and his organization allegedly inflated was the Trump Tower Triplex, an apartment Trump allegedly claimed was 30,000 square feet when it is just around 11,000 square feet. Because of its ballooned size, the property was valued at $327 million in 2015, roughly three times as much as the sole apartment in New York City to ever sell for over $100 million at the time.
For further comparison, the highest sale for a listing in Trump Tower at the time was only $16 million.
Trump also allegedly claimed Mar-a-Lago was valued as high as $739 million based on the “false premise” that the property could be developed and sold for residential use. The lawsuit claims that Trump actually signed deeds donating those rights, limiting the property’s use to a social club. James and her office claim its value would fall closer to $75 million.
Inflated Clauations Cannot Be “Excused”
“The inflated asset valuations in the Statements cannot be brushed aside or excused as merely the result of exaggeration or good faith estimation about which reasonable real estate professionals may differ,” the lawsuit states, adding that instead, they are the result of improper methodology intentionally meant to falsely boost Trump’s net worth.
The investigation into Trump’s alleged fraud began nearly three years ago, and the former president has repeatedly called it a politically motivated witch hunt. His attorney, Alina Habba, doubled down on that rhetoric in a statement Wednesday.
“Today’s filing is neither focused on the facts nor the law – rather, it is solely focused on advancing the Attorney General’s political agenda,” Habba said. “We are confident that our judicial system will not stand for this unchecked abuse of authority, and we look forward to defending our client against each and every one of the Attorney General’s meritless claims.”
For his part, Trump has blasted the lawsuit on Truth Social, calling James a “fraud” and a “crime-fighting disaster.”
Trump previously tried to impede the probe but was ultimately ordered by a judge to sit for a deposition and turn over subpoenaed documents. Reports say he pled the fifth hundreds of times during his deposition.
See what others are saying: (Bloomberg) (The Washington Post) (Reuters)
Hurricane Fiona Causes “Catastrophic” Damage in Puerto Rico, Leaving Many Without Power
While power has been restored to some, more than a million remain without it as continued rainfall, flooding, and landslides are expected to cause further damage across the island.
Hurricane Fiona Wreaks Havoc
Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico Sunday, bringing heavy rains, flooding, and landslides, while also knocking out power for the entire island and killing at least one person.
Photos and videos posted on social media show floodwaters consuming major streets and engulfing cars. Some pictures show an entire bridge flooded, making it impassible. Other footage shows a different bridge entirely uprooted and a metal barrier ripped away from the road and floating down a river of floodwater.
Officials have said conditions are still too dangerous to fully evaluate the extent of the crisis. In remarks to the public, Puerto Rico’s governor, Pedro Pierluisi, described the damage as “catastrophic.”
He asserted that the storm has been one of the most significant since Hurricane Maria — which hit the island almost exactly 5 years ago to the day — killing more than 3,000 people, leaving many without power for months, and causing destruction that the island is still recovering from.
Pierluisi noted that Puerto Rico has received over 30 inches of rain and that some areas have even gotten more rain than during Hurricane Maria. As of Monday afternoon, the National Gaurd has led 30 rescue operations so far, saving more than 1,000 stranded residents in 25 municipalities, according to the governor.
Pierluisi also added that more than 2,000 people were in the island’s 128 shelters, with officials further saying there is plenty of shelter space for those who need it. On Sunday, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, which will allow federal agencies to coordinate disaster relief.
Continued Issues As Storm Rages On
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s water authority has confirmed that just over 70% of the island is still without water. According to poweroutage.us, more than 1.3 million customers were still without power as of Monday morning.
The power company LUMA also stated that electricity had been restored to around 100,000 customers over the course of Sunday night, though it previously warned that the full restoration of power could take several days as the storm has created “incredibly challenging” conditions.
While Hurricane Fiona has passed through Puerto Rico, having now made landfall in the Dominican Republic, officials and experts say that heavy rains and further flooding are still to be expected for the next few days.
The National Weather Service has warned that “life-threatening and catastrophic flooding” as well as mudslides and landslides are expected to continue across the island. As a result, Pierluisi has urged Puerto Ricans Monday to remain home and in shelters so that officials can continue to respond to others in need.
He also noted that the areas most impacted by the hurricane include the southern part of the island, the southwest, and the mountains.
After moving through the Dominican Republic, Hurricane Fiona is expected to head towards Turks and Caicos Tuesday. The National Hurricane Center has said that the storm will continue to grow and by Wednesday, it is set to become a major hurricane — which means a Category 3 or higher.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (CNN)
Government Aid Cut Child Poverty in Half During Pandemic, Data Shows
The reduction occurred similarly across geography, race, family type, and citizenship status.
Largest Drop in Half a Century
The United States’s child poverty rate sank to the lowest level on record last year, primarily thanks to pandemic relief measures and other government programs, according to an analysis of census data released Tuesday.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s supplementary poverty measure, which accounts for safety net programs and tax credits as well as regional differences in the cost of living.
From around 11% in 2019, the percentage of kids living below the poverty line fell to 9.7% in 2020 and 5.2% the year after that.
In just two years, nearly 5.5 million kids were lifted from poverty, marking an almost 60% drop in the child poverty rate.
The Center’s researchers gave most credit to the federal government’s numerous interventions in the economy, from stimulus payments and the expanded child tax credit to eviction moratoriums and expanded unemployment insurance.
Without government intervention, poverty in 2020 would have experienced its second-largest recorded increase, the Center claimed, but instead, it underwent the largest single-year decline in over half a century.
Especially impactful was the expanded child tax credit, which sent up to $300 per child to households with children every month between July and December 2021.
According to the analysis, this policy alone pulled nearly three million kids out of poverty.
But the tax credit’s expansion expired at the end of the year despite Democrats’ efforts to prolong it with Biden’s signature Build Back Better bill, which was blocked by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who reportedly told colleagues he was concerned that families might use the payments to buy drugs.
Poverty Before COVID
Child poverty has fallen by 59% since 1993, when it sat at around 28%, according to another analysis published Sunday by The New York Times and the nonpartisan group Child Trends.
They found that the decline occurred across all 50 states and D.C., as well as in different levels of poverty.
It similarly affected nearly all subgroups of children, — white, Black, Asian and Hispanic, single-parent and two-parent, immigrant and non-immigrant.
The causes driving the pre-pandemic decline included general economic improvement — low unemployment, a higher labor force participation rate among single mothers, and growing state minimum wages — but the researchers pinned government welfare programs as the dominant factor.
They specifically mentioned the earned income tax credit, social security, unemployment insurance, and nutrition and housing assistance.
Despite the positive trend, more than eight million children still live below the poverty line, and that number excludes those who live just above it but still struggle to meet basic needs.
The current poverty line sits around $29,000 for a family of four in a location with typical living costs.
Moreover, disparities still persist, with Black and Latino children about three times as likely as their white peers to be poor.