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Conspiracy in Search of a Theory (Part 2): Epstein/Trump/Deutsche Bank/Russia

July 30, 2020
Epstein court case

Excerpt from court ruling, February 21, 2019

Continuing with our review of the pieces of the Epstein/Trump/Deutsche Bank/Russia (ETDBR) nexus.

Donald Barr, William Barr, and Jeffrey Epstein

It’s now pretty widely known that the father of Attorney General William Barr, Donald Barr, was the headmaster of the elite Dalton School in Manhattan’s Upper East Side who hired 21-year-old Jeffrey Epstein in 1974 to teach science and math. Epstein had no college degree, but that didn’t bother Donald Barr, who was at that time embroiled in protracted battles with the school’s trustees and had submitted his resignation. At the time, Donald Barr was described as “controversial and outspoken”, but according to a wide-ranging profile in Vanity Fair, he was also a rigid defender of traditional values regarding politics, comportment, and dress.

While the headmaster was manning the barricades against wearing jeans (or pants for girls), Epstein was remembered as the cool young teacher, a 70s hipster. His photos in the school’s 1975 and 1976 yearbooks show him sporting a boule of long curly hair, tie-less in bold print shirts with long collar points and unbuttoned to mid-chest where rested a gold chain. No allegations of sexual misconduct with students have emerged, but alumni from that time recalled Epstein often flirting with female students and showing up at a party where students were drinking.

Epstein apparently left the school about 1976, dismissed for “poor performance” (the Times was unable to elicit further details). By that time, Donald Barr was also gone, replaced by Gardner Dunnan, who was later sued by a former female student who alleged that he had invited her to live with him at age 14 and had repeatedly assaulted her while in his care.

According to the Vanity Fair article, as Dalton’s headmaster, Donald Barr stood firmly opposed to changing attitudes regarding sexual morality, homosexuality, smoking marijuana or using any drugs–basically anything that smacked of counter-culture. Religiously, he was a  traditionalist Catholic, even though he had been born Jewish and converted. Politically, he was staunchly old-school Republican. All of these values apparently were absorbed whole by his son Bill, who has been a conservative Republican and ardent Catholic his whole life.

The one bizarre twist on Donald Barr’s ironbound conservatism was an odd sci-fi novel called Space Relations, which he published in 1973 (reprinted in 1975). It “imagined the kingdom of Kossar, a hellscape where power, drugs, and boredom have turned the ruling caste into vicious sexual predators. The hero, John Craig—’a rising young Earth diplomat’ who is captured and enslaved—eventually triumphs, restoring virginity and monogamy to the colonized.” His hero Craig goes along with demands to assault a teenage slave as part of a program to “breed” people. Especially when seen in the context of Epstein’s later sexual career, the plot line certainly invites speculation that the author was dealing with a raging internal psychological conflict and that his puritanical ideas about sex might be a defense against a strongly felt attraction. It’s easy to wonder if he shared Epstein’s predilections, whether or not ever acted upon. (After Epstein’s arrest last year, copies of the book were reportedly selling for hundreds of dollars on line.)

Flash forward to July 6, 2019, when Epstein was arrested at Teterboro airport upon returning in his private jet from France. The arrest came as a result of a new case generated by the US attorney in the Southern District of New York (SDNY), then headed by Trump appointee Geoffrey Berman (who was later fired by Trump in June 2020 after AG Bill Barr unsuccessfully tried to force him to resign). The reopening of an inquiry in February 2019 was prompted by congressional pressure–particularly by Sen. Ben Sasse–following the furor caused by the Miami Herald investigation into the incredibly lenient deal given Epstein after his 2008 conviction in Florida. 

Attorney General William Barr initially announced that he would recuse himself from the New York Epstein case because he had worked for a law firm, Kirkland & Ellis, that had represented Epstein in the Florida case. (No mention was made of his father’s link to Epstein.) Barr then reversed himself, saying that after consulting with Justice Department ethics officials he had determined there was no need to recuse. He said, however, that he would remain recused from an internal DOJ review of the Florida case.

Barr’s involvement in the case immediately raised red flags because of Trump’s own ties with Epstein and Barr’s own growing reputation as acting more as Trump’s personal attorney than as an impartial head of federal law enforcement. CNN legal analyst Elie Honig tweeted: “I have zero confidence Barr will let this case play out in its natural course if it should start to implicate or do collateral damage to powerful, politically-connected people.” Former SDNY prosecutor Mimi Rocah tweeted: “The line being drawn here makes no sense. This is very concerning.” There was speculation that Barr’s unrecusal was done at Trump’s orders.

Three days after Epstein’s arrest Vanity Fair reporter Emily Jane Fox published an article recalling remarks Trump had made at CPAC in 2015 regarding Epstein and Bill Clinton: “Nice guy. Got a lot of problems coming up, in my opinion, with the famous island with Jeffrey Epstein, lot of problems.” The implication, of course, was that this would be used against Hillary Clinton in the presidential campaign. In the weeks before Trump’s CPAC remarks, the National Enquirer had published a series of articles about Epstein including an interview with Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre in which she claimed Epstein paid her to have sex with Britain’s Prince Andrew and said she had seen Bill Clinton around, though not with women. According to the Vanity Fair article, publisher David Pecker had brought the Enquirer article prior to publication to Trump Tower and had often delivered similar articles to Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen so that he and Trump could clear them before they appeared in print.

Barr’s involvement in the New York case became even more intense after Epstein was found dead in his jail cell on July 10, 2019. The bizarre series of lapses in oversight of this super high profile prisoner led immediately to a proliferation of speculations and theories. One widely circulated story that Barr made a secret visit to the prison shortly before Epstein died is almost certainly untrue; Snopes labeled the story flatly “false”.

But Barr clearly wanted to get ahead of the story and, most importantly, be seen as aggressively investigating what had happened. According to the NY Times, Barr was “personally overseeing the four federal inquiries into the matter and is briefed on them multiple times a day. In less than two weeks, he suspended the two prison employees who guarded Mr. Epstein the night he died, transferred the warden and found a new permanent director for the Bureau of Prisons. He stayed apprised of the autopsy and was alerted that the coroner would officially rule the death a suicide. And federal prosecutors in New York have subpoenaed more than a dozen prison officials and employees as the fast-moving investigation into Mr. Epstein’s death intensifies.” The problem, of course, was that Barr had already squandered much of his credibility outside of TrumpWorld.

Trump didn’t help things when shortly after Epstein was found dead, he retweeted a fringe accusation that the Clintons were to blame. The original tweet by comedian Terrence Williams claimed that Mr. Epstein “had information on Bill Clinton & now he’s dead”.  In an accompanying two-minute video, Mr. Williams noted that “for some odd reason, people that have information on the Clintons end up dead.”

With Epstein’s death, the New York case seemed to be at a dead end and the case was formally closed on August 29, 2019. However, a few days earlier an unusual court hearing allowed more than a dozen women to come forward to tell stories of how Epstein tricked, coerced and sexually assaulted them, and the FBI issued another appeal for victims to come forward with their stories, suggesting that prosecutors were continuing to pursue the case.

It seems that those efforts led to the arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s BFF and alleged procuress, on July 2, 2020. The indictment issued by SDNY charges her with six counts, including transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. She also faces perjury charges for statements she made during a deposition in 2016 about her role in Mr. Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking operation.

Was the firing of SDNY US Attorney Geoffrey Berman related to the impending indictment of Ghislaine Maxwell? The timing is suggestive, although other SDNY cases such as those against Rudy Giuliani and Michael Cohen had displeased Trump as well. Less than two weeks before her arrest, late on Friday June 19, Barr suddenly announced that Berman was resigning his position. Berman quickly released a statement that he had not resigned and had no intention of resigning, adding that he had only learned the he was “stepping down” from a DOJ news release. The DOJ statement added that “President Trump intends to nominate Jay Clayton, currently the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to serve as the next United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York” and that Trump had appointed Craig Carpenito, the current USA in New Jersey, to be acting USA for SDNY until Clayton could be confirmed. Clayton, it should be noted, had never served as a prosecutor.

Berman’s push back forced Barr to ask Trump to fire Berman, which Barr announced he had done the following day, even though Trump stated that he was “not involved” and that it was up to Barr. Amidst all these unexplained contradictions, Berman was able to extract an agreement to name his deputy Audrey Strauss as acting USA, thus at least temporarily keeping the leadership of SDNY in house. The whole affair, as many professional legal eminences–including the New York State Bar Association–observed, was “extremely unusual”.

As one analysis pointed out, what was happening to SDNY followed a template already used to fire the USA for the District of Columbia and take control of the office and all the cases that the office had been pursuing against Trump’s associates. “Once they seized control, Barr’s team intervened to short-circuit that process. They interceded in the sentencing of Roger Stone, and more recently, they have made an effort to dismiss the case against Michael Flynn. In both circumstances, career prosecutors were so outraged that they withdrew from the case, and some resigned from the Department of Justice altogether. This is how an authoritarian works to subvert justice.”

Berman’s exit maneuvers seem to have temporarily preserved the integrity of the SDNY cases, Meanwhile, nothing further has been heard of the announced internal DOJ review of the outrageous deal Epstein received in the Florida case.

What Happened in Florida Under Trump’s Future Secretary of Labor

In October 2007, Jeffrey Epstein was facing a 53-page federal indictment for crimes that could have put him in prison for life. However, the US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Alexander Acosta, agreed to a stunningly lenient deal that would, in the words of Miami Herald investigative reporter Julie K. Brown,  “conceal the full extent of Epstein’s crimes and the number of people involved.” [What follows here is drawn from her prize-winning report, “Perversion of Justice”, published in November 2018.] Epstein would spend only 13 months in jail (he was released to “house arrest” five months before completing his 18 month sentence), and the non-prosecution agreement would shut down an ongoing FBI investigation into whether there were other victims and other powerful people who had taken part in Epstein’s sex crimes.

The pact required Epstein to plead guilty to two prostitution charges in state court. Epstein and four of his accomplices named in the agreement received immunity from all federal criminal charges. But even more unusual, the deal included wording that granted immunity to “any potential co-conspirators’’ who were also involved in Epstein’s crimes. These accomplices or participants were not identified in the agreement, leaving it open to interpretation whether it possibly referred to other influential people who were having sex with underage girls at Epstein’s various homes or on his plane.

As part of the arrangement, Acosta agreed, despite a federal law to the contrary, that the deal would be kept from the victims. As a result, the non-prosecution agreement was sealed until after it was approved by the judge, thereby averting any chance that the girls — or anyone else — might show up in court and try to derail it.

...”court records reveal details of the negotiations and the role that Acosta would play in arranging the deal, which scuttled the federal probe into a possible international sex trafficking operation. Among other things, Acosta allowed Epstein’s lawyers unusual freedoms in dictating the terms of the non-prosecution agreement.”

…”As a result, neither the victims — nor even the judge — would know how many girls Epstein allegedly sexually abused between 2001 and 2005, when his underage sex activities were first uncovered by police. Police referred the case to the FBI a year later, when they began to suspect that their investigation was being undermined by the Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office.

…”as part of the plea deal, Epstein provided what the government called “valuable consideration” for unspecified information he supplied to federal investigators. While the documents obtained by the Herald don’t detail what the information was, Epstein’s sex crime case happened just as the country’s subprime mortgage market collapsed, ushering in the 2008 global financial crisis.

“Records show that Epstein was a key federal witness in the criminal prosecution of two prominent executives with Bear Stearns, the global investment brokerage that failed in 2008, who were accused of corporate securities fraud. Epstein was one of the largest investors in the hedge fund managed by the executives, who were later acquitted. It is not known what role, if any, the case played in Epstein’s plea negotiations.”

“A close look at the trove of letters and emails contained in court records provides a window into the plea negotiations, revealing an unusual level of collaboration between federal prosecutors and Epstein’s legal team that even government lawyers, in recent court documents, admitted was unorthodox.

“Acosta, in 2011, would explain that he was unduly pressured by Epstein’s heavy-hitting lawyers — Lefkowitz, Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, Jack Goldberger, Roy Black, former U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis, Gerald Lefcourt, and Kenneth Starr, the former Whitewater special prosecutor who investigated Bill Clinton’s sexual liaisons with Monica Lewinsky.”

The evidence uncovered by the Herald suggests that Acosta and his lead prosecutor A. Marie Villafaña not only acquiesced to the demands of Epstein’s team, but actively colluded with them.

Epstein also got a incredibly cushy deal for serving his sentence. “Instead of being sent to state prison, Epstein was housed in a private wing of the Palm Beach County jail. And rather than having him sit in a cell most of the day, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office allowed Epstein work release privileges, which enabled him to leave the jail six days a week, for 12 hours a day, to go to a comfortable office that Epstein had set up in West Palm Beach. This was granted despite explicit sheriff’s department rules stating that sex offenders don’t qualify for work release.”

“Prosecutors allowed Epstein’s lawyers to dictate the terms of each deal that they drew up, and repeatedly backed down on deadlines, so that the defense essentially controlled the pace of the negotiations, the emails and letters show.

“It’s clear, from emails and other records, that prosecutors spent a lot of time figuring out a way to settle the case with the least amount of scandal. Instead of charging Epstein with a sex offense, prosecutors considered witness tampering and obstruction charges, and misdemeanors that would allow Epstein to secretly plead guilty in Miami instead of in Palm Beach County, where most of the victims lived, thereby limiting media exposure and making it less likely for victims to appear at the sentencing.”

…”after his release from jail, his subsequent year of probation under house arrest was filled with trips on his corporate jet to Manhattan and to his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands — all approved by the courts with no objections from the state.”

In July 2009, Acosta left DOJ to become dean of the Florida International University College of Law.

In February 2017, Alex Acosta was confirmed as Trump’s Secretary of Labor. During his hearings, the Epstein case was raised briefly, but not explored in any depth. After the publication of the Miami Herald investigation and the re-arrest of Jeffrey Epstein in New York, Acosta resigned his cabinet post on July 9, 2019, a month before Epstein was found dead in his jail cell.

The burning question is WHY Epstein received such incredibly favorable treatment. Even allowing for his wealth and team of very expensive and well-connected lawyers and the unequal deference our legal system accords to the rich and famous, this case stands out as something special.

One might presume that Acosta would have run the jaw-dropping Epstein plea deal through his bosses at DOJ, where he had been in charge of the Civil Rights Division before being named as US Attorney in Miami. Ironically, there he specialized in human trafficking, something that he emphasized during his 2017 confirmation hearings. Before working at DOJ, Acosta had clerked for Samuel Alito at the US Court of Appeals, 3rd Circuit (before Bush named him to the Supreme Court in 2006), and following that was employed by Kirkland & Ellis, the same law firm that Epstein hired for his defense and where William Barr was “of counsel” in 2009. Thus, he was extraordinarily well wired in elite legal circles, which makes one wonder why he would bend so easily to the demands of Epstein’s defense team.

At the time the plea deal was being negotiated, DOJ was in considerable turmoil following the resignation of Bush’s second AG Alberto Gonzalez over his authorization of warrantless surveillance of US citizens and “enhanced interrogation techniques”. He left in September 2007 and was replaced in November by Michael Mukasey, who was and is a close associate of Rudy Giuliani, both socially and professionally. (His stepson, Marc Mukasey also became a partner in Giuliani’s firm, before starting his own boutique firm in February 2019 where his clients include Donald Trump and his adult children. The younger Mukasey worked to defend Trump in the case involving the House subpoenas for Trump’s financial records at Deutsche Bank and Capital One.)  As AG, Michael Mukasey would presumably have had the ultimate word on the Epstein deal, though there seems to be no public record that he was involved in that decision.

According to a story in The Daily Beast, while Acosta was being vetted by the Trump transition team for the Labor job, he was asked if the Epstein deal was going to be a problem. Acosta explained “that back in the day he’d had just one meeting on the Epstein case. He’d cut the non-prosecution deal with one of Epstein’s attorneys because he had ‘been told’ to back off, that Epstein was above his pay grade. ‘I was told Epstein ‘belonged to intelligence’ [nota bene] and to leave it alone.’” Reportedly, that was enough for the transition team. 

TO BE CONTINUED…

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