An interesting and much-missed aspect of the Jeffrey Epstein indictment is the way Democrats and Republicans view the matter. Republican politicians and pundits have tended to focus on the legalities of the arrest, Epstein’s guilty plea, and his brief imprisonment. For Democrats, as usual, it is all about politics and power. In not recognizing this, Republicans already have suffered embarrassment and may lose their own political opportunities.
The fact is, nobody really remembered or cared who Jeffrey Epstein was until about five minutes ago.
Which is to say that last week (July 8) Geoffrey Berman, the relatively new U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY), unsealed an indictment of the billionaire charging him with sex trafficking of minors and conspiracy. In 2008 Epstein pled guilty in Florida state court to similar charges (soliciting sex with a minor) in return for the then U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida (former Labor Secretary Alex Acosta) dropping related federal charges.
Almost immediately the SDNY indictment set off a veritable firestorm of protest from the media and Democrats, not against the loathsome Epstein, but the man most responsible for having sent him to jail in 2008, Acosta. The ginned-up Acosta drama sucked up almost all the political air in Washington for the better part of a week, until the Labor secretary stepped down on Friday.
Democrats and the media accused Acosta of giving Epstein a sweetheart deal, knuckling under to his heavy hitting legal team, and failing to keep Epstein’s victims apprised of the goings-on. Worse, Republicans piled on, as if dancing to the Dems’ tune. On July 9 (the day after the indictment issued) Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham announced he was open to holding hearings on Acosta’s alleged wrongdoing in the 2008 plea deal, while conservative pundits bemoaned Acosta’s possible misfeasance.
Typically, this was a case of Republicans failing to see the forest for the trees. The Democrats could not care less whether Epstein — a Democrat contributor — got a too-good deal back in 2008. They had eight years to do something about it while they controlled the Justice Department under President Obama. Did they? Of course not.
The Obama Justice Department, FBI, IRS, Bureau of Land Management, ATF, and numerous other agencies were too busy engaging in their own political hackery to worry about what a Bill Clinton buddy was up to after serving his one year sentence. And that’s the real point.
The Democrats reacted ferociously to the Epstein indictment not because they care about the alleged “injustice” of the 2008 plea deal, but because they saw it as a political act against them and the Clintons. They assume that Berman is acting as a Republican lackey to get at Clinton. Why? Because that is what a Democrat would do.
Obama so politicized the federal bureaucracy that had Hillary Clinton won in 2018 and controlled the Justice Department, thin indictments against various “friends of Trump” if not Trump himself, would have been pouring out of U.S. attorneys’ offices countrywide. The Dems can’t believe that Trump is not trying to do the same to them, and so they’ve reacted as if scalded. Indeed, the almost instant attack on Acosta suggests that Democrat operatives and their media soulmates pretty much assumed this must happen, and so had their attack on Acosta already set.
In reality, it’s pretty clear that Trump and the Republicans have nothing to do with the indictment of Epstein. The indictment was simply Berman and the FBI acting on their own initiative, either because they really think they can make a case against Epstein (despite some very serious legal obstacles) or because they want some limelight (or both.)
The legal obstacle is double jeopardy, which Andrew McCarthy points out may well bar prosecution unless Berman can come up with some new acts by Epstein, as opposed to new charges based upon prior pled to acts (which is what we apparently have now.) But while McCarthy’s legal analysis is sound, and he rejects the “political mau-mauing” of Acosta, the “mau-mauing” is the main point.
Defending Acosta’s actions in 2008, or lamenting that the political attack on a not unreasonable plea-agreement might undermine future prosecutions (as does Alan Dershowitz) is all well and good. But this ignores the elephant in the room named Bill Clinton. This whole affair is about Clinton, not Epstein, not Acosta, not the rights of Epstein’s victims, or how the Supreme Court will assess jeopardy attaching between the various federal circuits.
The Democrats and the media saw the Epstein indictment as a direct attack on Clinton and thus the Democratic Party. It wasn’t, but let’s be frank — it should have been. The Dems would do it to Republicans in a heartbeat if they had the ammo, which is why they assumed that’s what was going on last week.
The question now is, do Republican politicians and media have the killer instinct of their Democrat rivals to take this where it belongs – to upstate Chappaqua, and not just Epstein’s Manhattan digs — or do they just let it go? You can bet Bill, Hillary, and their minions are busy wiping down those hard drives (with cloth and hammer), making arrangements with potential witnesses, and getting ready to explain away airplane logs and junkets with young women. They are practiced, have gotten away for a half-century, and plan to do it again.