Presidential hopeful Kamala Harris, D-Calif., blasted the influence of the powerful and connected elite last Tuesday when she called on top Justice Department officials to recuse themselves from any matter related to Jeffrey Epstein. She said their former law firm’s work on behalf of the financier accused of sexual abuse “calls into question the integrity of our legal system.”
Yet the same day, Harris’ husband headlined a Chicago fundraiser for her presidential campaign that was hosted by six partners of that firm, Kirkland and Ellis, according to an invitation obtained by The Associated Press.
Her decision to move ahead with the fundraiser hosted by Kirkland and Ellis partners while criticizing the firm underscores the tension that can arise when a politician’s rhetoric collides with their need to raise money to sustain a presidential campaign.
“If any connection with Kirkland and Ellis is a stain on (senior Justice Department officials), why isn’t a connection with the law firm for the receipt of campaign contributions a stain on her own campaign?” said Paul S. Ryan, an attorney for the Good Government Group Common Cause.
Kirkland & Ellis represented Epstein over a decade ago when the well-connected billionaire faced sex-trafficking charges in Florida. Lawyers with the firm helped negotiate a plea deal for Epstein in 2008, which allowed the financier to avoid federal trial by pleading guilty to state charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution. He served 13 months in prison for the charges. While he was required to register as a sex offender, he was allowed to leave jail six days a week for 12 hours due to a work-release provision.
Epstein was arrested July 6 on charges of sex trafficking of minors and related conspiracy. Federal prosecutors in New York accused him of sexually abusing and transporting dozens of underage girls — some as young as 14 — to his luxury homes in New York and Florida and paying them for sex acts. Epstein has pleaded not guilty to the charges. If convicted, he faces up to 45 years in prison.
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