MSNBC’s MADDOW: The Taint of Epstein Scandal Extends To Trump Administration
LITTLE SAINT JAMES ISLAND, U.S. Virgin Islands — MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow is not known for holding liberals feet to the fire.
But in the case of the most infamous billionaire to “grace” the coastline off the East End of St. Thomas — convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein — she does.
On Monday, Maddow turned her attention in the penultimate segment of TRMS once again to Epstein.
“During Alex Acosta`s tenure as U.S. attorney in South Florida, after he was appointed by George W. Bush, he became famous in that job for his absolutely scandalous role in one very high profile, very horrific case – the most high profile child rape case in modern American history,” Maddow said. “It involves a very, very, very rich man named Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein ended up being a very special kind of defendant in this case. Not just because of the nature of his crimes and not just because of his huge fortune but because of the powerful and high profile figures he surrounded himself with, both at the time of his alleged crimes and also when it came to putting together a defense team to get him off the hook.”
“He`s associated with some of the highest profile lawyers in the country, people like Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz, and Jay Lefkowitz. He counted among his friends people including the current President Donald Trump, and the former president, Bill Clinton, a member of the British royal family, Prince Andrew. But in 2005, this very powerful, very well-connected gazillionaire, in 2005, Palm Beach police opened an investigation into him because a 15-year-old girl told her parents that she had been sexually assaulted by him in his home in Palm Beach. This is a guy in his 50s. She`s 15.”
“The parents brought the case to the attention of the local police and the local police opened a police investigation. Ultimately, the local police ended up handing over what they found in their investigation to the FBI. They turned over evidence that they collected about Epstein allegedly running what appeared to be an epic criminal operation to molest and rape very large numbers of underage girls.”
“So, the initial investigation is conducted by the police in Palm Beach, Florida. They refer it to the FBI. The FBI ends up identifying dozens of underage girls as Epstein`s alleged victims. FBI documents that were just recently unsealed show that the FBI investigation ended up going far beyond South Florida, to look into more allegations of rape and molestation in New York and New Mexico and across the country.”
“Several days ago, “The Miami Herald” published a staggering report in which they compiled all of the known and investigatory documents about this case. In the process, they found even more of Jeffrey Epstein`s alleged victims.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were underage. We were little girls.
MICHELLE LICATA, 30, VICTIM: I was 16.
VIRGINIA ROBERTSON, 35, VICTIM: I was 16.
COURTNEY WILD, 31, VICTIM: I started going to him when I was 14, 15 – 14
JENA-LISA JONES, 30, VICTIM: If you think at 14, $200, that`s a lot of
money at 14 years old. I mean, that`s a lot of money now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was like, oh, you know, do you need to make any
extra money? I`m like yes. She`s like, OK, I can give you $200 with this
older guy in Palm Beach. He gets a lot of massages from girls.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On June 30th, 2008, Jeffrey Epstein, a Palm Beach
multimillionaire hedge fund manager, received what might have been the most
lenient plea deal for a serial sex offender in U.S. history. “The Miami
Herald” identified over 60 of his victims, just young middle and high
school schools at the time of the abuse. More than a decade later, several
of them are talking for the first time about how they were molested by
Epstein and believe they were betrayed by the very prosecutors who were
supposed to hold Epstein accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This is remarkable new reporting from Julie K. Brown, who`s a reporter at “The Miami Herald.” And when “The Herald” says there in that video that they prepared to accompany this print reporting, when they say the victims believe they were betrayed by the prosecutors in the Epstein case, who they`re talking about there at the end of the line is Alex Acosta, who was the U.S. attorney in Miami at the time. He is now in Trump`s cabinet.
“And the betrayal here is about the deal that Jeffrey Epstein got from Alex Acosta. Once police and the FBI got on to his case about what he was doing with these dozens, maybe hundreds of underage girls, those investigations into Jeffrey Epstein ultimately led to a 53-page draft federal indictment that was prepared against him. The federal charges he would have been facing in that indictment would have accused him of an interstate commerce conspiracy – interstate commerce makes it federal, right? – to recruit underage girls for sex.”
“And those charges had the potential to put Jeffrey Epstein in federal prison for the rest of his life. But that is nowhere near what happened to Jeffrey Epstein. Instead, Alex Acosta, who`s the top federal prosecutor in Southern Florida, the U.S. attorney in Miami, he struck a deal with Epstein`s attorneys. The deal was a non-prosecution agreement in which Jeffrey Epstein would receive immunity from all federal criminal charges.”
“That immunity would also extend to any potential co-conspirators in terms of any other people who were involved in this child molestation and child rape scheme. Again, remember, dozens if not hundreds of victims. That deal between Alex Acosta and Jeffrey Epstein shut down the ongoing FBI investigation because Acosta offered him immunity from all federal crimes.”
“Remember, at that point that FBI investigation was active across the country, was busily identifying more victims, looking into the question of whether there were potentially more abusers beyond just Epstein himself. But then this non-prosecution agreement was arrived at between Alex Acosta and Epstein`s lawyers. And when they did it, there was no notification to the victims.”
“The FBI had identified three dozen victims. Alex Acosta`s deal was never presented to them. None of the victims knew that Acosta was shutting down the entire federal investigation into Jeffrey Epstein. The non-prosecution agreement was kept sealed until after it was approved and done.”
“Ultimately, Jeffrey Epstein, as part of the deal, agreed to plead to two state level prostitution charges. I guess they thought it mattered that he paid the girls. And he served 13 months in a county jail. But even that was set up special for him.”
“According to “The Miami Herald” this week, quote, unlike other convicted sex offenders, Jeffrey Epstein didn’t face the rough justice that child sex offenders do in Florida state prisons. Instead of being sent to state prison, Epstein was housed in a private wing of the Palm Beach County jail.”
“Rather than having him sit in a cell most of the day, the Palm Beach County sheriff`s office allowed Jeffrey 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 set up for himself in West Palm Beach. This was granted despite explicit sheriff`s department rules stating that sex offenders don’t qualify at all for work release.”
“Alex Acosta was the federal prosecutor who approved that deal for Jeffrey Epstein. Donald Trump then nominated Alex Acosta to his cabinet. And this issue did come up with Acosta`s confirmation hearing. Senators Dianne Feinstein of California and Tim Kaine of Virginia and others, they pressed him on it, but he was approved anyway. It`s a Republican-led Senate.”
“And there is ongoing legal wrangling in this case. In particular, there’s a very interesting case that`s pending in the courts right now in which two of Epstein`s alleged victims are suing. They`re saying that Acosta making that deal with Epstein was actually illegal because of something called the Crime Victims Rights Act. The Crime Victims Rights Act gives victims the right to have notice of court proceedings involving their crime. In this case, the victims were not allowed to know.”
“Crime Victims Rights Act is also supposed to guarantee the victims the opportunity to appear at sentencing. They were not allowed to appear at his sentencing because they didn’t know about it. They didn’t know the federal case was shutting down, right? Again, that case is still pending.”
“But there is another case that relates to this tragedy and this – I could call it a lot of things. There`s another case that`s about to cause some waves. This other case derives from a legal fight between Jeffrey Epstein and a former state prosecutor who ended up representing some of Jeffrey Epstein`s alleged victims. There have been lawsuits that have flown both ways, between Epstein and this former state prosecutor who now represents some of the victims.”
“But in the latest iteration of that fight, starting (Tuesday) in circuit court, state court in Palm Beach County, Florida, court proceedings are going to begin. The thing to know here is that for the first time ever, multiple alleged victims of Jeffrey Epstein will finally for the first time be allowed to have their day in court. They will finally be allowed to speak to what they went through.”
“And again, that trial starts (December 4). Already in advance of that proceeding, which will be televised, several Democratic members of Congress are calling for an inspector general investigation at the Justice Department into the terms of the deal that Alex Acosta gave Jeffrey Epstein when Acosta was the U.S. attorney in that case. But you should also know, of course, that those Democratic members of Congress are members of the incoming majority in the House of Representatives which means they themselves will be able to pursue this if they so choose once the new Congress is sworn in next month.”
“But again, these court proceedings in Florida (Tuesday) will be televised and Alex Acosta is not the most famous member of Trump`s cabinet today. (December 4) that may be different.
MADDOW: “The Miami Herald” deserves congratulations for its fairly epic new reporting on Trump`s labor secretary, Alex Acosta, and specifically on the deal that he struck when he was a U.S. attorney with a very rich, very well-connected, very prolific serial sex offender. Despite local police uncovering allegations of straight-up child rape and the FBI identifying dozens of victims, Alex Acosta struck a no prosecution agreement in the Jeffrey Epstein case in Florida. He struck a deal with Epstein that made Epstein immune from prosecution for federal crimes.
“A law professor who studies cases like this compared the arrangement to the efforts by the Catholic Church to protect abusive priests. Professor Marci Hamilton told “The Miami Herald” for this expose this week, quote: The real crime with the Catholic priests was the way they covered it up and shielded the priests. The orchestration of power by men is only protected as long as everybody agrees to keep it secret. This is a story the world needs to hear.”
“Joining us now is Professor Marci Hamilton of the University of Pennsylvania. She`s a leading advocate for reforming the laws around sex crimes involving children. Professor Hamilton, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate you coming up. “
MARCI HAMILTON, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA LAW PROFESSOR, EXPERT ON SEXUAL
ABUSE CRIMES: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: First of all, I have to say, I don’t cover cases like this very often, just because we don`t do a lot of crime reporting. In this case, this ends up being a crime story of national significance because it does involve a cabinet secretary among other things, also because of the nature of Epstein`s alleged crimes.
“Because of that, I just want to ask you if there`s anything that I explained about the story thus far that seemed wrong or that struck you as sort of not the right way to look at it?”
HAMILTON: No, I think it was exactly the way to look at it, because basically, this failure to protect children is a political problem across the culture. It`s just looking like it`s one story now in the Trump administration.
MADDOW: “The Miami Herald” as part of their reporting, again, it’s just a remarkable expose, they are describing e-mails that show Jeffrey Epstein, his legal team, and Alex Acosta, who was then the U.S. attorney, coordinating their efforts specifically to keep this no prosecution deal for Epstein, to keep it a secret not only from the press but from the victims.
Can you talk a little bit about the significance of that?
HAMILTON: This is outrageous that the victims themselves were not even part of the negotiation process. The arrogance of both Epstein and Acosta in this situation is overwhelming. These women were sexually abused as children, one after the other, dozens of them. Acosta knew there were dozens of them.
MADDOW: The FBI named dozens of them.
HAMILTON: Right. And still – and what the FBI knew for certain is if there were dozens, there were probably hundreds. And so, the fact that they were able to then ignore that and go forward with some kind of deal among businessmen that we`re going to protect all these powerful men is exactly what`s wrong with our society. This is why children get abused.
MADDOW: In terms of the alleged – so we`ve got the evidence of alleged victims, which the FBI was continuing to work on. They had three dozen in the prepared documents that we know about. We know they were continuing to investigate. We believe that what they were also continuing to investigate was potential co-conspirators, whether there were other people involved in either enabling the scheme for Epstein`s benefit or whether there were other men who are involved in similar kinds of abuse. Part of the deal that Acosta made offered immunity from federal prosecution in conjunction with these crimes to Epstein and also to any of his potential co-conspirators.
MADDOW: That strikes me as bananas. I mean, I`m not a lawyer, but I read a lot of legal – I mean, his potential co-conspirators are also immunized?
HAMILTON: This is powerful men making sure that each of them protects their reputation. Regardless of who`s hurt, regardless of the dozens of children that had been sexually abused, they all knew the score. They knew he was doing it. They knew he was doing it in many locations, and they knew there were other men involved, there was no question about that.
And they still quashed it. Why? Because it`s about powerful men in powerful positions. It is literally no different from the Catholic Church scandal. It`s just not clergy.
MADDOW: Should the Crime Victims Rights Act or any other federal legislation that`s designed to address problems like this in the process, should this have been prevented by something like that?
HAMILTON: Well, this should have been prevented by just normal human decency.
MADDOW: Fair enough. Granted.
HAMILTON: The Victims Right Act should have prevented them from going to a deal without telling these women. If they had been told, you can be certain that at least some of them would have had lawyers that came into the system and said have you lost your mind?
HAMILTON: This is not right. But instead it all went under the radar. He was incarcerated on a work release program under the radar. This is a classic example of how our culture makes children and women`s problems irrelevant while protecting men.
MADDOW: (Tuesday), several of Epstein`s victims are expected to take the stand in this case in Palm Beach County. The way you`re describing this makes me feel more strongly that this may be a very important tipping point just hearing those women speak for themselves.
HAMILTON: I think it`s important for this story. I think it`s also important for all the victims in the United States to know their voice matters and this is going to tell them that again.
MADDOW: And even if you don`t get accountability, up front you may –
MADDOW: – end up getting it down the road.
“Marci Hamilton is the professor of the University of Pennsylvania. She’s the founder and CEO of Child USA. Thank you so much for coming in. Appreciate it.
HAMILTON: Thank you. Appreciate it.