Dec 5, 2018

Ben Sasse asks Justice Department to investigate itself on Jeffrey Epstein

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb) on left and Jeffrey Epstein on right. Photo: Getty Images.

Republican Senator Ben Sasse, a member of the Judiciary Committee, has asked the Justice Department to investigate its treatment of multimillionaire serial pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

Why it matters: Infuriated by a bombshell Miami Herald investigative series on Epstein's crimes — which highlighted the sweetheart deal Epstein's lawyers got from Miami's then-top prosecutor Alexander Acosta (now Trump's labor secretary) — Sasse sent three letters to senior Justice officials on Monday, asking them to open investigations into possible misconduct of federal officials who handled the Epstein case.

Details: Sasse sent letters to Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski, the Justice Department's Inspector General Michael Horowitz (embedded below), and the Director of Professional Responsibility Corey Amundson.

What he's saying:

  • "The fact that this monster received such a pathetically soft sentence is a travesty that should outrage us all," Sasse wrote to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz.
  • "I am particularly disturbed by this reporting indicating that federal prosecutors went out of their way to arrange this sweetheart deal for Epstein and conceal it from the women and girls that he abused who could have objected to it, in apparent violation of federal law."
  • "We need answers about this epic miscarriage of justice," Sasse wrote. (Axios obtained the three letters Sasse sent to the Justice Department.)

Between the lines: Epstein has paid handsomely to silence his victims. On Tuesday, Epstein settled the civil lawsuit brought by an attorney for some of his alleged victims just before the jury selection was about to begin. Epstein has managed, for now, to keep these accusers from telling their stories in court. But the story isn't going away.

The backdrop: 15 Democratic members of Congress, led by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), sent a letter to Horowitz on Friday, asking him to investigate how Acosta approved the deal. (Acosta was briefly a long-shot contender to replace Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, but following the Miami Herald report, White House officials have been telling people that Acosta is no longer in the running.)

  • While he was allegedly having sex with teenage girls, Epstein cultivated friendly relationships with America's elites, including Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Alan Dershowitz.
  • Alan Dershowitz told Axios he's still advising Jeffrey Epstein and that he “had a therapeutic massage with an old old Russian” at Epstein’s house but from nobody underaged.

The Department of Justice declined Axios' request for comment.

Go deeper

Biden bets it all on South Carolina

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Most Joe Biden admirers Axios interviewed in South Carolina, where he's vowed to win today's primary, said they're unfazed by his embarrassing losses in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

Why it matters: Biden has bet it all on South Carolina to position himself as the best alternative to Bernie Sanders — his "good buddy," he tells voters before skewering Sanders' record and ideas.

Coronavirus updates: Market ends worst week since financial crisis

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The stock market ended its worst week since the financial crisis, prompting the Fed to release a statement. Meanwhile, the WHO warned that countries are losing their chance to contain the novel coronavirus and raised its global risk assessment to "very high" Friday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,860 people and infected more than 84,000 others in over 60 countries and territories outside the epicenter in mainland China. The number of new cases reported outside China now exceed those inside the country.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 12 hours ago - Health

California coronavirus: Latest case has no recent history of international travel

Gov. Gavin Newsom. Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

A new case of the novel coronavirus in California was announced on Friday after Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday that 33 people had tested positive for the virus, noting the risk to the public remains low.

What's new: An adult woman with chronic health conditions in Santa Clara County who "did not recently travel overseas" or come into contact with anyone known to be ill was confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus on Friday by CDC and California Department of Public Health officials.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 12 hours ago - Health