Aug 12, 2019

AG Bill Barr says there were "serious irregularities" at Epstein jail

Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Attorney General William Barr said at a conference Monday that he is concerned about "serious irregularities" at the Manhattan federal jail where Jeffrey Epstein died by apparent suicide this weekend.

Catch up quick: Epstein, a multimillionaire financier with a web of connections to the world's elite, was awaiting trial for charges of sexual abuse and sex trafficking of underage girls. The Justice Department's inspector general and the FBI have both launched investigations into Epstein's death. Epstein had been placed on suicide watch after being found unconscious in his cell 2 weeks ago, but was reportedly taken off at the end of July.

Between the lines: Barr did not elaborate about the specific irregularities, but union officials have long been warning about a "severe staffing shortage at the facility in the wake of a federal hiring freeze," per the New York Times.

  • The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 700,000 workers, wrote on Twitter Monday: "For years, our union has been sounding the alarm about the hiring freeze instituted by President Trump in the Bureau of Prisons, the thousands of staff vacancies that have resulted & the dangerous conditions these staff shortages have created for workers and inmates."

Barr's full statement:

This case was very important to the Department. It was important to the dedicated prosecutors and agents who investigated the case and were preparing it for trial. Most importantly, this case was important to the victims who had the courage to come forward and deserved the opportunity to confront the accused in court.
I was appalled — indeed, the entire Department was — and frankly angry, to learn of the MCC’s failure to adequately secure this prisoner. We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and that demand a thorough investigation. The FBI and the Office of Inspector General are already doing just that. We will get to the bottom of what happened at the MCC and we will hold people accountable for this failure.
Let me assure you that this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein. Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. The victims deserve justice, and we will ensure they get it.
— Attorney General Bill Barr

Go deeper: What we know: The life and death of Jeffrey Epstein

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Netanyahu says July 1 deadline for West Bank annexation won't change

Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday at a Likud Party faction meeting at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, that his July 1 deadline for starting the process of annexation in the West Bank will not change, according to people in attendance.

Why it matters: The White House and the State Department have stressed over the last few weeks that the deadline set by Netanyahu is "not sacred" to the Trump administration — and that any discussion of annexation needs to be in the context of renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina if capacity reduced

President Trump on stage during the 2016 Republican National Convention in Ohio. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

President Trump threatened in a series of Monday tweets to move this summer's Republican National Convention from Charlotte if North Carolina's Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, doesn't allow the event to be held at full capacity.

The state of play: Mandy Cohen, the state's health and human services secretary, said last week that the GOP should "plan for the worst" as mass gatherings will be a "very big challenge" if the number of coronavirus cases in the state continues to increase, per NPR.

The wreckage of summer

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We usually think of Memorial Day as the start of the summer, with all of the fun and relaxation that goes with it — but this one is just going to remind us of all of the plans that have been ruined by the coronavirus.

Why it matters: If you thought it was stressful to be locked down during the spring, just wait until everyone realizes that all the traditional summer activities we've been looking forward to are largely off-limits this year.