On Monday, United States Attorney General William Barr announced that due to a past conflict of interest, he would recuse himself from the sex trafficking case against Jeffrey Epstein, the wealthy financier charged by federal prosecutors on Monday with sex trafficking crimes. Epstein had been a longtime friend of Donald Trump, according to Trump’s own statements. But on Tuesday, Barr suddenly reversed himself and said he would oversee the case against Epstein after all, according to a report by Bloomberg News.
Barr’s about-face led to speculation by Washington Post national correspondent Philip Bump, among others, that Trump may have pressured Barr to reverse his decision to recuse. After Jeff Sessions, the first attorney general to serve under Trump, recused himself from the investigation into Trump’s Russia ties, Trump was reportedly enraged and pressured Sessions on “multiple occasions” to reverse his recusal, CNN reports. Trump ultimately fired Sessions on November 7, 2018.
“I wonder if President Trump has ever been mad at an attorney general for recusing,” Bump commented on his Twitter account, after reporting Barr’s flipped recusal decision.
Democratic strategist Adam Parkhomenko, a former adviser to the Hillary Clinton campaign, also took to his Twitter account to raise questions about Trump’s role in Barr’s non-recusal.
“Does the White House have a live cam for us to see Trump when he is told Barr has recused himself from Epstein?” the strategist asked.
On Tuesday, Trump attempted to distance himself from his earlier friendship with Epstein, according to The Guardian.
“He was a fixture in Palm Beach, I had a falling out with him many years ago. I don’t think I’ve spoken to him in 15 years,” Trump said in an exchange with reporters at the White House.
But Trump once sang Epstein’s praises in a New York Magazine profile of Epstein.
Calling Esptein a “terrific guy,” Trump in 2002 confirmed that he had at that point known Epstein for 15 years, dating their relationship to 1987, as The Inquisitr reported. Trump also noted that Epstein “likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”
Epstein is now accused in a federal indictment of sex trafficking crimes involving numerous underage girls between 2002 and 2005, according to New York Magazine report.
Trump himself has been accused by a woman named Katie Johnson in a civil lawsuit of raping her at an Epstein “sex party” in 1994, when she was 13 years old, according to the Daily Mail, but Johnson dropped her lawsuit without explanation just days before the 2016 presidential election.
Barr had initially recused himself from the Epstein case because a law firm where he was once an attorney, Kirkland & Ellis, was instrumental in crafting a highly controversial plea deal for Epstein in a 2008 sex trafficking case, according to Newsweek. Barr’s father, Donald Barr, was also the headmaster of a private school in New York, and in the 1970s the elder Barr hired Epstein as a math teacher at the school.
The crimes committed by Epstein are horrific, and I am pleased that NY prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence.— Secretary Acosta (@SecretaryAcosta) July 9, 2019
The United States attorney who oversaw the 2008 non-prosecution deal for Epstein, Alex Acosta, is now Secretary of Labor in the Trump administration. That deal also shielded possible Epstein co-conspirators from prosecution at the time. On Tuesday, Trump defended Acosta, calling him a “very good” labor secretary and speculating that Acosta now wishes he had handled the earlier Epstein case differently, according to The Hill.