WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump and billionaire Jeffrey Epstein (all times local):
Attorney General William Barr has consulted with Justice Department ethics officials and will not recuse himself from overseeing the case of billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein by federal prosecutors in New York.
That’s according to a Justice Department official who spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday. The official could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.
But the official says Barr is recused from any review of a 2008 plea deal that allowed Epstein to avoid federal charges in Florida. That’s because Barr’s former law firm, Kirkland & Ellis, had previously represented Epstein.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway says Trump told her on Tuesday that he hasn’t spoken with or seen Epstein in 10 or 15 years. Conway adds that, like everyone else, the Republican president sees the sex trafficking charges against Epstein as “completely unconscionable and obviously criminal. Disgusting.”
Trump told New York magazine in 2002 that he’d known Epstein for 15 years and that Epstein was a “terrific guy” and “a lot of fun to be with.”
Federal prosecutors say Epstein paid underage girls for massages and then molested them at his homes in Florida and New York.
Epstein has pleaded not guilty to the sex trafficking charges.
Jeffrey Epstein has hobnobbed with some of the world’s most powerful people during his jet-setting life. Future President Donald Trump called him a “terrific guy.” Former President Bill Clinton praised his intellect and philanthropic efforts and was a frequent flyer aboard his private jet.
But the arrest of the billionaire financier on child sex trafficking charges is raising questions about how much high-powered associates knew about the hedge fund manager’s interactions with underage girls and about whether they turned a blind eye to potentially illegal conduct.
It’s also putting new scrutiny on Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, who, as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, was involved in a secret plea deal that allowed Epstein to avoid federal charges in 2008.