Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez expressed concern about the impact of Epstein’s death on the pending criminal case against him and on his alleged victims. | Win McNamee/Getty Images
By GABBY ORR
08/10/2019 12:04 PM EDT
Updated 08/10/2019 02:29 PM EDT
Political leaders are demanding a full accounting of how disgraced financier and accused pedophile Jeffrey Epstein died by apparent suicide in a Manhattan jail early Saturday.
“We need answers. Lots of them,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) wrote on Twitter, expressing concern in a separate retweet about the impact of Epstein’s death on the pending criminal case against him and on his alleged victims. Story Continued Below
“The death of Jeffrey Epstein does not end the need for justice for his victims or the right of the public to know why a prolific child molester got a slap on the wrist instead of a long prison sentence,” said Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel, whose Florida district is home to the oceanfront Palm Beach mansion where Epstein is said to have sexually abused dozens of underage girls.
Frankel encouraged the House Oversight Committee to “begin its investigation immediately” into a 2008 plea agreement that allowed Epstein to avoid federal sex trafficking charges. The deal was overseen by then-U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, who served as Labor secretary for the Trump administration until his resignation last month.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), a member of the Oversight Committee, said the congressional panel “has a duty to ensure all those who played a role in this travesty of justice answer to those crimes.” Speier tore into law enforcement officials, prosecutors and acquaintances of Epstein “who looked the other way” or enabled him to “evade accountability because he was rich, powerful, and well-connected.”
“This whole country is based on the notion that we’re all created equal and that we should all be treated equally under the law, and that clearly isn’t happening,” former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said in a Fox News segment about Epstein’s death.
“You don’t have to look far to find places where those who are successful and wealthy and powerful, they get a better deal when they get in trouble,” Hickenlooper added.
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Epstein, 66, pleaded not guilty last month to new charges of sex trafficking and faced up to 45 years in prison if convicted. In late July, he was found unresponsive in his jail in what appeared to be a suicide attempt.
“It is inexcusable that this rapist was not under constant suicide watch,” said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), adding that the government has “failed” Epstein’s victims, who “deserved to face their serial abuser in court.” It is unclear whether Epstein was placed on suicide watch in July, though the correctional facility where Epstein was located said in a statement Saturday that he had been staying in a “Special Housing Unit” at the time of his death.
“The FBI is investigating the incident,” the statement read.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr also announced the opening of an investigation into Epstein’s death by the Justice Department’s Inspector General, saying he was “appalled” to learn of the development.
“Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered,” Barr said in a statement.
New York City Mayor and 2020 presidential candidate Bill de Blasio, whose office works closely with a commission that oversees the state’s jail system, appeared to support the Justice Department investigation into Epstein’s death. De Blasio warned others who may have been involved in Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking operation that they will be brought to justice, despite how his death may affect related criminal proceedings.
“Jeffrey Epstein may have escaped his day in court, but if the wealthy predators involved in his sex ring think they just got away with it, they’re WRONG,” de Blasio tweeted. “While a full investigation into how the federal government let this happen needs to be launched IMMEDIATELY, we won’t stop fighting for justice for every single victim.”
Epstein’s decades-long connections to wealthy and powerful figures in the U.S. and abroad — including President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton and Britain’s Prince Andrew — prompted a slew of conspiracy theories to emerge Saturday.
Lynne Patton, a senior official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, posted a photo of Epstein to her personal Instagram with the caption, “Hillary’d!! P.S. Let me know when I’m supposed to feel badly about this. #VinceFosterPartTwo.” Foster, who served as White House counsel, became the subject of many Clinton-era conspiracies after he committed suicide in July 1993.
A HUD spokesperson could not be reached for comment.
CNN commentator Ana Navarro described Epstein’s death as “convenient… for the many rich and powerful,” while MSNBC host Joe Scarborough suggested that “powerful Democratic and Republican figures [are] breathing a huge sigh of relief.”
Epstein’s death occurred hours after a federal appeals court on Friday unsealed nearly 2,000 pages of records related to the wealthy Manhattan businessman and British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who became involved with Epstein romantically and allegedly helped recruit and groom young women for him. The files were part of a defamation suit against Maxwell that Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre filed in 2015.
Prosecutors have said Epstein sexually abused dozens of underrage girls at his properties in New York and Florida, dating back to 2002. Many disturbing details about powerful men whom Epstein and Maxwell allegedly set underrage women up with were first revealed in the documents unsealed on Friday.
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