MINOT, N.D. — Not quite as horrifying as the most recent news about Jeffrey Epstein, but still entirely nauseating, has been the rush to use the man as a political cudgel.
The secretive financier who may or may not be a billionaire — his money management firm is based in the U.S. Virgin Islands and generates no public records — has a lot of bold-faced social connections.
Former President Bill Clinton rode took flights with Epstein dozens of times on a plane later dubbed the “Lolita Express” by some media wags.
Current President Donald Trump, in 2002, called Epstein a “terrific guy” who “likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”
Both deny any knowledge of Epstein’s crimes, and in 2007 Trump barred the man from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, a reaction to the criminal filed against him at the time.
All of that is disconcerting, and both Clinton and Trump owe the public a more fulsome explanation of their relationships to Epstein.
The focus of the political point scoring as I write this, however, is current Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta.
Partisan water carriers — including a couple of left-wing mouth breathers who talk on the radio here in North Dakota — are accusing Acosta of colluding with Epstein’s attorneys to get a light sentence when the former was a U.S. Attorney in the late 2000s.
Acosta did broker a deal with Epstein in which he was required to plead guilty to state-level felony charges, register as a sex offender, agree to 18 months of incarceration, and make payouts in the $150,000 to $250,000 range to each of his known victims at the time.
Many today see that deal as too light, but that’s with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.
Jeffrey Sloman — Acosta’s second-in-command when the Epstein deal went down and a self-described “lifelong Democrat” — described in a letter to the Miami Herald earlier this year some of the difficulties in obtaining a conviction at the time.
“(I)t became clear that most of Epstein’s victims were terrified to cooperate against him. Some hired lawyers to avoid appearing before a grand jury,” he wrote. “One of the key witnesses moved to Australia and refused to return calls from us.”
Another difficulty was finding the nexus to bring what was, at the time, a local sex crime case into federal jurisdiction.
What Epstein received was a conviction in state court, for which he was incarcerated in a state facility. Those upset — again with the benefit of hindsight — that Epstein’s punishment was too light should perhaps lodge their complaints with Florida state authorities.
Of course, those authorities aren’t juicy political targets, given that they aren’t currently serving in the cabinet of a President detested by the left.
Partisan cranks here in North Dakota are, like their counterparts in other states, now demanding that our all-Republican congressional delegation denounce Acosta and demand his resignation. The cloak themselves in righteousness, but they don’t really care about Epstein or his victims.
It’s just another opportunity to score points.
Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Plain Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.