A 'very different' time
Alex Acosta had no direct answer when asked if the young women victimized by sex predator Jeffrey Epstein deserved an apology for how his original prosecution was handled in 2008. But the then-underage girls weren't his most important audience for the news conference he held to try to save his job as Donald Trump's labor secretary.
The goal was to assure Trump that his presence on the president's team won't be an ongoing liability.
The former U.S. attorney for south Florida maintained that if it wasn't for how he handled negotiations with Epstein's lawyers, the hedge-fund billionaire might not have gone to jail at all. Epstein pleaded guilty to reduced state charges and served 13 months. Acosta said he didn't know that deal would allow Epstein out of jail six days a week to go to his office.
Acosta contended that if the federal case had gone forward, the girls would have faced "shaming" by Epstein's lawyers because a decade ago, victims were treated “very different” than they are in “today’s world.” He declined to say whether he has any regrets about how he handled the case.
A federal judge earlier this year ruled that prosecutors violated victims' rights by failing to notify them of an agreement not to bring federal charges. The Justice Department is also reviewing Acosta's conduct.
Barry Krischer, who was Palm Beach County attorney during the case, accused Acosta of trying to "rewrite history." He said, "If Mr. Acosta was truly concerned with the state's case and felt he had to rescue the matter, he would have moved forward with the 53-page indictment that his own office drafted."
The first White House review of Acosta's performance came from acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who said, "I thought he did an excellent job of laying out the facts today, so people could decide for themselves.” It may not be the last word. As Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez reports, House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) called on the labor secretary to testify July 23 before the panel about his role in the Florida case.
Janison: Bawl in his court
When Trump loses a court fight, as he often does, he's quick to see bias. The latest example was when a New York federal judge rejected the Justice Department's request to replace its legal team seeking to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census.
"So now the Obama appointed judge on the Census case … won’t let the Justice Department use the lawyers that it wants to use. Could this be a first?" Trump pouted on Twitter. Actually, as Newsday's Dan Janison notes, Judge Jesse Furman attributed his ruling to a time frame on which the administration insisted.
But sometimes Trump catches a win. A panel of three appeals judges on Wednesday tossed out a lawsuit by Maryland and the District of Columbia challenging Trump's acceptance of money from state and foreign governments through his Washington hotel and other enterprises. The judges found the two jurisdictions lacked standing to sue. Another case from congressional Democrats is still pending.
Brit quits after Trump snit
British Ambassador Kim Darroch resigned Wednesday after Trump declared him a diplomatic nonperson in anger over the unflattering assessments ("inept," "dysfunctional," "clumsy") that the envoy sent to London about the U.S. administration.
"The current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like," Darroch said in his resignation letter, three days after the leaked secret documents were published. Trump denounced the career diplomat as a "very stupid guy" and a "pompous fool."
Prime Minister Theresa May and one of her potential successors, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, had said they wanted Darroch to stay. But the leading candidate to replace May, Boris Johnson, wouldn't pledge his support.
Other foreign envoys who served during Trump's presidency said Darroch did what they all do. "Anyone who has any experience of Washington would agree” with Darroch’s take on Trump, said former French Ambassador Gérard Araud. An envoy still serving, and thus speaking with anonymity, told The New York Times, "it could have been any of us.”
Boycotts will be boycotts
Trump blasted “the radical left” on Tuesday night for urging a boycott of Home Depot to retaliate for the millions of dollars in campaign support he has received from a retired co-founder of the company, Bernie Marcus. Trump warned that "two can play that game!"
He should know. Trump has urged followers to similarly punish AT&T (which owns CNN), the NFL, Nike, Macy's, Harley-Davidson, Apple and Univision. But in his tweet about Home Depot, Trump said that when the left pushes boycotts, they "don’t care who gets hurt."
Marcus, who is 90, retired from Home Depot in 2002, and a spokeswoman for the home-improvement chain said he "isn’t speaking on behalf of the company."
Fed chair: I'm fireproof
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday he intends to serve his full four-year term even if Trump tries to fire him.
Asked at a House hearing what he'd do if he got a call from Trump telling him to go, Powell replied, "The answer would be, ‘No.’ ”
Powell has become a frequent target of Trump, who has been complaining for months that the Fed should be lowering interest rates. Though he has resisted, the Fed chief indicated a cut is likely soon. "It appears that uncertainties around trade tensions and concerns about the strength of the global economy continue to weigh on the U.S. economic outlook," he said.
What else is happening:
- Trump disdains political correctness. Perhaps anatomical correctness, too. At an event unveiling an initiative to combat kidney disease, Trump said "the kidney has a very special place in the heart."
- Not to mention mathematical correctness. In a four-tweet tantrum against critics on Thursday, the president used "1000/24th" to represent what is supposed to be a tiny fraction.
- As for historical correctness, this plaintive tweet puts his famous escalator ride in 2016, rather than 2015, when it occurred.
- Long Island's billionaire Mercer family, who wielded major influence in Trump's 2016 campaign and the early days of his administration, are in another retreat. They are downsizing Reclaim New York, a group that aimed at state and local government spending, reports Newsday's Yancey Roy.
- A State Department intelligence analyst has resigned in protest after the White House edited his written testimony to a congressional panel to remove data and evidence on climate change and its threat to national security, The Wall Street Journal reported.
- Trump claimed he didn't know Darroch, the departing British ambassador, but he met with him on a number of occasions in London and Washington. The Washington Post reports it's the latest example of Trump resorting to "I barely know the guy" revisionism when he feels it's to his advantage to create such distance.
- Apprehensions along the Mexican border dropped 28% in June, but officials aren't certain whether that reflects enforcement efforts or a seasonal drop-off because of dangerously hot weather at remote crossings.
- Intelligence officials warned of unspecified "active threats" to U.S. elections as they briefed Congress Wednesday on steps the government has taken to improve election security in the wake of Russian interference in 2016.