Mr. Epstein is back in a holding cell, under indictment by a U.S. attorney in New York. He will have his day in court. Presumably we will find out whether the evidence against the hedge-fund impresario for sexually abusing numerous underage girls in the early 2000s is as strong as it seems.
But one element of the story should give us pause, and that’s the seemingly concerted effort by the press to make a secondary villain out of the only prosecutor who succeeded in holding Mr. Epstein accountable till now because, 12 years later, that prosecutor is Donald Trump’s labor secretary.
A much-cited story in the Miami Herald last November is headlined “How a future Trump Cabinet member gave a serial sex abuser the deal of a lifetime.” The paper thereby invokes a previously unknown form of retroactive quantum action at a distance, since Alexander Acosta’s actions as a U.S. attorney in Florida in 2007 could not have been premised on Mr. Trump being president a decade later.
The headline is also misleading. In fact, the Herald’s 5,000-word exposé tells us very little about the reasons and circumstances behind the 2008 plea deal in which Mr. Epstein agreed to plead guilty to two felonies, serve an 18-month jail sentence, pay restitution to certain victims, and accept designation for life as a registered sex offender.
Instead, the paper tells us what its own sources are willing to say now about Mr. Epstein more than a decade after the prosecution. What a newspaper can report in 2018 and what a prosecutor can prove in 2007 are two very different things. A fact the Herald also should have made plain: It was precisely Mr. Epstein’s conviction at the hands of Mr. Acosta that helped fuel the filing of civil lawsuits and emergence of newly declared victims that became the basis for the Herald’s own reporting.
Making an even bigger joke of the paper’s positioning of Mr. Acosta as Mr. Epstein’s protector is this glaring fact: It wasn’t Mr. Acosta but New York County’s district attorney—a member of the city’s ruling Democratic elite, with the illustrious name of Cyrus Vance Jr.—who in 2011 sought to undo Mr. Acosta’s work by relieving Mr. Epstein of his Level 3 sex offender status in New York state.
But then Mr. Vance is not a member of the Trump administration. . . .
It also bears asking: Would the Herald even have invested in reporting the Epstein story if it couldn’t also have flounced up an anti-Trump angle?
Yes, it’s been rough couple of decades for the newspaper business. At the kindest, the Herald should have had the confidence to rest its claim to public attention on what it had to reveal about Mr. Epstein’s behavior rather than trying so pathetically to annex its reporting to an au courant anti-Trump narrative.
Think of the press as Democratic Party operatives with bylines — and Democratic Party operative editors — and you won’t go far wrong.