Congress members call for investigation
WASHINGTON – Several members of Congress are calling for investigations following the apparent suicide of Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier who faced federal sex trafficking charges before his death.
Epstein was found “unresponsive in his cell” about 6:39 a.m. Saturday and given life-saving measures. He was later transported from Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, according to a statement by the MCC, which is part of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The Bureau of Prisons said the FBI would be investigating the incident. Attorney General William Barr said he was “appalled” to hear about Epstein’s suicide and added that Epstein’s death “raises serious questions that must be answered.”
Barr said the Department of Justice Inspector General would open an investigation in addition to the FBI investigation.
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Lawmakers want answers over what led to Epstein’s death while reiterating the need to probe a controversial plea deal he struck with former Labor secretary Alex Acosta.
Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel said Epstein’s death did not mean the investigation into his controversial plea deal in 2007 would end. Frankel represents Palm Beach, Fla., where Epstein owned a home and where prosecutors say he sexually abused dozens of minor girls.
“With the obvious end to criminal proceedings against Epstein, it is important that the US House Committee on Oversight and Reform begin its investigation,” she wrote, reiterating her prior calls for an investigation into Epstein’s plea deal.
Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., said the “Trump DOJ cannot be trusted to take it from here” and called for an independent investigation into Epstein’s death.
Epstein had been accused of sexually abusing “dozens of minor girls” in his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach from 2002 to 2005.
A Miami Herald investigation in November 2018 revealed Acosta had been directly involved in negotiating a plea deal with Epstein’s lawyers in 2007. Acosta had brokered a deal with Epstein that allowed him to avoid a longer prison sentence and federal sex-trafficking charges, a sentence many considered light.
Epstein pleaded guilty to state felony prostitution charges and agreed to pay restitution to his victims, register as a sex offender and serve 13 months in county jail. While serving his jail term, Epstein was permitted to leave the jail to work for 12 hours a day, six days a week.
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Facing backlash to the deal and calls to step down, Acosta resigned as President Donald Trump’s Labor secretary shortly after Epstein was indicted again in July.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., also renewed her calls for an Oversight Committee investigation.
“Jeffrey Epstein was a serial child molester who evaded accountability because he was rich, powerful & well-connected,” she wrote on Twitter. “We need answers. Most importantly, we need justice for his victims. Oversight must investigate.”
Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, called Epstein’s suicide an “impossibility” that needed further congressional investigation.
“When an impossibility occurs involving powerful people and possible criminality there must be an investigation to end speculation,” Green wrote. “Because the public has a right to know, I’m calling for a congressional investigation.”
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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., voiced concern about Epstein’s death.
“We need answers. Lots of them,” she wrote on Twitter. She then retweeted a post from former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, in which Mariotti says that the criminal probe into Epstein would conclude because “no one else was charged in the indictment.”
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., called on the Bureau of Prisons to “provide answers on what systemic failures of the MCC Manhattan or criminal acts allowed this coward to deny justice to his victims.”
Contributing: Doug Stanglin, Kevin McCoy