Wednesday 21 August 2019

Democrats slam Trump for fuelling 'conspiracy' over Epstein

Under fire: President Trump has been criticised by Democratic candidates over his Epstein tweets. AP Photo/Evan Vucci
Under fire: President Trump has been criticised by Democratic candidates over his Epstein tweets. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

John Whitesides

Democratic presidential contenders Beto O'Rourke and Cory Booker slammed US President Donald Trump yesterday for promoting unfounded conspiracy theories about the apparent suicide of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein in his New York jail cell.

After the death on Saturday of Epstein, a millionaire charged with sex trafficking who once counted Mr Trump and former president Bill Clinton as friends, Mr Trump retweeted a baseless claim from a conservative comedian that Mr Clinton was involved in the death.

"This is another example of our president using this position of public trust to attack his political enemies with unfounded conspiracy theories," Mr O'Rourke, a former congressman from Texas, said on CNN's 'State of the Union'.

Mr O'Rourke said Mr Trump was trying to shift the public's focus away from last weekend's two deadly mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, which have led to new calls for gun restrictions and criticism of Mr Trump's divisive anti-immigrant and racially charged rhetoric.

"He's changing the conversation, and if we allow him to do that then we will never be able to focus on the true problems, of which he is a part," Mr O'Rourke said from his hometown of El Paso.

Mr Booker, a US senator from New Jersey, said Mr Trump's retweet was "just more recklessness".

"He is giving life to not just conspiracy theories but really whipping people up into anger and worse against different people in this country," he said on CNN.

The FBI and the Department of Justice's inspector general have opened investigations into the death of Epstein, who a source said had been taken off suicide watch. Last month, Epstein was found unconscious on the floor of his jail cell with marks on his neck, and officials were investigating that incident as a possible suicide attempt or assault.

US Attorney General William Barr said he was "appalled" to learn of the apparent suicide in federal custody. "Mr Epstein's death raises serious questions that must be answered," Mr Barr said in a statement on Saturday.

White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said the investigation of Epstein should continue despite his death.

"Jeffrey Epstein has done some very bad things over a number of years, so let's continue to investigate that," she said on 'Fox News Sunday'.

"I don't think that somebody's crimes and the accountability for that necessarily perish with them."

More than a decade ago, Epstein pleaded guilty in Florida to state charges of solicitation of prostitution from a minor in a deal with prosecutors that has been widely criticised as too lenient.

Then in July, Epstein was indicted, federal prosecutors in New York accusing him of knowingly recruiting underage women to engage in sex acts with him. He pleaded not guilty.

Irish Independent

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