Two fundamentally ambiguous events concerning the Jeffrey Epstein affair have left many people wondering how far the web of influence around the convicted sex offender extended. The first was the trial that ended with a sweetheart deal allowing Epstein, an American financier, to be virtually free while serving prison time. The second event was his apparent suicide in prison as he was awaiting trial on separate charges.
The conditions surrounding his suicide are so spectacularly equivocal that any rational person can only be dumbfounded by the uncritical acceptance by the media of New York City’s medical examiner’s declaration of suicide as definitive. CNN, for example, reporting on the most recent news concerning the 2005 trial and the sweetheart deal writes drily: “Epstein died by suicide in a federal jail in August 2019.”
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In the article, CNN cites a review by the Department of Justice finding “that Alex Acosta, President Donald Trump’s former Labor secretary, exercised poor judgment when, as a US attorney in Florida, he gave sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein a non-prosecution agreement.” It adds that “the review did not find that Acosta or other prosecutors engaged in professional misconduct.”
The article mentions that Acosta was guilty of a second count of poor judgment “when he failed to notify the girls and young women who alleged they were sexually abused by Epstein about the decision to not prosecute the multi-millionaire on federal charges.
Today’s Daily Devil’s Dictionary definition:
The commonly attributed failing that explains why a crime committed by any member of the elite (defined as those empowered to judge the acts of others and exempt from being judged by others than their own) cannot be considered a crime since the mistake of showing poor judgment eclipses in gravity the crime itself
As a federal prosecutor and then President Trump’s secretary of labor, Acosta belongs to the middle ranks of the judicial and political elite just as Epstein belonged to the middle ranks of the financial and social elite. Epstein appears also to have been associated with the international intelligence elite. That offered him supplementary security because intelligence can never be accused of crimes since its duty is to be engaged in serious criminal activity. By virtue of their belonging to the elite, both Epstein and Acosta knew they were at least theoretically protected from ever being convicted of serious crimes. But so were people like Harvey Weinstein, who belonged to the entertainment elite, or Bernie Madoff, who worked his way into the financial elite.
Epstein, Weinstein and Madoff demonstrate that it’s possible to go too far in exercising poor judgment. All three had, at some point, probably lost any notion of there being such a thing as “too far.” They thus learned they weren’t quite as elite as they imagined themselves to be.
The Epstein case helps us to understand one important principle: that in the circles of the elite, there are always two levels of logic that protect them. The first is the phenomenon of the first offense, or the first occasion in which the subject crosses a line that could expose the nature of the game. The less timid or cautious actually push their luck to discover where that line may be before pulling back to their safety zone.
The second is the security deriving from the self-interested solidarity of the elite. They will never betray the secrets of their peers, whom they learn to protect passively. Passive protection translates as the rhetorical skill of denying even awareness of actions deemed compromising. It is important to avoid recourse to active protection, such as rising to the defense of a peer. This is frowned upon because it may raise suspicions of complicity. Individual sins can be brushed away. Collective sins require more effort.
Sexual crimes (Epstein, Weinstein) — typically individual sins, but not crimes — if found out and verified, are paradoxically the least forgivable, especially today, after the Weinstein scandal and #MeToo. Judicial crimes and crimes of political influence, such as Acosta is accused of, are easily dismissed because they are generally viewed as part of the job of balancing interests out among the elite.
Then there are serious political crimes, including war crimes. In some sense, they are the easiest to gloss over because they are motivated by “noble” (i.e., nationalistic) intentions. But because they concern public policies, they become highly visible and can draw the attention of political opponents. Protecting them becomes more complicated, requires working closely with the media and takes time.
Take the example of Elliot Abrams, President Trump’s special envoy, first for Venezuela and then for Iran. He was convicted of lying to Congress in the context of the Iran-Contra scandal during the Reagan administration. He even admitted in an interview to being seriously involved in the micro-management of the Contra death squads in El Salvador. President George H.W. Bush pardoned Abrams in 1992, who continued to provide his services to George W. Bush and now Trump.
All this is public knowledge, which means mildly embarrassing but not compromising. It explains why a prominent member of President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team, Kelly Magsamen, can even today justify her active collaboration with Abrams in a now-deleted 2019 tweet visible here. Defending her work with Abrams on the Trump administration’s shambolic effort to provoke regime change in Venezuela, Magsamen explains: “I worked for Elliot Abrams as a civil servant. He is a fierce advocate for human rights and democracy. Yes, he made serious professional mistakes and was held accountable. I’m a liberal but I’m also fair. We have a lot of work to do in Venezuela. We share goals.”
Goals justify everything. But mistakes happen, leading to accusations of “poor judgment.” Convictions also happen, sometimes followed by presidential pardons. That is what is called “being held accountable.” Most significantly, bygones become bygones.
The elite has a job to do and solidarity is an essential part of that job.
The capacity of elite networks to protect their members, especially when it involves national security (i.e., the intelligence community), has always been impressive. Not only can they accomplish enormous tasks that may or may not involve serious criminal activity — from massacres of civilian populations to assassinations of political leaders and even scientists — they are particularly skillful at covering them up, delaying and distorting the perception of truth and influencing the commercial media to disseminate their version of the “truth” while characterizing all other accounts as conspiracy theories.
Alex Acosta’s public explanations of his sweetheart deal for Jeffrey Epstein was anything but convincing, as any spectator should be able to notice. In response to the question raised by his own explanation that Epstein was an “intelligence asset,” he responded: “There’s been reporting to that effect, and let me say, there’s been reporting to a lot of effects … and I would hesitate to take this reporting as fact.” He then added: “I can’t address it directly because of our guidelines but I can tell you a lot of reporting is just going down rabbit holes.”
The strategy is impeccable. Call the issue “reporting,” meaning it could just be hearsay. Then mention that other hearsay exists, suggesting that it is all equally incredible. Then invoke “guidelines” that no one understands but everyone accepts as being crucial to our common security. The final touch consists of asking for questions from another reporter to avoid follow-up questions to one’s evasive answers.
History provides us with many examples of how the work of the elite to cover up its most public crimes produces effects that last decades and disqualify the truth, even when it finally emerges to the light of day.
Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated 52 years ago. The evidence that the bullet that killed the senator was fired by a second gunman is overwhelming. A lengthy interview half a century later with one of the forensic pathologists consulted for the autopsy (but not for the trial) not only presents that evidence but reveals how and why it was covered up at the time.
This is just one startling example of how the media continue to create enough doubt about decades-old affairs to protect the elite of the past. It appears to be part of their job protecting today’s elite. Acosta has nothing to worry about.
*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news. Read more of The Daily Devil’s Dictionary on Fair Observer.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.