Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta on Wednesday defied calls by congressional leaders to resign over the lenient 2008 plea deal he gave to child sex abuser Jeffrey Epstein when Acosta was the U.S. attorney in Florida. The plea deal saw Epstein serve a 13-month prison term, though he was allowed to leave jail six days a week to work from his private office. He would be picked up by his private chauffeur and returned in the evenings. It’s been described as “one of the most lenient deals for a serial child sex offender in history.” The case drew renewed attention this week, when Epstein was charged in a Manhattan federal court with sexually assaulting and trafficking dozens of underage girls between 2002 and 2005 at his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida. He’s pleaded not guilty. Earlier this year, a federal court ruled Secretary Acosta’s team violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act by failing to inform Epstein’s survivors about the non-prosecution deal. Speaking to reporters for nearly an hour Wednesday, Secretary Acosta did not once apologize to Epstein’s victims, and defended his handling of the case.
Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta: “We believe that we proceeded appropriately, that based on the evidence—and not just my opinion, but I’ve shared the affidavit—based on the evidence, there was value to getting a guilty plea and having him register. Look, no regrets is a very hard question.”
This comes as another woman—Jennifer Araoz—told NBC she was recruited by Epstein when she was just 14 years old, and raped by Epstein in his New York City townhouse when she was 15. She was interviewed by Savannah Guthrie.
Savannah Guthrie: “In your mind, did you use the word 'rape'? Did you recognize it then”—
Jennifer Araoz: “No.”
Savannah Guthrie: —”as rape?”
Jennifer Araoz: “No, I don’t think I did. I just thought, like, you know, it’s my fault, like I was like obligated, like that’s just what you’re supposed to do.”
On Wednesday, Araoz asked a New York City court for help in identifying the woman who first recruited her to come to Epstein’s mansion.
On Capitol Hill, House lawmakers heard heart-wrenching testimony Wednesday from the Guatemalan mother of a toddler who died after she became sick in an ICE jail near the U.S.-Mexico border. Yazmin Juárez says her 18-month-old daughter Mariee was healthy when she brought her to the U.S. in March seeking political asylum. But one week after the pair were jailed at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, the girl developed a cough, diarrhea and vomiting, with a fever that spiked at 104 degrees. Juárez says her daughter received inadequate medical care in a clinic set up in the center’s gymnasium. After their release, Juárez rushed her daughter to the emergency room. She spent six weeks in hospital before she died of complications from a deadly lung infection.
Yazmin Juárez: “All the hard work of these doctors came too late. My Mariee died on Mother’s Day, on the day that in my city, in my country, we celebrate Mother’s Day. When I left the hospital that day, all I had with me was a piece of paper with Mariee’s handprints in pink paint, that the staff had created for me. It was the only thing that I had left, just her handprints. The nurses had made it the previous day as a Mother’s Day gift.”
Juárez has filed a $60 million lawsuit against the U.S. for the wrongful death of her daughter Mariee. She was one of seven children to die in U.S. immigration custody—or shortly after a release from custody—over the past year. Before last year, no child died in U.S. immigration custody in over a decade.
Wednesday’s hearing on immigration jails came as one of the House Oversight Committee’s most prominent members—New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—called for the Department of Homeland Security to be dismantled. In an interview with “The New Yorker Radio Hour,” Ocasio-Cortez repeated her call for the abolition of ICE—Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Host David Remnick asked Ocasio-Cortez if she would get rid of the Department of Homeland Security, as well.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “I think so. I think so. I think we need to undo a lot of the egregious mistakes that the Bush administration did. I feel like we are at a very—it is a very qualified and supported position, at least in terms of evidence and in terms of being able to make the argument that we never should have created DHS in the early 2000s.”
This comes as current and former homeland security officials told reporters that ICE is preparing to arrest thousands of undocumented immigrants in sweeps scheduled to begin Sunday. The officials said they’ll arrest any immigrants they find—including so-called collateral deportations. The raids are expected to take place in at least 10 major cities, including Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago and San Francisco. Many local officials have promised to resist the ICE raids.
Meanwhile, Mother Jones is reporting that ICE has opened three new immigration jails in the Deep South as part of an effort to circumvent a congressional limit on the number of people in U.S. immigration detention. Among them is the Adams County Correctional Center, a Mississippi prison operated by CoreCivic, a for-profit prison corporation. That center has been plagued by reports of inadequate medical care, staff mistreatment and rotten food—and was home to a prison riot in 2012 that left a guard dead. ICE is currently holding some 54,000 people in its jails—an all-time high and far more than a target of about 40,000 people set by Congress.
In Philadelphia, police arrested six immigrant rights activists Wednesday as they held a sit-in protest at Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign headquarters. The protesters are demanding that Biden apologize for the roughly 3 million deportations that occurred while he served as vice president under Barack Obama. They’re also seeking a commitment by Biden to end immigration detentions and deportations on his first day in office.
Freshman Democratic Congressmember Ilhan Omar of Minnesota is calling on advertisers to boycott Tucker Carlson, after the Fox News host targeted her in a racist attack on his program Tuesday night. During a three-minute monologue, Carlson blasted Omar—one of the first two Muslim women ever elected to the U.S. Congress—as a “living fire alarm” and “dangerous.”
Tucker Carlson: “After everything America has done for Omar, and for her family, she hates this country more than ever. … Ilhan Omar is living proof that the way we practice immigration has become dangerous to this country. … She’s a living fire alarm, a warning to the rest of us that we better change our immigration system immediately, or else.”
Congressmember Ilhan Omar tweeted in response, “Fox News is now giving a nightly platform to white supremacist rhetoric. It’s dangerous. Advertisers should not be underwriting hate speech.” Tucker Carlson has a history of racist, xenophobic and misogynistic comments; he recently said immigration makes America “poorer, and dirtier, and more divided,” and in 2006 called Iraqis “semiliterate primitive monkeys.”
A federal appeals court in Virginia has dismissed a lawsuit against President Trump arguing he broke the Constitution’s anti-corruption clauses by profiting from his hotel business in Washington, D.C. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that Trump’s continued ownership of the Trump International Hotel did not violate the foreign and domestic emoluments clauses of the Constitution. All three judges were nominated by Republican presidents.
The Trump Organization has canceled plans to host a charity golf tournament co-sponsored by a Miami-area strip club. Wednesday’s move by the Trump National Doral golf resort to scrap the planned event came a day after The Washington Post reported plans to have dancers from the Shadow Cabaret strip club work as so-called caddy girls to VIP guests paying $450. The planned event was to benefit a basketball-themed children’s program called Miami All Stars, which is not registered as a charity in Florida, and when attention was drawn to it yesterday, they pulled out, saying they didn’t want the money.
The FBI on Wednesday arrested six people on corruption charges related to Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Maria, including two top officials in the administration of Governor Ricardo Rosselló. A 32-count indictment charges the officials—including the former head of Puerto Rico’s Health Insurance Administration and the island’s former education secretary—with illegally funneling federal funding to politically connected contractors. Following Wednesday’s arrests, Arizona Democratic Congressmember Raúl Grijalva, who chairs the House committee that oversees Puerto Rico, called on Governor Rosselló to resign.
In Louisiana, floodwaters from heavy rains have left much of New Orleans and parts of the Gulf Coast underwater, as Tropical Storm Barry churns offshore ahead of its predicted landfall as a Category 1 hurricane on Saturday. The storm spawned a waterspout over Lake Pontchartrain Wednesday and left New Orleans’s famed Bourbon Street underwater. Ahead of the storm’s landfall, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has declared a state of emergency.
A senior State Department intelligence analyst has resigned in protest after the Trump administration blocked parts of his written testimony to Congress about the dangers of climate change. In June, analyst Rod Schoonover was permitted to appear before the House Intelligence Committee to testify about the national security risks posed by global warming, but the White House barred him from submitting peer-reviewed scientific journal articles and intelligence reports as evidence to back his claims. Part of his censored testimony to Congress read: “Absent extensive mitigating factors or events, we see few plausible future scenarios where significant—possibly catastrophic—harm does not arise from the compounded effects of climate change.”
This comes as a new NASA-funded study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found rising global temperatures from human activity have pushed West Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier to a tipping point that will likely see meltwater from the massive glacier raise global sea levels by about 50 centimeters, or more than a foot and a half. The process could take as little as 150 years.
And thousands gathered in Lower Manhattan yesterday to celebrate the U.S. women’s national team’s historic fourth World Cup soccer championship at a raucous ticker tape parade. Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Rose Lavelle and their teammates rode floats through New York City’s Canyon of Heroes as supporters chanted “U.S.A.!” and “Equal pay!” The parade ended at City Hall, where New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio hosted a ceremony to celebrate the team’s second consecutive World Cup win and awarded the athletes with keys to the city. Co-captain, top scorer and best player Megan Rapinoe addressed the crowd with a message to the team’s fans and the country.
Megan Rapinoe: “We have to be better. We have to love more, hate less. We’ve got to listen more and talk less. We’ve got to know that this is everybody’s responsibility, every single person here, every single person who’s not here, every single person who doesn’t want to be here, every single person who agrees and doesn’t agree. It’s our responsibility to make this world a better place. I think this team does an incredible job of taking that on our shoulders and understanding the position that we have and the platform that we have within this world.”
After the ceremony in New York City, the U.S. women’s national team flew to Los Angeles to attend the ESPY Awards, where they were honored with the Best Team award. We’ll have more on the U.S. women’s team and their fight for gender equity later in the broadcast.