About a week ago, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., lambasted the work of the law firm Kirkland & Ellis in negotiating a controversial plea deal with the billionaire financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. "In our democracy, no one—no matter how powerful or well-connected—is above the law," Harris said in a statement. "Yet Epstein’s deal, secured by his lawyers at Kirkland and Ellis, calls into question the integrity of our legal system and undermines the public’s confidence that justice will be served."
Kirkland & Ellis represented Epstein over a decade ago when the well-connected billionaire faced sex-trafficking charges in Florida. Lawyers with the firm helped negotiate a plea deal for Epstein in 2008, which allowed the financier to avoid federal trial by pleading guilty to state charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution. He served 13 months in prison for the charges. While he was required to register as a sex offender, he was allowed to leave jail six days a week for 12 hours due to a work release provision.
Not only is Senator Harris caught in a cross-fire in which she accepts campaign contributes from the very attorneys that she criticizes, but the Trump cabinet is wrecked because Acosta did the deal with Kirkland & Ellis!
Senator Harris wasn’t the only one who criticized Kirkland & Ellis; so did several other White House hopefuls who blasted the handling of Epstein’s case in Florida a decade ago, when his lawyers negotiated a deal with federal prosecutors that allowed him to avoid the possibility of years in prison. But Senator Harris has a special problem: the same day that she went after the law firm, her husband, Douglas Emhoff, headlined a fundraiser in Chicago for his wife's campaign. And guess who the main hosts were? The six partners of Kirkland and Ellis.
Epstein's arrest and indictment have prompted renewed scrutiny to his 2008 plea agreement. Mounting criticism of that plea deal resulted in the resignation of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, the former federal prosecutor in Florida who negotiated the so-called sweetheart deal. So not only is Senator Harris caught in a cross-fire in which she accepts campaign contributes from the very attorneys that she criticizes, but the Trump cabinet is wrecked because Acosta did the deal with Kirkland & Ellis!
I certainly approve of Acosta’s resignation, because the facts when analyzed show that Epstein’s 2008 plea deal was improper. Of course, if it was improper, then Kirkland & Ellis is rightly criticized – as Harris has done. But her hypocrisy is in full display. She criticizes Epstein’s lawyers for engineering the sweetheart deal. But on the same day that she does so, she takes bagfulls of money from them.
Can we support as president a person who engages in such hypocrisy? Her excuse appears to be that Kirkland & Ellis is a large law firm, and she is not working with the ones who did the sweetheart deal with Epstein. But that really doesn’t work as an excuse. U.S. Attorney-general Barr was also a part of Kirkland & Ellis, and he will not recuse himself from Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking and conspiracy case, despite his previous assurance he would, given that Barr worked at a law firm that represented Epstein, as well as a family connection between the two men stretching back decades. He did recuse himself from reviewing the 2008 Kirkland & Ellis deal with Secretary Acosta. Still, he is also engaged in hypocrisy.
Do we want a president who is a hypocrite? No – not when we can have Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Tulsi Gabbard, or some other president who is straight-forward. A hypocrite cannot be trusted. Senator Harris has proved that she cannot be trusted. And above all we want a president who can be trusted to be transparent and forthright.
Michael T. Hertz