×
November 28, 2018

Florida millionaire Jeffrey Epstein once faced life in prison on charges of trafficking dozens of underage girls for sex. He was indicted in a 53-page federal document, accused of building a "cult-like network" of girls coerced into sexual acts at Epstein's homes and at his "sex parties," the Miami Herald reports.

But in 2007, Epstein took a "secret" plea deal that blocked those accusations from the public eye and subjected him to just 13 months in prison, the Herald writes. Alex Acosta, then a federal prosecutor and now President Trump's Labor Secretary, was instrumental in making Epstein's deal happen, dozens of interviews and hundreds of court and FBI documents show.

Epstein's case was "not a 'he said, she said' situation," retired Palm Beach Police Chief Michael Reiter tells the Herald. "This was 50-something 'shes' and one 'he' — and the 'shes' all basically told the same story," he continued. Still, Epstein's alleged victims — about 80 women now in their 20s and 30s — "have all but been forgotten," the Herald writes.

That's because Epstein avoided any public scrutiny for his charges, agreeing to a plea deal that broke federal law by guaranteeing it wouldn't be revealed to Epstein's alleged victims or the public. And as a federal prosecutor in Epstein's case, Acosta "basically allow[ed]" Epstein's lawyers "to write up the agreement," a former state prosecutor representing Epstein's victims in a new suit told the Herald. The agreement also ended an FBI probe into Epstein's alleged trafficking ring, but two new suits brought by victims might uncover more details in the coming months.

Acosta now heads the federal department that oversees human trafficking laws, the Herald notes. He did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Read more of this massive investigation at the Miami Herald. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:33 a.m.

Newly sworn-in Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has never served in a Congress where the government was open, Stephen Colbert pointed out to her on Monday's Late Show. He gave her a pint of Ben & Jerry's and a spoon and asked what that's been like. For her and the other 100 or so House freshmen, she said, "the downside is that we're not able to get to work as much as we want to in the beginning, but the bright side is that it gives us a lot more free time to make trouble," like trying to track down Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Ocasio-Cortez explained that in her social media workshop for Democrats, "I gave them more of my general theory and approach to social media," where "Rule No. 1 is to be authentic, to be yourself, and don't try to be anyone that you're not. So don't try to talk like a young kid if you're not a young kid, don't post a meme if you don't know what a meme is," and "don't talk like the Founding Fathers on Twitter."

Ocasio-Cortez is so good at social media, "she's known for hosting Instagram live Q&A's while cooking dinner," Colbert explained before the interview. "That's impressive. My wife once asked me a question while I was making a grilled cheese sandwich, and I ended up in the emergency room."

Colbert asked Ocasio-Cortez about her plan to tax rich guys like himself at a 70 percent marginal rate. "This is something we often see, too, with Fox News, it's like, 'They want to take all your money!'" she said. But the 70 percent marginal tax rate would apply only to the dollars you make each year after you hit $10 million. Colbert pointed out that cries of "'She's a socialist, she wants 70 percent tax rates,' those are both accurate, right?" She laughed and said yes, but "democratic socialist," which is "very different." Peter Weber

4:31 a.m.

"I am tickled red, white, and blue to welcome you to our very special show, Intermission Accomplished: A Halftime Tribute to Trump," Jimmy Kimmel said on Monday's very special Kimmel Live. "We are here tonight to celebrate the midway mark of Donald Trump's first term in office — because let's be honest, this is a man who is far too humble to celebrate himself." He listed some of Trump's many accomplishments: "More than 6,000 tweets in office, at least half of those with no misspellings at all. More than 100 days on the golf course, keeping tabs on the environment. And let's not forget the election itself: Donald Trump got 62 million votes, second-most of any presidential candidate in 2016."

Kimmel ran through Trump's hagiography, Ken Bone (Josh Gad) made a cameo, and a group of dancers ended the intro with a spirited pro-Trump medley.

"This president has delivered so many poignant words, the best words, since he took office," Kimmel said. "Donald Trump has tweeted more than every other president in history combined — more than Washington, more than Lincoln even. And tonight we remember his most memorable lines," as sung by Leon Bridges. They've honestly never sounded sweeter.

Alyssa Milano popped in to hawk "Great Moments in Trump History" commemorative plates.

Kimmel also starred in a dark faux sit-com about Eric Trump (Paul Scheer) and Don Jr. (Will Arnett) hunting down the last lion in Africa.

Finally, the ghost of Fred Trump (Fred Willard) appeared to take credit for all of his son's accomplishments, then changed his mind. Watch below. Peter Weber

2:48 a.m.

On Monday night, Senate Republicans released a 1,300-page version of the plan President Trump outlined Saturday to reopen the federal government. It includes $5.7 billion for Trump's border wall, a three-year extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for DREAMers, and bills to fund the parts of the government closed for 31 days and counting, plus $12.7 billion in assorted disaster and agricultural relief. Immigration experts also found several big, unheralded changes to the U.S. immigration system.

Democrats have already rejected the bill, and the details probably won't help win any over when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) brings it up for a vote this week.

The first big change deals with asylum. Notably, "it makes it so Central American minors are ineligible for asylum if they don't apply at a processing center (to be established) in Central America," says The Federalist's Gabriel Malor. "Asylum is a form of relief for people who are being persecuted in their home countries and the authorities there are unable or unwilling to protect them (or are the source of the persecution). You can't condition asylum on people remaining in the place where they are persecuted."

Also, immigration lawyer Aaron Reichlin-Melnick notes, "only 50k Central American minors [would be] allowed to apply for asylum each year, and only 15k asylum applications can be granted," by Homeland Security Department officials (not judges) through "a kangaroo process." The bill would not extend Temporary Protected Status for all 300,000 immigrants from war-torn or disaster-struck countries, just some from Central America and Haiti.

The ban on Central American minors "is pretty bad and reason alone to oppose this bill," Malor argues. "But the changes to whether an application can be found to be frivolous applies to ALL applicants, and it's completely unreasonable." The bill "will (and should) get zero votes from Democrats," he adds, "and to be honest, Republicans should be shooting question marks at McConnell, too." Peter Weber

1:57 a.m.

These were definitely the best kind of wedding crashers.

When choral students at Hingham Middle School in Hingham, Massachusetts, found out their favorite teacher, choir director Christopher Landis, was getting married, they came up with a fitting way to celebrate: They would surprise him with an impromptu performance of The Beatles classic "All You Need is Love" at his wedding rehearsal brunch. Two choir parents got in touch with his now-husband, Joe Michienzie, who immediately agreed to help pull it off.

More than 50 kids signed up for the surprise serenade and attended four weekend practices. Well-rehearsed, they left school early on Dec. 21 and traveled 30 miles to the brunch in Plymouth. Landis was shocked when the students started filing into the room, and he began to cry when he realized they were there to sing. "These are my kids," he told his guests. "It was so wonderful for the kids to see him with his family and his close friends, and they saw him as a person, not just their teacher," parent Joy Foraste told The Patriot Ledger. "They saw how much it meant to him." Catherine Garcia

1:23 a.m.

Attempting to clarify conflicting statements he gave about a Trump Tower project in Moscow, Rudy Giuliani managed to make an already confusing situation even more baffling.

President Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was in charge of the Moscow project. On Sunday, Giuliani — Trump's current lawyer — said project discussions were held as late as October or November 2016, almost to Election Day. On Monday, Giuliani released a statement saying his remarks were "hypothetical and not based on conversations I had with the president."

Late Monday, The New Yorker's Isaac Chotiner called Giuliani to discuss his shifting story. First, they discussed the BuzzFeed News report last week that Trump directed Cohen to lie about when the Moscow negotiations ended, as Cohen did. Giuliani said he knew the story was false because "I have been through all the tapes, I have been through all the texts, I have been through all the emails, and I knew none existed."

Wait, what tapes? Chotiner asked. "I shouldn't have said tapes," Giuliani said, backtracking. "They alleged there were texts and emails that corroborated that Cohen was saying the president told him to lie. There were no texts, there were no emails, and the president never told him to lie." Moving on, Giuliani said Trump "had no conversations" about the Moscow project, before reversing course and declaring, "I shouldn't say he had no conversations. He had a few conversations about this early-stage proposal that he ended somewhere in early 2016, and doesn't have a recollection of anything else, and there is nothing to support anything else."

Giuliani denied telling The New York Times that Trump said "discussions were going on from the day I announced to the day I won," but when asked if the Times made the quote up, Giuliani said he didn't know. None of this matters anyway, Giuliani said, because "even if it's true, it's not criminal." Read the entire bewildering interview at The New Yorker. Catherine Garcia

1:02 a.m.

"Happy Martin Luther King Day, in which we honor Dr. King's dream, 50 percent off at Nordstrom's," Stephen Colbert joked on Monday's Late Show. He caught everyone up on the Rams-Saints game and a blatant foul that cost New Orleans the game, and "speaking of things that make you scream at your TV: Donald Trump," he said, pivoting.

On Day 31 of the government shutdown, President Trump hasn't forgotten about the 800,000 workers going without paychecks, but Colbert found his supportive tweet wanting. "They're not volunteering to work for free," he pointed out. "You might as well have tweeted: 'THANK YOU, GREAT PATRIOTS! Please accept this Tweet in lieu of a paycheck. Quick tip: tell your landlord Mexico's going to pay your rent.'"

But Trump did go on TV Saturday and "made an offer that he was sure everyone would love," Colbert said. "In exchange for his border wall, Trump offered to restore DACA and TPS protections for three years — which is weird, since they're protections that he himself took away." Democrats "somehow did not fall for" Trump's temporary hostage deal, he said, and in fact, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) "said no before Trump even asked — a move known in Washington as 'The Melania.'"

On Jimmy Kimmel Live, Kimmel's Abe Lincoln was joined by George Washington (Fred Armisen), Thomas Jefferson (Bobby Moynihan), and Teddy Roosevelt (Jeff Ross) on Mount Rushmore as a new face was added: Trump (Anthony Atamanuik). The former presidents wanted to know what Trump did to get on the monument. "I also ended slavery," Kimmel's Lincoln said. "That's not true — I've been making a bunch of federal employees work for free for 31 days," Trump said. And he also made some ... changes to the treasured national park. Watch below. Peter Weber

January 21, 2019

"Martin Luther King Jr. Day: A day when Americans celebrate a Civil Rights icon — and Americans who don't, get off work," Trevor Noah said on Monday's Daily Show. "And over the weekend, everyone was getting into the MLK spirit — even America's whitest man," Vice President Mike Pence. Noah suggested Pence's lashing of President Trump to MLK and improving democracy was a little much: "'Through the legislative process?' I think Mike Pence just skipped over the whole protesting and getting beaten up part," he said. "Like, I never watched the trailer for Selma and thought, 'Oh man, that looks like some intensive legislative process!'"

Dulcé Sloan came out to celebrate "the real Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, not the whitewashed Hallmark version," and she found his imperfections a little sexy.

"We have to admit as people, the toughest thing to combat is our bias," Noah told his audience between takes, outlining Friday's encounter between a group of teens from a Kentucky Catholic all-boys high school and a Native American activist, Nathan Phillips. "It's like a weird story where I feel like depending on who was holding the camera, their story made them look like the victim — every single person," he said. The media should have searched for more video before jumping on the story, but the MAGA-fan Covington high schoolers also weren't the scared naifs trying to defuse the situation they now claim to be, he added, "they were being a--holes, they were being kids."

"I think everyone played the victim card a little too hard," Noah said. "If anything, I know it's crazy statement to make, but I feel like that's what the National Mall is supposed to be about. People go there and protest, say whatever they want to say, and then go home. I think that was a great display of all First Amendment, no Second Amendment. It's a good time." Watch below. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads