July 9, 2019

There are lots of gross and prurient aspects to the lurid case unfolding around Jeffrey Epstein, a mysterious, well-connected, and evidently very wealthy self-professed financier, convicted sex offender, and alleged sexual abuser and trafficker of young girls, but there are also lots of basic questions. For one: Where did Epstein get all his money?

Until Epstein flew former President Bill Clinton to Africa with Kevin Spacey and Chris Tucker in 2002, few people paid him any heed. Then a 2002 profile of Epstein in New York laid out his origin story: Born and raised in Coney Island, Brooklyn; attended but did not graduate from Cooper Union and NYU; was recruited to Bear Stearns while teaching high school calculus and physics at the tony Dalton School; worked his way up to partner; left Bear Stearns under mysterious circumstances in 1981; founded his own wealth management company in which he would take on only billionaire clients who agreed to hand him total control of their money; yada yada yada multiple mansions, a fleet of private jets, his own island, and powerful friends.

In 2003, a Vanity Fair profile by Vicky Ward tore a few holes in that story, and in 2015, Ward wrote in The Daily Beast that in her extensive reporting on Epstein "no one I spoke to believed" that "the hidden source of his wealth" was "managing the money of billionaires and taking a commission." Some of Epstein's friends "speculated that retailer Les Wexner was the real source of Epstein's wealth," Ward wrote, but while the billionaire founder of Victoria's Secret is Epstein's only known client — or former client — Wexner wouldn't comment on the idea.

A decade ago, Epstein's lawyers said his wealth was in the nine-figure range, but "today, so little is known about Epstein's current business or clients that the only things that can be valued with any certainty are his properties," including the $77 million Manhattan mansion federal agents raided over the weekend and his properties in New Mexico, Paris, Palm Beach, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where his "black box" of a company is now incorporated, Bloomberg News reports. There's even mystery about the Manhattan mansion: The only New York property record on the 1990s transfer of the mansion from Wexner to Epstein was filed in 2011, with a transfer price of $0, Bloomberg says. "Epstein signed for both sides of the transaction." Peter Weber

7:02 p.m.

A Miami police officer will face disciplinary action after he wore, while in uniform, a "Trump 2020" mask to an early voting site.

Steve Simeonidis, chairman of the Miami-Dade Democrats, tweeted a photo of the masked officer on Tuesday. Simeonidis called this an "egregious form of voter intimidation" and "a crime."

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said the officer was at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center in downtown Miami to cast his ballot, and he violated departmental policy by wearing political signage in uniform, NBC News reports. "It's inappropriate, it's against departmental orders," Suarez said. "Police officers are supposed to be impartial, so irrespective of who the person was, whatever sign it would have been, it would have been problematic."

Suarez said an investigation has been launched into the officer's visit to the polling place, and it's unclear if he was on duty. Officers are allowed to vote in uniform and while carrying their department-issued firearms. "One important fact is that the officer was voting," Suarez said. "Had he not been voting it would have been a much more serious situation." Catherine Garcia

5:34 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has reportedly shut down all hope of passing a COVID-19 stimulus bill in the next two weeks.

Discussions regarding the next relief bill have gone on for months with no actual results after the last package — and the boosted unemployment insurance that came with it — expired after July. But despite Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) continuing discussions Tuesday, people familiar with the discussions say McConnell has called the whole thing off, The New York Times reports.

Mnuchin and Pelosi have been in talks for weeks, with Pelosi setting Tuesday as a deadline for both sides getting their "terms on the table." Yet negotiations didn't end as Democrats try to work at least $2 trillion in funding from the White House; Mnuchin offered up a $1.8 trillion package on Monday. McConnell meanwhile said Tuesday "if a presidentially supported bill clears the House at some point we'll bring it to the floor." But behind closed doors in a lunch with Senate Republicans, McConnell reportedly said he told the White House not to accept anything until after the election. He's looking to avoid making Republicans up for re-election avoid the "difficult choice of defying the president" by voting against the bill or "alienating their fiscally conservative base" by approving it, the Times reports.

President Trump had previously said he was ending the stimulus talks until after the election, only to change his mind just a few days later. McConnell has been pessimistic about negotiations for weeks. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:41 p.m.

A juror in Breonna Taylor's case has some serious criticism of how it was handled.

On Tuesday, a state judge ruled grand jury records — usually kept sealed — could be released to determine if "publicly elected officials are being honest" about Taylor's case. That allowed jurists to speak freely about the case, including one who released a statement criticizing how Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron presented the case to the jury.

Taylor was shot and killed by police while they executed a no-knock warrant at her home. Only one of the officers involved was indicted on charges of wanton endangerment for firing into a neighbor's apartment; none were charged with Taylor's death. But as the anonymous juror said Tuesday, the grand jury in Taylor's case weren't allowed to do so.

After learning how "the grand jury normally operates," it was clear to this juror that Taylor's case was "quite different," the juror said. "The grand jury was not presented any other charges other than the three wanton endangerment charges" against former Louisville police officer Brett Hankison. "The grand jury did not have homicide offenses explained to them," nor anything regarding "self-defense or justification," the juror continued. "The grand jury didn't agree that certain actions were justified, nor did it decide the indictment should be the only charges in the Breonna Taylor case," the juror said.

Cameron recently said he hadn't recommended manslaughter charges to the grand jury investigating Taylor's case. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:38 p.m.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a new report estimates there have been almost 300,000 excess deaths in the United States this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

CDC researchers on Tuesday said that while about 216,000 deaths from COVID-19 had been confirmed as of Oct. 15, this "might underestimate the total impact of the pandemic on mortality," and they write that "299,028 excess deaths have occurred in the United States from late January through October 3, 2020, with two thirds of these attributed to COVID-19." This number takes into account fatalities from all causes "in excess of the expected number of deaths" for this period of time, the researchers explain.

The report found the largest percentage increases occurred among Hispanics and among adults age 25 to 44, with the latter group seeing a 26.5 percent spike.

"Although more excess deaths have occurred among older age groups, relative to past years, adults aged 25-44 years have experienced the largest average percentage increase in the number of deaths from all causes from late January through October 3, 2020," the report said.

The Washington Post explains that the main causes of the excess deaths are likely people dying from COVID-19 but not having the coronavirus recorded as their cause of death and people dying for other reasons after not seeking medical care or not being able to receive it due to the pandemic.

Steven Woolf, Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health director emeritus, told the Post this is another study demonstrating that "the number of people dying from this pandemic is higher than we think," adding that the number of excess deaths is likely to climb to 400,000 by the end of the year. Brendan Morrow

2:47 p.m.

Never is there a dull moment interviewing Nicolas Cage.

Case in point: the actor spoke to Marilyn Manson in a conversation published by Interview magazine on Tuesday, and when Manson asked a simple question about whether Cage gambles, he had an entire story ready to go about how he once "turned $200 into $20,000" at a casino in the Bahamas and proceeded to donate it to a nearby orphanage.

"I went and found an orphanage in the Bahamas, met all the kids and the headmistress, and said, 'This is for you,'" Cage explained. "I put the 20 grand in her hand, walked away, and never gambled again, because if I did, it would ruin the power of that moment."

Add this one to the list of examples of Cage's real life arguably being more interesting than any of his actual films, alongside that time he apparently really tried to find the Holy Grail. The interview's other highlights included Cage describing how he "just bought a crow" named Huginn who "called me an a--hole" and telling a story about freaking people out with a two-headed snake during a party with Werner Herzog at a "haunted mansion." Presumably, a bidding war in Hollywood for the rights to at least three different stories in this interview alone has already begun. Brendan Morrow

2:00 p.m.

Democrats have a reasonable chance of sweeping Georgia's Senate and presidential races this Election Day.

Georgia has two U.S. Senate seats up for grabs this fall, and as a New York Times/Siena College poll out Tuesday revealed, Democratic candidates are winning one and tied in the other. Meanwhile in the faceoff between President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden, candidates are tied at 45 percent support in the typically red state.

Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) is up for re-election this fall, and is tied with Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff at 43 percent support, the poll showed. Raphael Warnock, the Democrat looking to fill the seat vacated by retired Sen. Johnny Isakson, meanwhile has 32 percent support over current Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R). Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), who is also looking to fill the spot, has 17 percent support, the poll shows.

But it's not as if the Republican faceoff could spoil the party's chances of winning. If no one in the three-way race of Collins, Loeffler, and Warnock gets a majority of the vote, the top two candidates will have a runoff election. Still, Warnock led both Collins and Loeffler, 45-41, in a hypothetical runoff, the poll found. Warnock's 46 percent favorability rating was the highest of any candidate on the poll.

The New York Times and Siena College surveyed 759 likely voters in Georgia from Oct. 13–19, with a 4.1 percentage point margin of error. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:09 p.m.

Melania Trump has a cough.

That's the reason the first lady won't make her first post-coronavirus appearance Tuesday night, Melania's chief of staff Stephanie Grisham said Tuesday. Melania was supposed to rejoin President Trump on the campaign trail in Erie, Pennsylvania, but to be cautious, she'll stay home until she recovers fully.

The president and first lady tested positive for COVID-19 about three weeks ago. Trump was hospitalized for three days, while Melania stayed at the White House and recovered from her light symptoms there, the White House said. Trump returned to the campaign trail less than two weeks after he first reported having a positive COVID-19 test. The White House has refused to reveal the last time Trump and the first lady tested negative for the virus before their positive results. Kathryn Krawczyk

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