Attorney General William Barr will not recuse himself from involvement in the new federal criminal prosecution of accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, an official said Tuesday.
But Barr will recuse himself from an internal Justice Department probe of current Labor Secretary’s Alex Acosta involvement in approving a controversial no-prosecution deal with the wealthy financier a decade ago, an official said.
Barr’s announced decision to have oversight over the Epstein prosecution came after reports that he had recused himself from the case, which is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
And it came as a bevy of Democratic members of Congress and presidential candidates demanded that Acosta resign because of his role as then-U.S. Attorney in Miami in signing off on a deal to not prosecute Epstein in the mid-2000s.
Epstein, 66, is accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls from 2002 to 2005 after they were brought to his luxurious residences on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and in Palm Beach, Fla.
The former friend of President Donald Trump and ex-President Bill Clinton pleaded not guilty on Monday, and is being held without bail pending a detention hearing next week.
Epstein was being eyed for the same alleged conduct in Florida that federal prosecutors have now charged him with in Manhattan.
A Justice Department official on Tuesday said that Barr consulted with career ethics officials at the department, and concluded he did not have to recuse himself from the current prosecution in Manhattan.
However, Barr was quoted Monday as saying he was recusing himself from the Epstein case.
“I’m recused from that matter because one of the law firms that represented Epstein long ago was a firm I subsequently joined for a period of time,” Barr told reporters on Monday.
Barr joined that law firm, Kirkland & Ellis, in 2009.
Kirkland & Ellis had represented Epstein in 2008, when he was being investigated in Florida.
Barr’s comment Monday seems to have referred — or does so now — to his continued recusal from the Justice Department’s internal probe into the non-prosecution of Epstein as signed off by Acosta.
“Due to his prior association with Kirkland and Ellis, the Attorney General has and will remain recused from any retrospective review of the resolution of the earlier [Southern District of Florida] matter,” the Justice Department official told CNBC on Tuesday.