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G4S, une compagnie de sécurité britannique, a annoncé déplorer cinq morts et 32 blessés parmi ses employés dans l’attentat qui l’a visée la veille en Afghanistan.

La compagnie de sécurité britannique G4S a annoncé jeudi déplorer cinq morts et 32 blessés parmi ses employés dans l’attentat qui l’a visée la veille en Afghanistan.

“C’est avec une grande tristesse que nous confirmons que cinq de nos employés ont été tués et 32 blessés, dont cinq gravement”, a déclaré le directeur général de l’entreprise, Charlie Burbridge, dans un communiqué.

Un Britannique figure parmi les tués, les autres étant de nationalité afghane, a précisé la société.

Selon un bilan communiqué mercredi par les autorités afghanes, l’attentat a fait au moins dix morts.

“Déterminés à assurer notre rôle sécuritaire”

L’attaque à la voiture piégée, suivie d’un échange de tirs, a été revendiquée par les talibans.

G4S emploie 611 000 personnes dans une centaine de pays. Elle est cotée au London stock exchange, selon son site internet.

“Nous sommes déterminés à assurer notre rôle sécuritaire en soutien à la population afghane et à ce que ce genre d’incident n’empêche pas le travail vital assuré par la communauté internationale de continuer”, a dit son directeur général, dans le communiqué.

Toute reproduction interdite

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When I dropped my daughter off at school this morning, we went through our usual routine; I crouched down to her height, hugged her, kissed her on the lips and wished her a happy day. Then I left to get on with my day without giving our interaction a second thought.

But after a quick trawl of today’s news when I got home, I was shocked to read about the backlash over an image of David Beckham and his daughter Harper. He’d been criticised for kissing her on the lips in a photo he’d posted on Instagram. It’s just the two of them, sharing a father-daughter kiss at a family ice skating outing together. Innocent, right? Not according to the provocateurs hiding behind the internet – they called it ‘weird’, ‘creepy’ and ‘not right’. I really felt for Becks – an innocent and beautiful display of affection unnecessarily twisted to mean something totally different.

Praise Be To The Papoose-Wearing Papas

However, the trolling of the image is not simply attacking Beckham, it’s also condemning all the fathers and parents out there who don’t think twice about showing physical affection to their children. I shower my daughter with love to the point that it probably annoys her, but I’m her father and I love her and it’s a natural part of our bond and relationship.

Let’s be clear here, this is a peck on the lips and absolutely nothing more. Similarly, I kiss my younger son on the lips. Again, a peck. Is that weird? No. It’s not weird, it’s a show of love and I for one am completely comfortable with it, as is Beckham. What would be weird is if I attached one single iota of misconstrued meaning to it. It’s just such a shame that something so innocent can be viewed so negatively. Thankfully though, like most Instagram negativity and opinion, it’s generated by a tiny minority. Mother Puckers!

Follow Jamie Day on Instagram @adayinthelifedad and at his blog adayinthelifedad.com.

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Ayoub’s article caught the attention of lawyers for James Duncan, a Floridian who had been convicted, in 1996, of thirteen counts of aggravated abuse of his infant son Kody. He was given a seventy-year prison sentence, which even prosecutors considered unusually stiff. In 2015, his lawyers filed a motion to reopen the case, arguing that new information, including Ayoub’s article, proved that Duncan did not hurt his son. Last year, an appeals court ordered an evidentiary hearing to determine whether Duncan deserved a new trial. The effort to free Duncan, who has served twenty-two years in prison, was the subject of an hour-long CNN special this past February. The special included an interview with Ayoub, but it did not mention his anti-vaccination views. CNN did not respond to a request for comment.

At the hearing last month, in Clearwater, before the circuit judge Michael Andrews, Duncan wore an orange prison jumpsuit, with a name badge clipped to his chest, and sat at a table with his lawyers. A large group of friends and relatives filled the spectator area behind him. CNN set up three cameras to record the proceedings from multiple angles. As an expert witness for Duncan, Ayoub came across as confident and practiced. He is balding, with a thin beard with patches of gray, and he often turned to talk directly to the judge and used comparisons to everyday items—the ashes at the end of a cigarette, a shaved carrot—to describe various bone structures.

Ayoub testified that his review of the Duncan case indicated the baby likely had rickets and perhaps other deficiencies that resulted in weak, easy-to-break bones. “I think there is a good alternative explanation for the pattern that we see,” Ayoub told the judge. He speculated that fractures of the baby’s skull, collarbone, and ribs may have occurred during birth, when a suction device was used. Ayoub testified that other injuries—fractures of the left arm, shin bone, and thigh bone—likely occurred when Kody was being vaccinated. “All those date back to the doctor’s-office visit,” he said. “Restrained child and what would normally be an innocuous event where you expect a child to fight and could be held down.”

Andrews was skeptical. “Did I hear that an immobile infant, a child who is two months or less, has to be held down to be able to be immunized?” he asked. Duncan’s lawyer, Lisabeth Fryer, responded that, when an infant is given a vaccination shot, “There’s a reflex—with my children, anyway—that required support. . . . There wasn’t just a splayed-out child patiently waiting.”

Kody Duncan, who is now twenty-five years old and a tennis coach at a Pennsylvania college, testified in defense of his father. Kody said that he did not believe that James Duncan abused him. He said that the two talk by phone every week.

The state’s two expert witnesses, including the doctor who had evaluated Kody’s injuries at All Children’s Hospital, in St. Petersburg, Florida, testified that the medical evidence of abuse was clear and the baby did not have rickets. After being separated from his father, Kody suffered no further fractures, exposing a potential weakness in Ayoub’s analysis: How could a baby who suffered more than a dozen fractures from his head to his leg owing to dangerously weak bones not have a single accidental break in the ensuing weeks, months, and years?

Ayoub offered several possible explanations. He said the foster parents who cared for Kody Duncan were likely more careful with him because they were told he had been injured; that it was possible Kody had suffered more fractures, but they were not symptomatic and went undetected; or that his Vitamin D levels rose significantly, which Ayoub said is natural among children at that age, and his bones strengthened. “So there is a window of fragility there,” Ayoub said.

Shortly after starting to cross-examine Ayoub, the state prosecutor Paul Bolan asked him, “You also have some other opinions that are not in mainstream medical view as well, correct? You believe vaccines are related to autism, correct?” Ayoub never had to answer. Duncan’s attorney immediately objected to the questioning. She argued that the inquiry was “impeachment on a collateral issue.” Andrews, who is expected to rule soon on whether Duncan deserves a new trial, agreed that Ayoub’s views on vaccination were irrelevant.

Other judges have also blocked prosecutors from asking Ayoub about his beliefs regarding vaccination. When Ayoub testified last year in a Massachusetts state court on behalf of a father accused of murdering his five-month-old son, the prosecutor asked Ayoub if vaccines and autism were something he worked on extensively. The defense objected, and the judge ordered the lawyers to a sidebar where jurors could not hear them. The judge wanted to know why she should allow the prosecutor to continue asking about Ayoub’s vaccination work, according to a trial transcript. The prosecutor said that Ayoub had lectured extensively on “the link between vaccines and autism in an area that he really had no training or expertise in. And the Commonwealth is seeking to show that he flits from subject to subject. He was an autism-vaccine guy and now he’s the metabolic-bone-disease guy.” The judge instructed the prosecutor to drop the subject.

Ayoub went on to testify in the case that ordinary handling of a child with a “severe bone-fragility disorder,” namely rickets, could have caused the fractures. The jury sided with Ayoub over the prosecution’s medical expert, Paul Kleinman, a pediatric radiologist who has produced much of the mainstream research on fractures and child abuse, and acquitted the father of assault and battery related to the fractures. A mistrial was declared on a murder charge.

In response to questions about Ayoub, Jeffrey Brown, the defense attorney in the case, said in an e-mail that he had not been worried about Ayoub’s vaccination beliefs hurting his credibility on the stand. “It was not relevant,” he wrote. “Dr. Ayoub was a very effective and helpful witness.” Brown said that he agrees with Ayoub that bone disorders are frequently misdiagnosed as abuse. “It is plain as day to me that the child abuse pediatrician establishment has gotten it wrong. . . . Those who try to trash him and his colleagues are scared of the consequences of being exposed.”

Ayoub’s zealousness in disputing child-abuse allegations troubled a judge last year in the United Kingdom. In upholding a local agency’s determination that a five-month-old baby with twenty-six fractures was abused, the judge, Peter Jackson, of the Royal Courts of Justice, wrote that Ayoub’s testimony was “shot through with the dogma that child abuse is over-diagnosed,” and didn’t meet the legal standard for objectivity. “Having taken up a position, he advanced it with the tenacity of an advocate and was dismissive of alternative possibilities,” the judge wrote. “He entertained no doubts about the correctness of his opinion, a dangerous mindset for any expert witness.”

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom based in New York. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your in-box as soon as they are published.

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Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein is a free man, despite sexually abusing dozens of underage girls according to police and prosecutors. His victims have never had a voice, until now.

How a future Trump Cabinet member gave a serial sex abuser the deal of a lifetime

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Perversion of Justice logo

A decade before #MeToo, a multimillionaire sex offender from Florida got the ultimate break.

On a muggy October morning in 2007, Miami’s top federal prosecutor, Alexander Acosta, had a breakfast appointment with a former colleague, Washington, D.C., attorney Jay Lefkowitz.

It was an unusual meeting for the then-38-year-old prosecutor, a rising Republican star who had served in several White House posts before being named U.S. attorney in Miami by President George W. Bush.

Instead of meeting at the prosecutor’s Miami headquarters, the two men — both with professional roots in the prestigious Washington law firm of Kirkland Ellis — convened at the Marriott in West Palm Beach, about 70 miles away. For Lefkowitz, 44, a U.S. special envoy to North Korea and corporate lawyer, the meeting was critical.

His client, Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, 54, was accused of assembling a large, cult-like network of underage girls — with the help of young female recruiters — to coerce into having sex acts behind the walls of his opulent waterfront mansion as often as three times a day, the Town of Palm Beach police found.

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The eccentric hedge fund manager, whose friends included former President Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew, was also suspected of trafficking minor girls, often from overseas, for sex parties at his other homes in Manhattan, New Mexico and the Caribbean, FBI and court records show.

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Interactive: Sex abuser Jeffrey Epstein was surrounded by powerful people. Here’s a sampling

Facing a 53-page federal indictment, Epstein could have ended up in federal prison for the rest of his life.

But on the morning of the breakfast meeting, a deal was struck — an extraordinary plea agreement that would conceal the full extent of Epstein’s crimes and the number of people involved.

Not only would Epstein serve just 13 months in the county jail, but the deal — called a non-prosecution agreement — essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe into whether there were more victims and other powerful people who took part in Epstein’s sex crimes, according to a Miami Herald examination of thousands of emails, court documents and FBI records.

The pact required Epstein to plead guilty to two prostitution charges in state court. Epstein and four of his accomplices named in the agreement received immunity from all federal criminal charges. But even more unusual, the deal included wording that granted immunity to “any potential co-conspirators’’ who were also involved in Epstein’s crimes. These accomplices or participants were not identified in the agreement, leaving it open to interpretation whether it possibly referred to other influential people who were having sex with underage girls at Epstein’s various homes or on his plane.

As part of the arrangement, Acosta agreed, despite a federal law to the contrary, that the deal would be kept from the victims. As a result, the non-prosecution agreement was sealed until after it was approved by the judge, thereby averting any chance that the girls — or anyone else — might show up in court and try to derail it.

This is the story of how Epstein, bolstered by unlimited funds and represented by a powerhouse legal team, was able to manipulate the criminal justice system, and how his accusers, still traumatized by their pasts, believe they were betrayed by the very prosecutors who pledged to protect them.

“I don’t think anyone has been told the truth about what Jeffrey Epstein did,’’ said one of Epstein’s victims, Michelle Licata, now 30. “He ruined my life and a lot of girls’ lives. People need to know what he did and why he wasn’t prosecuted so it never happens again.”

Now President Trump’s secretary of labor, Acosta, 49, oversees a massive federal agency that provides oversight of the country’s labor laws, including human trafficking. He also has been on a list of possible replacements for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who resigned under pressure earlier this month.

Acosta did not respond to numerous requests for an interview or answer queries through email.

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But court records reveal details of the negotiations and the role that Acosta would play in arranging the deal, which scuttled the federal probe into a possible international sex trafficking operation. Among other things, Acosta allowed Epstein’s lawyers unusual freedoms in dictating the terms of the non-prosecution agreement.

“The damage that happened in this case is unconscionable,” said Bradley Edwards, a former state prosecutor who represents some of Epstein’s victims. “How in the world, do you, the U.S. attorney, engage in a negotiation with a criminal defendant, basically allowing that criminal defendant to write up the agreement?”

As a result, neither the victims — nor even the judge — would know how many girls Epstein allegedly sexually abused between 2001 and 2005, when his underage sex activities were first uncovered by police. Police referred the case to the FBI a year later, when they began to suspect that their investigation was being undermined by the Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office.

Not a ‘he said, she said’

“This was not a ‘he said, she said’ situation. This was 50-something ‘shes’ and one ‘he’ — and the ‘shes’ all basically told the same story,’’ said retired Palm Beach Police Chief Michael Reiter, who supervised the police probe.

More than a decade later, at a time when Olympic gymnasts and Hollywood actresses have become a catalyst for a cultural reckoning about sexual abuse, Epstein’s victims have all but been forgotten.

The women — now in their late 20s and early 30s — are still fighting for an elusive justice that even the passage of time has not made right.

Like other victims of sexual abuse, they believe they’ve been silenced by a criminal justice system that stubbornly fails to hold Epstein and other wealthy and powerful men accountable.

“Jeffrey preyed on girls who were in a bad way, girls who were basically homeless. He went after girls who he thought no one would listen to and he was right,’’ said Courtney Wild, who was 14 when she met Epstein.

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Over the past year, the Miami Herald examined a decade’s worth of court documents, lawsuits, witness depositions and newly released FBI documents. Key people involved in the investigation — most of whom have never spoken before — were also interviewed. The Herald also obtained new records, including the full unredacted copy of the Palm Beach police investigation and witness statements that had been kept under seal.

The Herald learned that, as part of the plea deal, Epstein provided what the government called “valuable consideration” for unspecified information he supplied to federal investigators. While the documents obtained by the Herald don’t detail what the information was, Epstein’s sex crime case happened just as the country’s subprime mortgage market collapsed, ushering in the 2008 global financial crisis.

Records show that Epstein was a key federal witness in the criminal prosecution of two prominent executives with Bear Stearns, the global investment brokerage that failed in 2008, who were accused of corporate securities fraud. Epstein was one of the largest investors in the hedge fund managed by the executives, who were later acquitted. It is not known what role, if any, the case played in Epstein’s plea negotiations.

The Herald also identified about 80 women who say they were molested or otherwise sexually abused by Epstein from 2001 to 2006. About 60 of them were located — now scattered around the country and abroad. Eight of them agreed to be interviewed, on or off the record. Four of them were willing to speak on video.

The women are now mothers, wives, nurses, bartenders, Realtors, hairdressers and teachers. One is a Hollywood actress. Several have grappled with trauma, depression and addiction. Some have served time in prison.

A few did not survive. One young woman was found dead last year in a rundown motel in West Palm Beach. She overdosed on heroin and left behind a young son.

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The Miami Herald obtained thousands of FBI and court records, lawsuits, and witness depositions, and went to federal court in New York to access sealed documents in the reporting of “Perversion of Justice.” The Herald also tracked down more than 60 women who said they were victims, some of whom had never spoken of the abuse before.

Your digital subscription, starting at $0.99 for the first month, supports investigative journalism like this.

As part of Epstein’s agreement, he was required to register as a sex offender, and pay restitution to the three dozen victims identified by the FBI. In many cases, the confidential financial settlements came only after Epstein’s attorneys exposed every dark corner of their lives in a scorched-earth effort to portray the girls as gold diggers.

“You beat yourself up mentally and physically,’’ said Jena-Lisa Jones, 30, who said Epstein molested her when she was 14. “You can’t ever stop your thoughts. A word can trigger something. For me, it is the word ‘pure’ because he called me ‘pure’ in that room and then I remember what he did to me in that room.’’

Now, more than a decade later, two unrelated civil lawsuits — one set for trial on Dec. 4 — could reveal more about Epstein’s crimes. The Dec. 4 case, in Palm Beach County state court, involves Epstein and Edwards, whom Epstein had accused of legal misdeeds in representing several victims. The case is noteworthy because it will mark the first time that Epstein’s victims will have their day in court, and several of them are scheduled to testify.

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A second lawsuit, known as the federal Crime Victims’ Rights suit, is still pending in South Florida after a decade of legal jousting. It seeks to invalidate the non-prosecution agreement in hopes of sending Epstein to federal prison. Wild, who has never spoken publicly until now, is Jane Doe No. 1 in “Jane Doe No. 1 and Jane Doe No. 2 vs. the United States of America,” a federal lawsuit that alleges Epstein’s federal non-prosecution agreement was illegal.

Federal prosecutors, including Acosta, not only broke the law, the women contend in court documents, but they conspired with Epstein and his lawyers to circumvent public scrutiny and deceive his victims in violation of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act. The law assigns victims a series of rights, including the right of notice of any court proceedings and the opportunity to appear at sentencing.

“As soon as that deal was signed, they silenced my voice and the voices of all of Jeffrey Epstein’s other victims,’’ said Wild, now 31. “This case is about justice, not just for us, but for other victims who aren’t Olympic stars or Hollywood stars.’’

In court papers, federal prosecutors have argued that they did not violate the Crime Victims’ Rights Act because no federal charges were ever filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, an argument that was later dismissed by the judge.

Virginia Roberts was working at Mar-a-Lago when she was recruited to be a masseuse to Palm Beach hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein. She was lured into a life of depravity and sexual abuse.

Despite substantial physical evidence and multiple witnesses backing up the girls’ stories, the secret deal allowed Epstein to enter guilty pleas to two felony prostitution charges. Epstein admitted to committing only one offense against one underage girl, who was labeled a prostitute, even though she was 14, which is well under the age of consent — 18 in Florida.

“She was taken advantage of twice — first by Epstein, and then by the criminal justice system that labeled a 14-year-old girl as a prostitute,’’ said Spencer Kuvin, the lawyer who represented the girl.

“It’s just outrageous how they minimized his crimes and devalued his victims by calling them prostitutes,’’ said Yasmin Vafa, a human rights attorney and executive director of Rights4Girls, which is working to end the sexual exploitation of girls and young women.

“There is no such thing as a child prostitute. Under federal law, it’s called child sex trafficking — whether Epstein pimped them out to others or not. It’s still a commercial sex act — and he could have been jailed for the rest of his life under federal law,” she said.

It would be easy to dismiss the Epstein case as another example of how there are two systems of justice in America, one for the rich and one for the poor. But a thorough analysis of the case tells a far more troubling story.

A close look at the trove of letters and emails contained in court records provides a window into the plea negotiations, revealing an unusual level of collaboration between federal prosecutors and Epstein’s legal team that even government lawyers, in recent court documents, admitted was unorthodox.

Acosta, in 2011, would explain that he was unduly pressured by Epstein’s heavy-hitting lawyers — Lefkowitz, Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, Jack Goldberger, Roy Black, former U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis, Gerald Lefcourt, and Kenneth Starr, the former Whitewater special prosecutor who investigated Bill Clinton’s sexual liaisons with Monica Lewinsky.

‘Avoid the press’ plan

That included keeping the deal from Epstein’s victims, emails show.

“Thank you for the commitment you made to me during our Oct. 12 meeting,’’ Lefkowitz wrote in a letter to Acosta after their breakfast meeting in West Palm Beach. He added that he was hopeful that Acosta would abide by a promise to keep the deal confidential.

“You … assured me that your office would not … contact any of the identified individuals, potential witnesses or potential civil claimants and the respective counsel in this matter,’’ Lefkowitz wrote.

In email after email, Acosta and the lead federal prosecutor, A. Marie Villafaña, acquiesced to Epstein’s legal team’s demands, which often focused on ways to limit the scandal by shutting out his victims and the media, including suggesting that the charges be filed in Miami, instead of Palm Beach, where Epstein’s victims lived.

“On an ‘avoid the press’ note … I can file the charge in district court in Miami which will hopefully cut the press coverage significantly. Do you want to check that out?’’ Villafaña wrote to Lefkowitz in a September 2007 email.

Federal prosecutors identified 36 underage victims, but none of those victims appeared at his sentencing on June 30, 2008, in state court in Palm Beach County. Most of them heard about it on the news — and even then they didn’t understand what had happened to the federal probe that they’d been assured was ongoing.

Edwards filed an emergency motion in federal court to block the non-prosecution agreement, but by the time the agreement was unsealed — over a year later — Epstein had already served his sentence and been released from jail.

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“The conspiracy between the government and Epstein was really ‘let’s figure out a way to make the whole thing go away as quietly as possible,’ ’’ said Edwards, who represents Wild and Jane Doe No. 2, who declined to comment for this story.

“In never consulting with the victims, and keeping it secret, it showed that someone with money can buy his way out of anything.’’

It was far from the last time Epstein would receive VIP handling. Unlike other convicted sex offenders, Epstein didn’t face the kind of rough justice that child sex offenders do in Florida state prisons. Instead of being sent to state prison, Epstein was housed in a private wing of the Palm Beach County jail. And rather than having him sit in a cell most of the day, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office allowed Epstein work release privileges, which enabled him to leave the jail six days a week, for 12 hours a day, to go to a comfortable office that Epstein had set up in West Palm Beach. This was granted despite explicit sheriff’s department rules stating that sex offenders don’t qualify for work release.


The sheriff, Ric Bradshaw, would not answer questions, submitted by the Miami Herald, about Epstein’s work release.

Neither Epstein nor his lead attorney, Jack Goldberger, responded to multiple requests for comment for this story. During depositions taken as part of two dozen lawsuits filed against him by his victims, Epstein has invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, in one instance doing so more than 200 times.

In the past, his lawyers have said that the girls lied about their ages, that their stories were exaggerated or untrue and that they were unreliable witnesses prone to drug use.

In 2011, Epstein petitioned to have his sex offender status reduced in New York, where he has a home and is required to register every 90 days. In New York, he is classified as a level 3 offender — the highest safety risk because of his likelihood to re-offend.

A prosecutor under New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance argued on Epstein’s behalf, telling New York Supreme Court Judge Ruth Pickholtz that the Florida case never led to an indictment and that his underage victims failed to cooperate in the case. Pickholtz, however, denied the petition, expressing astonishment that a New York prosecutor would make such a request on behalf of a serial sex offender accused of molesting so many girls.

“I have to tell you, I’m a little overwhelmed because I have never seen a prosecutor’s office do anything like this. I have done so many [sex offender registration hearings] much less troubling than this one where the [prosecutor] would never make a downward argument like this,’’ she said.

The house on El Brillo

The women who went to Jeffrey Epstein’s mansion as girls tend to divide their lives into two parts: life before Jeffrey and life after Jeffrey.

Before she met Epstein, Courtney Wild was captain of the cheerleading squad, first trumpet in the band and an A-student at Lake Worth Middle School.

After she met Epstein, she was a stripper, a drug addict and an inmate at Gadsden Correctional Institution in Florida’s Panhandle.

Wild still had braces on her teeth when she was introduced to him in 2002 at the age of 14.

She was fair, petite and slender, blonde and blue-eyed. Wild, who later helped recruit other girls, said Epstein preferred girls who were white, appeared prepubescent and those who were easy to manipulate into going further each time.

“By the time I was 16, I had probably brought him 70 to 80 girls who were all 14 and 15 years old. He was involved in my life for years,” said Wild, who was released from prison in October after serving three years on drug charges.

The girls — mostly 13 to 16 — were lured to his pink waterfront mansion by Wild and other girls, who went to malls, house parties and other places where girls congregated, and told recruits that they could earn $200 to $300 to give a man — Epstein — a massage, according to an unredacted copy of the Palm Beach police investigation obtained by the Herald.

The lead Palm Beach police detective on the case, Joseph Recarey, said Epstein’s operation worked like a sexual pyramid scheme.

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“The common interview with a girl went like this: ‘I was brought there by so and so. I didn’t feel comfortable with what happened, but I got paid well, so I was told if I didn’t feel comfortable, I could bring someone else and still get paid,’ ’’ Recarey said.

During the massage sessions, Recarey said Epstein would molest the girls, paying them premiums for engaging in oral sex and intercourse, and offering them a further bounty to find him more girls.

Recarey, in his first interview about the case, said the evidence the department collected to support the girls’ stories was overwhelming, including phone call records, copies of written phone messages from the girls found in Epstein’s trash and Epstein’s flight logs, which showed his private plane in Palm Beach on the days the girls were scheduled to give him massages.

Epstein could be a generous benefactor, Recarey said, buying his favored girls gifts. He might rent a car for a young girl to make it more convenient for her to stop by and cater to him. Once, he sent a bucket of roses to the local high school after one of his girls starred in a stage production. The floral-delivery instructions and a report card for one of the girls were discovered in a search of his mansion and trash. Police also obtained receipts for the rental cars and gifts, Recarey said.

Epstein counseled the girls about their schooling, and told them he would help them get into college, modeling school, fashion design or acting. At least two of Epstein’s victims told police that they were in love with him, according to the police report.

The police report shows how uncannily consistent the girls’ stories were — right down to their detailed descriptions of Epstein’s genitalia.

“We had victims who didn’t know each other, never met each other and they all basically independently told the same story,’’ said Reiter, the retired Palm Beach police chief.

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Reiter, also speaking for the first time, said detectives were astonished by the sheer volume of young girls coming and going from his house, the frequency — sometimes several in the same day — and the young ages of the girls.

“It started out to give a man a back rub, but in many cases it turned into something far worse than that, elevated to a serious crime, in some cases sexual batteries,’’ he said.

Most of the girls said they arrived by car or taxi, and entered the side door, where they were led into a kitchen by a female staff assistant named Sarah Kellen, the report said. A chef might prepare them a meal or offer them cereal. The girls — most from local schools — would then ascend a staircase off the kitchen, up to a large master bedroom and bath.

They were met by Epstein, clad in a towel. He would select a lotion from an array lined up on a table, then lie facedown on a massage table, instruct the girl to strip partially or fully, and direct them to massage his feet and backside. Then he would turn over and have them massage his chest, often instructing them to pinch his nipples, while he masturbated, according to the police report.

At times, if emboldened, he would try to penetrate them with his fingers or use a vibrator on them. He would go as far as the girls were willing to let him, including intercourse, according to police documents. Sometimes he would instruct a young woman he described as his Yugoslavian sex slave, Nadia Marcinkova, who was over 18, to join in, the girls told Recarey. Epstein often took photographs of the girls having sex and displayed them around the house, the detective said.

Once sexually gratified, Epstein would take a shower in his massive bathroom, which the girls described as having a large shower and a hot pink and mint green sofa.

Kellen (now Vickers) and Marcinkova, through their attorneys, declined to comment for this story.

Never enough

One girl told police that she was approached by an Epstein recruiter when she was 16, and was working at the Wellington mall. Over the course of more than a year, she went to Epstein’s house hundreds of times, she said. The girl tearfully told Recarey that she often had sex with Marcinkova — who employed strap-on dildos and other toys — while Epstein watched and choreographed her moves to please himself, according to the police report. Often times, she said, she was so sore after the encounters that she could barely walk, the police report said.

But she said she was firm about not wanting to have intercourse with Epstein. One day, however, the girl said that Epstein, unable to control himself, held her down on a massage table and penetrated her, the police report said. The girl, who was 16 or 17 at the time, said that Epstein apologized and paid her $1,000, the police report said.

Most of the girls came from disadvantaged families, single-parent homes or foster care. Some had experienced troubles that belied their ages: They had parents and friends who committed suicide; mothers abused by husbands and boyfriends; fathers who molested and beat them. One girl had watched her stepfather strangle her 8-year-old stepbrother, according to court records obtained by the Herald.

Many of the girls were one step away from homelessness.

“We were stupid, poor children,’’ said one woman, who did not want to be named because she never told anyone about Epstein. At the time, she recalled that she was 14 and a high school freshman.

“We just wanted money for school clothes, for shoes. I remember wearing shoes too tight for three years in a row. We had no family and no guidance, and we were told that we were going to just have to sit in a room topless and he was going to just look at us. It sounded so simple, and was going to be easy money for just sitting there.”

The girls who were abused by Jeffrey Epstein and the cops who championed their cause remain angry over what they regard as a gross injustice, while Epstein’s employees and those who engineered his non-prosecution agreement have prospered.

The woman, who went to Epstein’s home multiple times, said Epstein didn’t like her because her breasts were too big. The last time she went, she said, one girl came out crying and they were instructed to leave the house and had to pay for their own cab home.

Some girls told police they were coached by their peer recruiters to lie to Epstein about their ages and say they were 18. Epstein’s legal team would later claim that even if the girls were under 18, there was no way he could have known. However, under Florida law, ignorance of a sex partner’s age is not a defense for having sex with a minor.

Wild, who worked for Epstein until she was 21, said he was well aware of their tender ages — because he demanded they be young.

“He told me he wanted them as young as I could find them,’’ she said, explaining that as she grew older and had less access to young girls, Epstein got increasingly angry with her inability to find him the young girls he desired.

“If I had a girl to bring him at breakfast, lunch and dinner, then that’s how many times I would go a day. He wanted as many girls as I could get him. It was never enough.’’

The pyramid crumbles

Epstein’s scheme first began to unravel in March 2005, when the parents of a 14-year-old girl told Palm Beach police that she had been molested by Epstein at his mansion. The girl reluctantly confessed that she had been brought there by two other girls, and those girls pointed to two more girls who had been there.

By the time detectives tracked down one victim, there were two and three more to find. Soon there were dozens.

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Jeffrey Epstein’s current private plane, painted a distinctive blue, is parked at an executive hub at Palm Beach International Airport on Thursday morning, May 24, 2018. It is how he shuttles between his homes in the Town of Palm Beach, New York City, New Mexico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. During the decade when, police say, he sexually abused dozens of underage girls, he used a different plane, which tabloids nicknamed ‘The Lolita Express.’

“We didn’t know where the victims would ever end,” Reiter said.

Eventually, the girls told them about still other girls and young women they had seen at Epstein’s house, many of whom didn’t speak English, Recarey said. That led Recarey to suspect that Epstein’s exploits weren’t just confined to Palm Beach. Police obtained the flight logs for his private plane, and found female names and initials among the list of people who flew on the aircraft — including the names of some famous and powerful people who had also been passengers, Recarey said.

A newly released FBI report, posted on the bureau’s website as a result of the Herald’s Freedom of Information Act request, shows that at the time the non-prosecution deal was executed, the FBI was interviewing witnesses and victims “from across the United States.” The probe stretched from Florida to New York and New Mexico, records show.

Indeed, one lawsuit, still pending in New York, alleges that Epstein used an international modeling agency to recruit girls as young as 13 from Europe, Ecuador and Brazil. The girls lived in a New York building owned by Epstein, who paid for their visas, according to the sworn statement of Maritza Vasquez, the one-time bookkeeper for Mc2, the modeling agency.

Mike Fisten, a former Miami-Dade police sergeant who was also a homicide investigator and a member of the FBI Organized Crime Task Force, said the FBI had enough evidence to put Epstein away for a long time but was overruled by Acosta. Some of the agents involved in the case were disappointed by Acosta’s bowing to pressure from Epstein’s lawyers, he said.

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“The day that a sitting U.S. attorney is afraid of a lawyer or afraid of a defendant is a very sad day in this country,’’ said Fisten, now a private investigator for Edwards.


Now, a complex web of litigation could reveal more about Epstein’s crimes. A lawsuit, set for trial Dec. 4 in Palm Beach County, involves the notorious convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein, in whose law firm Edwards once worked.

In 2009, Epstein sued Edwards, alleging that Edwards was involved with Rothstein and was using the girls’ civil lawsuits to perpetuate Rothstein’s massive Ponzi operation. But Rothstein said Edwards didn’t know about the scheme, and Epstein dropped the lawsuit.

Edwards countersued for malicious prosecution, arguing that Epstein sued him to retaliate for his aggressive representation of Epstein’s victims.

Several women who went to Epstein’s home as underage girls are scheduled to testify against him for the first time.

Florida state Sen. Lauren Book, a child sex abuse survivor who has lobbied for tough sex offender laws, said Epstein’s case should serve as a tipping point for criminal cases involving sex crimes against children.

“Where is the righteous indignation for these women? Where are the protectors? Who is banging down the doors of the secretary of labor, or the judge or the sheriff’s office in Palm Beach County, demanding justice and demanding the right to be heard?’’ Book asked.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Villafaña, in court papers, said that prosecutors used their “best efforts’’ to comply with the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, but exercised their “prosecutorial discretion’’ when they chose not to notify the victims. The reasoning went like this: The non-prosecution deal had a restitution clause that provided the girls a chance to seek compensation from Epstein. Had the deal fallen through, necessitating a trial, Epstein’s lawyers might have used the prior restitution clause to undermine the girls’ credibility as witnesses, by claiming they had exaggerated Epstein’s behavior in hopes of cashing in.

Acosta has never fully explained why he felt it was in the best interests of the underage girls — and their parents — for him to keep the agreement sealed. Or why the FBI investigation was closed even as, recently released documents show, the case was yielding more victims and evidence of a possible sex-trafficking conspiracy beyond Palm Beach.

Upon his nomination by Trump as labor secretary in 2017, Acosta was questioned about the Epstein case during a Senate confirmation hearing.

“At the end of the day, based on the evidence, professionals within a prosecutor’s office decided that a plea that guarantees someone goes to jail, that guarantees he register [as a sex offender] generally and guarantees other outcomes, is a good thing,’’ Acosta said of his decision to not prosecute Epstein federally.

California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, in opposing Acosta for labor secretary, noted that “his handling of a case involving sex trafficking of underage girls when he was a U.S. attorney suggests he won’t put the interests of workers and everyday people ahead of the powerful and well-connected.’’

Marci Hamilton, a University of Pennsylvania law professor who is one of the nation’s leading advocates for reforming laws involving sex crimes against children, said what Acosta and other prosecutors did is similar to what the Catholic Church did to protect pedophile priests.

“The real crime with the Catholic priests was the way they covered it up and shielded the priests,’’ Hamilton said. “The orchestration of power by men only is protected as long as everybody agrees to keep it secret. This is a story the world needs to hear.’’

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The Miami Herald obtained thousands of FBI and court records, lawsuits, and witness depositions, and went to federal court in New York to access sealed documents in the reporting of “Perversion of Justice.” The Herald also tracked down more than 60 women who said they were victims, some of whom had never spoken of the abuse before.

Your digital subscription, starting at $0.99 for the first month, supports investigative journalism like this.

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How Miami Herald journalists investigated Jeffrey Epstein

The Team
Investigative Reporter: Julie K. Brown
Investigations Editor: Casey Frank
Visual Journalist: Emily Michot
Interaction Designer: Aaron Albright
Video production: Marta Oliver Craviotto, Matias Ocner
Copy Editor: Mary Behne
Social Media Editors: Adrian Ruhi, Noel Gonzalez
Director of Design: Jessica Gilbert
Senior Manager of Design: Eddie Alvarez

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Last Wednesday, Feb. 28, a bipartisan coalition of senators introduced a proposed new joint resolution seeking to compel the Trump administration to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen. This resolution has already kicked off a new round of what is, in our view, a much-needed debate about the merits of U.S. involvement in the Yemen conflict, the humanitarian cost of which is increasing daily. Yet even before the text of the joint resolution was released, it drew criticism. In particular, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell circulated a letter from the acting general counsel for the Department of Defense William Castle preemptively asserting that the joint resolution’s “fundamental premise is flawed” and that it “would not achieve its apparent purpose of restricting U.S. support to the [Saudi]-led campaign” even if enacted. In turn, Castle’s letter has raised new concerns that the Trump administration has embraced a broad view of presidential power, one that will allow it to proceed with its activities in Yemen even if Congress enacts legislation opposed to it.

Much of this debate, however, has overlooked the unique procedural context in which the joint resolution is being put forward, which is designed to ensure it can be made the subject of a vote even over possible opposition by others in the Senate. That said, the same procedure—which is tied to the 1973 War Powers Resolution (WPR)—limits the legal effect that the joint resolution can have. This context is important for understanding the Castle letter, which makes clear the executive branch’s view that the joint resolution will have no legal effect on current U.S. activities in Yemen if enacted but on narrower legal grounds than some fear. Further, while the joint resolution’s significance is likely to be primarily political, not legal, as a result, this context also points toward other avenues for advocacy that critics of U.S. involvement in Yemen may wish to pursue.


The Procedural Hook

The joint resolution on Yemen is designed to take advantage of special expedited procedures that Congress adopted in order to adapt the WPR (codified at 50 U.S.C. §§ 1541-48) to the Supreme Court’s 1983 opinion in INS v. Chadha. Section 5(c) of the WPR allows Congress to direct the removal of U.S. armed forces “engaged in hostilities” overseas without a declaration of war or statutory authorization through a “concurrent resolution,” a type of instrument that only requires approval in the House and Senate and does not go to the president for his signature or veto. This approach—known as a “legislative veto”—was used periodically by Congress as a way to try to increase its influence over the implementation of policy by the executive branch. In Chadha, however, the Supreme Court found a similar legislative veto in a different statutory context to be unconstitutional, raising serious doubts about section 5(c)’s own constitutionality.

Instead of amending section 5(c), Congress chose to respond to Chadha by enacting parallel procedures that would allow it to similarly direct withdrawals through joint resolutions and bills, which do not raise the same constitutional concerns post-Chadha as they are subject to presidential presentment and veto. These supplemental procedures were ultimately codified at 50 U.S.C. § 1546a. Specifically, they require Congress to consider any joint resolution or bill with the same objective as a concurrent resolution under section 5(c) of the WPR—namely, to require the removal of U.S. armed forces “engaged in hostilities” overseas without a declaration of war or statutory authorization—in line with the expedited procedures available for the review of arms sales, as set forth in section 601(b) of the International Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Act of 1976. 

These expedited procedures, like similar ones created periodically since the early 1970s, represent a choice by members of Congress to increase their collective influence over executive branch actions by requiring some legislators give up part of their individual power within the chamber. They ease the process of bringing a joint resolution (or bill) to the floor, which can lessen the influence of committee members who might oppose it. If the committee to which the joint resolution is referred has not reported it out within 10 calendar days (subject to certain adjustments for adjournment periods), then any senator supporting the resolution may move to discharge it from the committee through a vote of the entire Senate. The motion to discharge is privileged and debate on it is limited to one hour, making it easier for a senator to force at least one vote related to the resolution.  When combined with a privileged motion to begin debate on the resolution itself and an overall 10-hour cap on debate, this prevents a filibuster of the joint resolution or bill and reduces the ability of individual senators to obstruct it.  Section 1546a also allows for such joint resolutions or bills to be amended and, in the event that they are vetoed by the president, sets out a condensed time-frame for considering a possible override in the Senate, conditions not usually present for other measures pursued through these procedures.

Notably, section 5(c) is not the only provision of the WPR that dictates when U.S. armed forces must be withdrawn. Section 4(a) requires the president to inform Congress in writing within 48 hours if U.S. armed forces are “introduced . . . into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances[,]” among other situations, while section 4(c) requires a periodic report updating Congress on the status of such hostilities every six months. Section 5(b) in turn requires the president to withdraw U.S. armed forces from any such situations within 90 days if Congress has not enacted a declaration of war or statutory authorization, unless Congress is physically unable to meet due to an armed attack. Each of these provisions also plays a role in understanding the debate surrounding the joint resolution, as described below.


The Castle Letter in Context

This context is important for understanding both the proposed joint resolution itself and the Castle letter’s critique of it.  The joint resolution explicitly states that it is being enacted pursuant to the section 1546a procedures. To ensure that it qualifies, it specifically directs President Trump “to remove United States Armed Forces from hostilities in or affecting the Republic of Yemen, except [where] engaged in operations directed at al Qaeda or associated forces,” within 30 days. This “remove . . . from hostilities” language directly parrots section 1546a, which itself parrots section 5(c) of the WPR. In this sense, the joint resolution is directing a specific set of actions defined in terms of the WPR.

This is why the Castle letter asserts that the joint resolution “would not achieve its apparent purpose of restricting U.S. support to the [Saudi]-led campaign” even if enacted. The joint resolution directs the president to remove U.S. forces “from hostilities.” But according to Castle the executive branch does not believe that U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition constitutes involvement in “hostilities” for WPR purposes in the first place. The Castle letter describes U.S. involvement as being limited to the following, closely tracking similar descriptions by the Obama administration:

Since 2015, the United States has provided limited support to [Saudi]-led coalition military operations against Houthi and Saleh-aligned forces in Yemen. With the exception of a defensive strike in October 2016, U.S. forces are not taking direct military action in this Saudi-led effort in Yemen. Instead, the United States provides the [Saudi]-led coalition defense articles and services, including air-to-air refueling; certain intelligence support; and military advice, including advice regarding compliance with the law of armed conflict and best practices for reducing the risk of civilian casualties.

In this context, Castle asserts that the executive branch has long interpreted “hostilities” as used in the context of the WPR to mean “a situation in which units of U.S. armed forces are actively engaged in exchanges of fire with opposing units of hostile forces[,]” a threshold that U.S. support for the Saudi-led campaign—except in relation to the October 2016 incident described above—hasn’t crossed.

This position isn’t a new one; indeed, it’s reflected in the prior actions of both the Obama and Trump administrations. Except for the October 2016 incident mentioned above, neither administration has filed 48 hour reports related to U.S. support for the Saudi-led campaign under section 4(a) of the WPR as would be required if it believed current circumstances constituted “hostilities”. Nor were these activities mentioned in the periodic reports required under section 4(c) of the WPR—at least until the most recent December 2017 report, which included a note that “United States forces, in a non-combat role, have also continued to provide logistics and other support to regional forces combatting the Houthi insurgency in Yemen.” While a confusing departure from prior practice, it’s not clear that this reflects a change in view on what constitutes “hostilities”.  In contrast, both the Obama and Trump administrations have routinely included direct action against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—which the Castle letter acknowledges as constituting hostilities for WPR purposes—in their section 4(c) periodic reports.

If the executive branch were to accept that its support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen constituted hostilities, then it would conceding that it is already in violation of the WPR, both for failing to report its involvement in earlier reports and for allowing that support to continue past 90 days from when a report was first required. And if the Trump administration were to instead argue that it is not required to comply with these section 4 and section 5 requirements—for example, if it viewed the WPR as unconstitutional, as several presidential administrations have suggested in the past—then it would almost certainly consider itself not bound by the proposed joint resolution either. For its part, the Obama administration has stated that it sought to comply with the WPR’s reporting requirements, whatever constitutional reservations it may have had. And the Trump administration has showed no clear signs of moving away from this practice as of yet.

This does not mean that the executive branch’s interpretation of what constitutes “hostilities” is objectively correct. There is much reasonable space in which to criticize that interpretation and other relevant actors might find alternative interpretations more persuasive. The authors of the joint resolution themselves contend that section 8(c) of the WPR expands the scope of “hostilities” to include the types of support being provided to Yemen, an argument some have found persuasive. (For an excellent discussion of the merits of this position, see this recent analysis by Professor Oona Hathaway and Aaron Haviland.) Yet the fact that the executive branch has maintained its current interpretation across presidential administrations—and relied on that interpretation in pursuing actions that, in its view, put it in compliance with the WPR—means that it is unlikely to change its view anytime soon. Further, because the executive branch controls the deployment and activities of U.S. military forces—as well as the enforcement of federal law—its view of how to interpret relevant statutory requirements is likely to remain the operational one. And while federal courts could in theory step in if they disagreed and the issue presented itself in litigation, they have generally proven reluctant to do so.

The bottom line is that Castle is likely correct, at least in effect: even if enacted, the joint resolution will not end U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition, because the executive branch views that support as entirely consistent with what the joint resolution requires. The silver lining, however, is that Castle’s letter is thus not the bold assertion of presidential authority that many fear it to be. He is not saying that Congress could never enact legislation that would require the executive branch to end support for the U.S.-led campaign in Yemen. Instead, he is simply asserting that the specific joint resolution in question—which is designed to fit through the narrow gates of the section 1546a procedures—does not require as much.


That Footnote, Though . . .

There is, however, one part of the Castle letter that arguably belies this narrow reading. Following the assertion that “President Obama directed . . . military and intelligence support [to the Saudi-led campaign] pursuant to his authority under Article II of the Constitution as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive and his authority to conduct foreign relations[,]” Castle inserts footnote 3, which states:

Because the President has directed U.S. troops to support the [Saudi-]led operations pursuant to his authority under Article II, and because the limited operation does not implicated [sic] Congress’s constitutional authority to Declare War, the draft resolution would raise serious constitutional concerns to the extent it seeks to override the President’s determination as Commander in Chief.

While far from a model of clarity, this footnote could be read as drawing a sharp binary between Congress’s constitutional authority under Article I’s declare war clause and the president’s Article II authority as commander in chief and chief executive. Such a formulation would seem to put any use of military force not within the purview of the former necessarily within the exclusive domain of the latter, making any legislative interference with such activities constitutionally suspect.

This would be an aggressive view of the president’s exclusive authority to direct military operations, as well as a substantial departure from the executive branch’s prior positions. Generally speaking, under Justice Robert Jackson’s widely-cited tripartite framework from his 1952 Youngstown Sheet Tube Company v. Sawyer concurrence, the president may act in certain circumstances where congress is silent and the relevant division of constitutional powers between Congress and the president overlap or are unclear. But presidential authority is at its “lowest ebb” where he or she acts contrary to legislation, requiring that the president have some Article II power through which he or she can assert exclusive authority (thereby rendering any contrary legislation unconstitutional). The executive branch has generally accepted that overseas uses of military force fall into the former category of shared constitutional authority, even as it has argued that structural considerations and a long history of congressional delegation and authorization give the president wide discretion in pursuing the use of military force “at least insofar as Congress has not specifically restricted it” and so long as the duration and intensity of the resulting conflict falls short of those levels requiring Congress’s approval under the declare war clause. This is a far cry from arguing that the scope of the president’s Article II powers precludes Congress from enacting any limiting legislation whatsoever. Indeed, even where it has asserted exclusive Article II authority not subject to legislative limitations, the executive branch has tied it to the existence of a state of emergency or imminent threat to U.S. national security, not asserted it categorically over all uses of military force not subject to the declare war clause.

Fortunately, there are reasons to think that Castle might not have intended for us to read this footnote quite so broadly. Most notably, the notation for footnote 3 directly follows citations to two authorities that contradict this reading. The Supreme Court’s 1850 declaration in Fleming v. Page that, “[a]s commander-in-chief, [the president] is authorized to direct the movements of the naval and military forces placed by law at his command” is in the context of a congressional declaration of war; further, the rest of the opinion focuses on the limits on the president’s ability to use military force to pursue certain objectives overseas—in this case, the annexation of territory—absent congressional authorization. And the 1941 opinion of the Attorney General that Castle cites as support for the conclusion that the president’s authority “extend[s] to the dispatch of armed forces outside of the United States, either on missions of goodwill or rescue, or for the purpose of protecting American lives or property or American interests”—written by the same Robert Jackson who would later articulate the Youngstown framework—is predicated in part on both affirmative congressional support for such activities and the fact that “no statute . . . seeks to negative this authority in the President.”

Both opinions do, however, arguably support the view that the president as commander-in-chief has the sole authority to direct how military personnel are deployed and used within any broader framework of authorization, which may be the narrower point that Castle is attempting to make. Castle’s constitutional concerns may focus specifically on efforts to direct how the president chooses to use U.S. troops to provide “military and intelligence support”, especially if he or she is doing so in furtherance of his or her substantial authority over U.S. foreign relations. Further, such concerns would not necessarily extend to other U.S. conduct in support of the Saudi-led campaign. (Indeed, this would explain why the Castle letter goes on to identify various statutory authorizations pursuant to which it is supporting the Saudi-led campaign.) Of course, the exclusive scope of the president’s constitutional authority over foreign relations—particularly in the face of contrary legislation—is itself the subject of debate, and the extent to which it extends to conduct that may make the United States a party to an armed conflict or even violate international law is, in our view, questionable. Yet this framing would at least more squarely align footnote 3 with prior executive branch opinions and avoid a wholesale abandonment of the Youngstown framework.

Regardless, footnote 3 of the Castle letter is ambiguous and important enough to warrant clarification. Hopefully the Trump administration will take steps to provide this clarity, perhaps as part of its forthcoming report on the legal framework for national security operations. And if it does not, Congress should push the issue.


So What’s the Goal Here?

If the Castle letter is correct that the joint resolution is unlikely to have any direct impact on U.S. policy, then why are its sponsors pursuing it? The answer is most likely political. The section 1546a procedures being used make it easier for the joint resolution’s sponsors to force a vote—most likely on whether or not to discharge it from committee, not the joint resolution itself—beginning next week. Because Senate Majority Leader McConnell wields significant scheduling power in the Senate, the joint resolution’s sponsors would have difficulty getting a vote over his objections—which he clearly has—without these procedures. Forcing the vote will in turn require individual Senators to adopt a stance on the Trump administration’s continued involvement in Yemen, the outcome of which could prove politically damaging either for them individually if they support continued involvement in the increasingly unpopular Saudi-led campaign or for the Trump administration if they do not.

The sponsors may choose to go ahead and force the vote to impose political costs on the supporters of U.S. involvement in Yemen. Indeed, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), one of the joint resolution’s co-sponsors, made use of similar procedures in relation to arms sales to Saudi Arabia in the past. Alternatively, they could attempt to leverage the threat of forcing a vote under section 1546a procedures in order to gain concessions from the Senate leadership on related items. This would resemble the path that the sponsors of a similar concurrent resolution in the House of Representatives—tellingly pursued under section 5(c) of the WPR despite post-Chadha constitutional concerns—followed last fall. They ultimately negotiated for a vote on, and won the eventual (overwhelming and bipartisan) passage of, a separate non-binding House resolution that raised various concerns with the conflict in Yemen and confirmed that Congress had not authorized U.S. involvement. It’s unclear, however, if Senate leadership would be receptive to a similar move without significant pressure from fellow Republicans.

And what if supporters of the joint resolution supporters still want to push for a legislative bar on U.S. participation in Yemen? Nothing prevents Congress from pursuing legislation that specifically and unequivocally prohibits the executive branch from providing any support to the Saudi-led coalition. Such legislation would no doubt raise constitutional concerns from executive branch lawyers, but it would at a minimum force the executive branch to make clear its views on the limits of the president’s exclusive Article II authority over the use of military force and may set up a situation where the courts would be more willing to intervene if the executive branch proceeds regardless. That said, such legislation could not move using the section 1546a procedures, making it easier for Senate leaders to block consideration. Hence, if they wish to pursue this route, opponents of U.S. involvement in Yemen will need to bring pressure on congressional leaders to allow a vote. Or their allies in Congress will need to wait for an opportune moment—such as the next defense authorization act or round of relevant appropriations—when they can incorporate their demand into a broader legislative package that will be more difficult to obstruct.

Whichever of these paths its supporters decide to take next, the joint resolution currently under consideration is unlikely to put an end to the controversy surrounding U.S. involvement in Yemen. But it may prove to be an important step towards eventually winning the political debate.

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Tiphaine Guéret