(TMU) — As U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta receives flak for his past work ensuring immunity for Jeffrey Epstein in an infamous 2008 sweetheart deal that allowed the convicted sexual predator to be free of federal prosecution after he was investigated for running a child sex trafficking ring, his current actions in the Trump cabinet are also drawing renewed scrutiny.
Since coming to office, Acosta has attempted to drastically cut the budget for government efforts to combat child sex trafficking by about 80 percent, reports the Guardian.
In Acosta’s proposed Department of Labor budget for fiscal year 2020, the labor secretary hoped to decimate the resources of the department’s International Labor Affair Bureau (ILAB), knocking its budget down from last year’s $68 million to a mere $18.5 million.
The bureau is tasked with promoting “a fair global playing field for workers” by fighting against human trafficking, forced labor, and child enslavement, and is also seen as a critical tool in the fight to combat sex trafficking of minors.
The ILAB’s office also produces comprehensive congressionally-mandated reports on child labor and human trafficking around the world while maintaining an index of products and source countries that use child and forced labor, among other functions, according to the Daily Beast.
Experts claim that Acosta’s proposed slash-and-burn budget would mean that U.S. government efforts to curb sex trafficking would effectively grind to a halt.
The Department of Labor has done little to shed light on its reasoning behind the budget cuts, but in 2017 it released a press statement announcing its 2018 budget request where it stated that the government would save “$68 million by refocusing the Bureau of International Labor Affairs on ensuring that U.S. trade agreements are fair for American workers.”
Democratic Congresswoman Katherine Clark of Massachusetts has accused Acosta of ignoring the plight of the vulnerable, just as he had during his stint as U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Florida when he gave Epstein a slap on the wrist for one count of prostitution, landing the rapist in jail for only 13 months despite allegations that countless children had been victimized by his prostitution and trafficking ring.
In April, Clark grilled Acosta during a hearing about the Department of Labor’s funding request.
In a scathing exchange where Clark found Acosta to be “rude, dismissive, challenging,” the congresswoman grilled Acosta:
“That is excellent … And I know that there are hundreds of thousands of adults and children who are victims of sex and labor trafficking in the U.S. Glad you are looking at it, glad you’ve detailed a comprehensive strategy.”
But you’ve also proposed a budget cut, almost 80 percent, 79 percent to ILAB where this work is done, bringing its budget from $68 million to just $18.5 million.
I’m sure you’ve come prepared to justify this cut to us, but it doesn’t go unnoticed that this isn’t the first time that you’ve ignored human trafficking.
How can we expect you, the Labor Secretary, to fight for American workers if you couldn’t even fight for these girls?”
Clark later told the Guardian:
“This is now a pattern … Like so many in this administration, Mr. Acosta chooses the powerful and wealthy over the vulnerable and victims of sexual assault and it is time that he finds another line of work.
I’m sure this is a very uncomfortable topic for him … but I don’t think he should be able to hide from it.”
In light of the fresh round of federal indictments that Epstein faces, Clark’s party is now pushing for Acosta to resign. Under the scandalous deal Acosta negotiated in 2008, the billionaire socialite only had to plead guilty to lesser state charges of soliciting “prostitutes,” despite the fact that he had raped dozens of minors. In the meantime, a federal investigation that produced a detailed 53-page draft indictment involving over 30 child victims was shut down.
The secret deal also granted immunity to “any potential co-conspirators’’ who were also involved in Epstein’s crimes, effectively ensuring that other wealthy members of Epstein’s child rapist ring got off scot-free.
And while serving 13 months of his Florida jail sentence, Epstein was granted freedom “to attend his plush business offices,” according to the Guardian.
Now, even senior leadership among the Democrats are blasting Acosta for the Epstein deal. On Tuesday, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said:
“This is not acceptable. We cannot have as one of the leading appointed officials in America someone who has done this.”
However, even Schumer isn’t free of connections to the wealthy sex offender. On Wednesday, the New York Post reported that “Schumer received seven $1,000 donations from Epstein between 1992 and 1997, first as a U.S. congressman from New York and then when he was vying to be the state’s senator in 1998, an election he won.”
As a prosecutor Acosta was supposed to vindicate young trafficking victims; instead he violated their trust and brushed their evidence aside to protect their abuser. Acosta’s Epstein coverup is unconscionable and indefensible. He MUST resign. #AcostaResign https://t.co/Uboc7pV7jG
— Nancy Pelosi (@TeamPelosi) July 10, 2019
Joe Huang-Racalto, the government relations director for anti-child-trafficking group ECPAT-USA, is among many who see the Epstein case as indicative of government indifference to sex and labor exploitation. He told the Daily Beast:
“How can you in good faith be trusted to carry out labor laws when you can’t even enforce sex trafficking laws among children?”
With the scourge of labor trafficking in this country, the refusal to address recruiter fees, and companies that aren’t playing by the rules, we should [be able to] depend on the Secretary to enforce them—and we don’t.”
President Trump, however, praised Acosta on Tuesday as an “excellent secretary of labor,” claiming:
“The rest of it we’ll have to look at very carefully but you are talking about a long time ago … I hear there were a lot of people involved in that [Epstein] decision not just him.”
Clark, however, sees Acosta’s attempts to handicap the Bureau of International Labor Affairs as speaking “to the priorities of this administration.” She told the Daily Beast:
“This is the program within the Department of Labor that really promotes a fair global playing field for workers in the United States and specifically it does it by looking at forced labor for children and human trafficking, all that sexual exploitation that sadly we see too often.
What it showed me is that Secretary Acosta has a pattern of not recognizing the priority of these issues. He certainly did that in Florida when he chose the powerful and the wealthy over child victims and a 53-page indictment that had been put together by his office.”
Prison Guard Who Had Sex With Inmate In Front Of 11 Prisoners Is Now Behind Bars
A prison guard in California now finds herself behind bars after she was caught having sexual relations with an inmate – in one case, performing the act in full view of 11 other prisoners.
Former Fresno County correctional officer Tina Gonzalez, 26, was arrested last May following an investigation by the vice unit of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office’s and its internal affairs division.
Gonzalez, who worked as a prison guard from 2016 to 2019, was investigated after authorities were tipped off that an inmate was having sex with a prison guard who had also smuggled in a phone, reports the Fresno Bee.
In one case, Gonzalez even cut a hole in the pants of her uniform to allow easier access during sexual acts with the unnamed prisoner at Fresno County Jail.
Gonzalez was also accused of having sex in full view of 11 inmates, an act that her former boss says “is something only a depraved mind can come up with.”
Assistant Sheriff Steve McComas, who once supervised the unit Gonzalez belonged to, said that in his entire career of 26 years he has witnessed some “pretty disgusting things” but none as bad as Gonzalez’s conduct.
“She took an oath which she betrayed and in doing so endangered her co-workers’ lives,” McComas said.
“But she has shown no remorse,” he added. “She continually calls and has sexually explicit conversations with the inmate in question and boasts about the crimes she carried out.”
Gonzalez pleaded no contest in April to one count of sexual activity by a detention facility employee with a consenting confined adult, one count of possession of drugs or an alcoholic beverage in a jail facility and a misdemeanor count of possession of cellular device with intent to deliver to an inmate.
When she was being sentenced, Judge Michael Idiart decried her acts as “terrible, stupid” and noted that her career had been “ruined.”
“But I also believe that people can redeem themselves and you have the rest of your life to do that,” the judge added. “Good luck.”
Gonzalez is now serving her sentence of seven months in county jail to be followed by two years of probation.
Judge Orders New Trove of Secret Ghislaine Maxwell Files to Be Unsealed This Month
A large trove of secretive files about Ghislaine Maxwell will be unsealed this month, including those shedding light on her relationship with disgraced late financier Jeffrey Epstein, a judge ruled on Thursday.
The documents will include details on her finances, as well as “funding received from the Clinton Global Initiative and the Clinton Foundation,” according to court records.
The documents are also believed to detail Maxwell’s extensive connections with powerful men such as Prince Andrew of the British royal family, reports the Daily Mail.
It has long been well-known that Epstein and Maxwell associated with both Clinton and former President Donald Trump. Clinton also reportedly met with accused Maxwell for an “intimate” dinner in 2014.
The documents are a part were filed by Epstein accuser and former “sex slave” Virginia Roberts Giuffre in a 2015 civil lawsuit against Maxwell and must be released in mid-July, Judge Loretta Preska ruled in Thursday’s telephone hearing.
Giuffre sued Maxwell for defamation after she was accused by the British socialite of fabricating the sexual abuse allegations against her and Epstein in the lawsuit, which has since been settled.
Last July, a deposition by Giuffre was unsealed. In the deposition, Giuffre went into detail about alleged “constant” orgies that Maxwell and the late pedophile engaged in on Epstein’s private Caribbean island.
“There’s just a blur of so many girls,” Giuffre explained in the 2015 deposition.
“There were blondes, there were brunettes, there were redheads,” she continued. “They were all beautiful girls. I would say the ages ranged between 15 and 21.”
“The island was a place where orgies were a constant thing that took place. And again, it’s impossible to know how many,” Giuffre said, noting that she was “100 percent certain” that Maxwell took part in sexual acts with the girls.
Maxwell is accused of grooming multiple minors to engage in sex acts with Epstein, her ex-boyfriend, by befriending them to ask them about their lives and families while building friendships with the young girls alongside Epstein by taking their victims on social outings or out shopping in the 1990s and 2000s.
Maxwell has been detained at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York, pending trial.
Her five appeals to be released from jail have all been rejected.
Epstein, 66, was found dead in a lone cell in the special housing unit (SHU) of a federal Manhattan prison in New York City while facing a potential prison sentence of up to 45 years on charges of pedophilia and sex trafficking.
2 More Catholic Churches in Canada Burned as Third Mass Gravesite for Indigenous Kids Found
An additional two Catholic churches have been the target of likely arson in Canada as anger continues to grow in the aftermath of the discovery of over 1,000 human remains belonging to Indigenous children.
The news coincides with the discovery of a third site where 182 unmarked graves were located near a discovered near a residential school in British Columbia’s interior.
Early Wednesday morning, firefighters were dispatched to respond to a fire at St. Jean Baptiste Parish in Morinville, Alberta, which was basically gutted by the blaze.
“The fire was already fully involved from the basement when the first fire crews got here,” Morinville’s infrastructure general manager Iain Bushell told CTV News. “They entered the building but there was already collapse occurring on the inside of the church so they backed out and it’s been a defensive or exterior fire fight ever since.”
Police officials have described the blaze as “suspicious.”
Roughly an hour later, a fire was also reported at the Catholic St. Kateri Tekakwitha Church in Sipekne’katik First Nation in Nova Scotia, reports CBC.
At least seven churches, nearly all Catholic, have come under apparent arson attacks throughout Canada in recent weeks. Activists and Indigenous advocates have also defaced Catholic churches with bloody red hand and foot prints, while demonstrations have also been staged involving stuffed animal and the slogan “we were children.”
While it remains unclear what precisely caused the fires, they are believed to be linked to the recent discovery of mass graves and unmarked graves containing over 1,000 human remains near Catholic-run residential schools for First Nations children.
The discovery came just few weeks after the grim discovery of 215 Indigenous children’s bodied by the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc First Nation in a mass grave at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Colombia.
Also last month, the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan announced its discovery of 751 unmarked graves near the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School, which operated from 1899 to 1997 in the area.
Another site with 182 unmarked graves was announced Wednesday after an investigation undertaken by the community of ʔaq’am, near Cranbrook, British Columbia.
About 150,000 First Nations children were forcibly separated from their families and communities and forced to attend the religious schools which were established in the 19th century to assimilate Indigenous children into the Anglo settler-colonial culture of Canada.
Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has confirmed that large amounts of Indigenous children fled such residential schools or died there, their whereabouts unknown. Former students have also testified to the horrific sexual, mental and physical abuse they suffered while enrolled at the schools. Myriad students died from preventable diseases that rapidly spread in unsanitary conditions, as well as in accidents and fires. Others disappeared when trying to escape. The Commission has denounced the schools for institutionalizing child neglect and for being organs of “cultural genocide.”
Indigenous groups and Canadian politicians are also demanding an apology from the Catholic Church – specifically Pope Francis. Activists have also rejected Canada Day celebrations this year to highlight the anti-Indigenous atrocities that the founding of the North American country entailed.