News & Politics

Kamala Harris Slams Epstein's Law Firm — And Fundraises With Them at the Same Time

Kamala Harris Slams Epstein's Law Firm — And Fundraises With Them at the Same Time
Kamala Harris (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Last week, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), a 2020 Democratic candidate, attacked former members of the law firm that defended convicted sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein — while her husband partnered up with current members of that law firm to host a fundraiser.

On July 9, Harris called on Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to recuse themselves from any matter related to Epstein. “In our democracy, no one—no matter how powerful or well-connected—is above the law,” she said. “Yet Epstein’s [2008] deal, secured by his lawyers at Kirkland & Ellis, calls into question the integrity of our legal system and undermines the public’s confidence that justice will be served.”

“In light of your professional ties to the firm that previously represented Jeffrey Epstein …, I respectfully request that you recuse yourselves from any and all matters related to his case in order to ensure and maintain the integrity of the criminal proceedings,” she wrote.

Barr worked for Kirkland and Ellis after the 2008 Epstein plea deal. Rosen joined the firm in 1982, but left it in 2003 to work as general counsel at the U.S. Department of Transportation. He did not return to Kirkland and Ellis until 2009, after the Epstein case.

Yet shortly before Harris called for Barr and Rosen to recuse themselves, her husband spoke at a Chicago fundraiser for the Harris 2020 campaign hosted by six members of the same firm, Kirkland and Ellis, the Associated Press reported.

Epstein was arrested earlier this month on charges of sexually assaulting dozens of underage girls from 2002 to 2005, paying them to recruit others, and engaging in a criminal conspiracy to engage in these practices.

Harris joined other 2020 Democrats in calling for the resignation of Trump Labor Secretary Alex Acosta over his handling of the Epstein case in 2008. Acosta, then U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, helped arrange Epstein’s plea deal that year. The deal was notoriously generous: Epstein pled guilty to one charge, registered as a sex offender, and served time in prison. Yet the investigation into his crimes was dropped, he was put in a separate wing of the prison, and he was allowed to leave for work six days a week! Perhaps worst of all, Epstein’s victims were not notified of this deal.

Acosta did indeed resign, in order to make sure the Trump Labor Department was not ensnared by the Epstein case but rather could capitalize on the historically low unemployment numbers. He had defended the plea deal and Trump had stood by him.

Harris’ decision to slam former Kirkland and Ellis lawyers while at the same time holding a fundraiser with current members of the firm drew claims of hypocrisy.

The AP reported that “her decision to move ahead with the fundraiser hosted by Kirkland and Ellis partners while criticizing the firm underscores the tension that can arise when a politician’s rhetoric collides with their need to raise money to sustain a presidential campaign.”

“If any connection with Kirkland and Ellis is a stain on (senior Justice Department officials), why isn’t a connection with the law firm for the receipt of campaign contributions a stain on her own campaign?” Paul S. Ryan, an attorney for the liberal group Common Cause, told the AP.

Ian Sams, a Harris spokesman, defended the fundraiser on the grounds that the firm is big and the partners who hosted the event did not work on Epstein’s plea agreement.

“The people involved in that case have not supported her campaign, and she wouldn’t want that support anyway,” Sams said. “It’s an international law firm with thousands of employees, many of whom probably support Kamala Harris because she’s a tough prosecutor who actually knows how to put away predators, unlike the Trump lackeys who protect them.”

Yet the claim that Barr and Rosen represent “Trump lackeys” who “protect predators” is ridiculous. Neither of them was at Kirkland and Ellis while the firm’s lawyers represented Epstein.

Meanwhile, Harris’ campaign was fundraising with the firm. If the fact that Kirkland and Ellis is “an international law firm with thousands of employees” is salient to protect the lawyers fundraising for Harris, why does that same fact not apply to Barr and Rosen? This hypocrisy is even worse than it at first appears.

Yet this is not the first time Harris has engaged in guilt-by-association attacks involving a law firm. Last September, she accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of speaking with President Trump’s lawyer’s law firm about the Mueller investigation. She did so without evidence, while refusing to provide a list of lawyers at the firm.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) pointed out that law firms are constantly sprouting up and have a great many people, so it is hard to remember who is at which firm — the same kind of argument Harris’ spokesman used to defend the fundraiser. Yet Harris seemed to reject this claim when convenient for her, while her campaign uses it to protect itself against the same kind of guilt-by-association tactics Harris routinely uses against her political opponents.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.