Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., lambasted a law firm's work in negotiating a controversial plea deal with the billionaire financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein on the same day that the 2020 presidential candidate took money from some of its attorneys at a fundraiser.
Six partners from the firm Kirkland & Ellis help raise money for Harris' White House bid at a fundraiser in Chicago last week that was headlined by her husband, lawyer Douglas Emhoff, according to The Associated Press, who obtained an invitation to the event.
Kirkland & Ellis represented Epstein over a decade ago when the well-connected billionaire faced sex-trafficking charges in Florida. Lawyers with the firm helped negotiate a plea deal for Epstein in 2008, which allowed the financier to avoid federal trial by pleading guilty to state charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution. He served 13 months in prison for the charges. While he was required to register as a sex offender, he was allowed to leave jail six days a week for 12 hours due to a work release provision.
Epstein was arrested July 6 on charges of sex trafficking of minors and related conspiracy. Federal prosecutors in New York accused him of sexually abusing and transporting dozens of underage girls — some as young as 14 — to his luxury homes in New York and Florida and paying them for sex acts. Epstein has pleaded not guilty to the charges. If convicted, he faces up to 45 years in prison.
Epstein's arrest and indictment have prompted renewed scrutiny to his 2008 plea agreement. Mounting criticism of that plea deal resulted in the resignation of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, the former federal prosecutor in Florida who negotiated the so-called sweetheart deal.
In the wake of those new charges, Harris joined several other presidential hopefuls in criticizing the plea deal and called on top Department of Justice officials who previously worked for the law firm to recuse themselves from any matter related to Epstein's case. Harris argued that the law firm's work on the financier's case "calls into question the integrity of our legal system."
"In our democracy, no one — no matter how powerful or well-connected — is above the law. Yet Epstein's 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," Harris said in a statement released hours after the Chicago fundraiser.
Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen both worked for Kirkland & Ellis.
Yet on the same day she made those remarks, six partners from Kirkland & Ellis hosted a fundraiser to support the senator's presidential bid.
Ian Sams, a spokesman for Harris's campaign, attempted to shut down concerns about the fundraiser on Monday, pointing out in a tweet that Kirkland & Ellis employs more than 2,500 attorneys and has more than 1,000 partners.
Sams also told the AP that those involved in Epstein’s case in Florida years ago had not contributed to Harris' presidential campaign.
"The people involved in that case have not supported her campaign," he said. "And she wouldn’t want that support, anyway."