As so often happens in the aftermath of a controversial event in 2019, a number of our journalistic betters lectured the public on the proper way to talk about Jeffrey Epstein’s “apparent suicide” this morning.
“Stop speculating Epstein was murdered,” demanded Justin Miller of the Daily Beast, a man who just got done propagating nonsense about President Trump and Russia. And Kelly Weill, of the same outlet, took an apparent break from running interference for Antifa to warn about conspiracy theories “erupting” in the aftermath of Epstein’s death.
Usually, Occam’s razor suggests that the “conspiratorial” explanation for a shocking event is the less likely one. Not so here.
The Daily Beast’s intrepid worriers may be right. Despite having reportedly attempted to commit suicide two weeks ago, despite the fact that he was the most high-profile defendant awaiting trial in the country, despite the fact that he was in a special housing unit, and despite the fact that he likely had the ability to destroy the lives of some of the wealthiest, most famous, and most powerful people on the planet, the initial reports that Epstein committed suicide, unaided, could be true. Jeffrey Epstein might just have hung himself, on his own volition, without prompting or assistance from anyone else.
Color me skeptical.
Usually, Occam’s razor suggests that the “conspiratorial” explanation for a shocking event is the less likely one. Not so here. Assembling an innocent explanation of Epstein’s death requires assuming a staggering amount of incompetence on the part of MCC Manhattan staff. Despite a near-miss on July 30, they would have had to innocently give their most infamous and high-profile criminal defendant the means and opportunity to kill himself, and in doing so, utterly fail at their most basic responsibilities.
El Chapo stayed in MCC Manhattan during his trial. He had plenty of motive to kill himself, and he was one of the wealthiest and most powerful criminals on the planet. But he couldn’t do it. He was convicted, and he’ll spend the rest of his life at Supermax in Florence, Colorado.
Indeed, in an exchange on Twitter between James Gagliano, a former FBI agent, and Preet Bharara, the former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the two described themselves as “dumbfounded” that Epstein could have been able to commit suicide. Elie Honig, a CNN analyst and a former Assistant US Attorney in the same office, tweeted that in his 8 years as a federal prosecutor in the Southern District, he couldn’t “recall any suicides at MCC during that time.”
One does not have to construct a “conspiracy theory” in order to think that Jeffrey Epstein was likely murdered (or presented with a Frank Pentangeli offer). There’s no need to guess who wanted him dead or what their motive might have been, other than to keep Epstein from revealing unspecified information about an unspecified person or people.
Many people had a powerful motive to see Epstein dead. It’s perfectly reasonable to think the man might have been murdered.
We’ve seen pictures of a then 16-year-old girl hugging a British royal – with Epstein’s madam in the background. Just yesterday, a trove of documents were released alleging connections between Epstein, underage girls, and a wide variety of influential and powerful people. Many people had a powerful motive to see Epstein dead. It’s perfectly reasonable to think the man might have been murdered. Indeed, a person employing basic Bayesian logic would weight the probability of foul play highly, even if they did not favor a specific theory of who was responsible or what actually happened.
Moreover, those journalists reporting that Jeffrey Epstein, in fact, did commit suicide are themselves ahead of the facts. Attorney General Barr noted in his statement only that Epstein was “found dead.” The New York City Medical Examiner said, a few hours after the story broke that the cause and manner of Epstein’s death were still “pending investigation.”
Now, there is reason to be confident the DOJ will play the investigation straight. Shortly after news of Epstein’s death broke, The Associated Press reported that the FBI had opened an investigation into Epstein’s death. AG Barr, in his statement, announced there would be a separate DOJ Inspector General investigation, and CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz reported that the Southern District of New York would be investigating as well. It would be hard for any actor or group of actors – no matter how powerful – to corrupt three different investigations run by three different, mostly autonomous departments.
But until those investigations are completed, speculation is perfectly reasonable.
And if you firmly believe there was no foul play involved, I know of a few stunning bridges over the Potomac you might be interested in.
Will Chamberlain is a lawyer and the publisher of Human Events.