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Attorney General William Barr tamps down conspiracy theories, but notes 'irregularities' at jail where Jeffrey Epstein died

Key Points
  • Jeffrey Epstein's death was ruled a suicide by hanging, and Attorney General William Barr said Wednesday that he has no reason to doubt it.
  • Barr says he has "seen nothing that undercuts the finding of the medical examiner that this was a suicide."
  • But "I do think that there are some irregularities at the center," Barr says.
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Barr says there were 'serious irregularities' at jail where Epstein died

Jeffrey Epstein's death was ruled a suicide by hanging, and Attorney General William Barr said Wednesday that he has no reason to doubt it — despite "irregularities" at the jail where the accused child sex trafficker died.

The 66-year-old financier's apparent suicide this month in a jail cell in lower Manhattan sent shockwaves through the political landscape, allowing a wave of conspiracy theories about a possible cover-up to saturate social media.

But Barr, the top law enforcement official in the U.S., pushed back on Wednesday, telling reporters at a roundtable event in Dallas that he has "seen nothing that undercuts the finding of the medical examiner that this was a suicide."

Asked if the Epstein's death suggested broader problems with the Bureau of Prisons, Barr said, "I do think that there are some irregularities at the center."

But he said he has "every confidence" that his new hand-picked director to run the bureau, Kathy Hawk Sawyer, will "be able to address any management or operational deficiencies at the bureau."

The attorney general said last week that he was "appalled" to hear Epstein — a former friend of Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump who was likely the most high-profile inmate in the country — had been able to die while incarcerated.

The attorney general had ordered the FBI and the Justice Department watchdog's office to investigate the Metropolitan Correctional Center, where Epstein was incarcerated.

Shortly after, the prison warden for the Metropolitan Correctional Center at the time of the suicide was reassigned, and Barr later ordered the removal of the acting director of the Bureau of Prisons, Hugh Hurwitz.

At the roundtable Wednesday, Barr said the investigations into the jail are "well along."

Attorney General William Barr testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee at the Dirksen Building, May 1, 2019, in Washington, DC.
Jahi Chikwendiu | The Washington Post | Getty Images

But "unfortunately, there have been some delays because a number of the witnesses were not cooperative," Barr said. "A number of them required having union representatives and lawyers before we could schedule interviews. However we are moving expeditiously and I think soon I will be in a position to report to congress and the public the results."

Epstein was jailed pending his trial on charges of sex trafficking minors and sex-trafficking conspiracy, lodged in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. He was accused by New York federal prosecutors of abusing dozens of underage girls in his mansions in New York City and Palm Beach, Florida, between 2002 and 2005.

He had pleaded not guilty to the charges, which carried a maximum of 45 years in prison.

After Epstein's death was made public, rampant speculation spread across the internet and in media. After all, he had been put on suicide watch — but apparently taken off days later — less than three weeks before his death, when he was found injured in a cell with marks on his neck. It seemed improbable, many suggested, that Epstein could kill himself without help, or without his guards noticing.

Some even suggested that former President Clinton and former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton were behind the death. One of those people was President Trump, who retweeted a conspiracy theorist's tweet with the hashtag #ClintonBodyCount.

Days later, Trump said "I have no idea" if the Clintons were involved in Epstein's death. He provided no evidence at all in support of the conspiracy he had floated.

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Key Points
  • Attorney General William Barr will appoint a new director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons after Jeffrey Epstein's death.
  • Kathleen Hawk Sawyer will take over the agency, succeeding acting Director Hugh Hurwitz.
  • Epstein was found dead in his Manhattan jail cell earlier this month as he awaited trial on charges related to sex trafficking, in what was ruled a suicide by hanging.