Attorney General William P. Barr will not recuse himself from new charges filed against billionaire Jeffrey Epstein by federal prosecutors in New York, a senior Justice Department official said Tuesday.
Mr. Barr reached the decision on Tuesday after consulting with career ethics officials at the Justice Department, according to the officials.
On Monday, Mr. Barr told reporters he was recusing himself from the case. But that recusal refers to a Justice Department review of the Florida federal prosecutor’s decision to scrap 53-page indictment that would have put Mr. Epstein behind bars for the rest of his life. Instead, prosecutors, led by now-Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, offered a deal that saw him cop to state prostitution charges and spend a little more than a year in a county facility.
The reason for the recusal is because Mr. Barr once worked for Kirkland & Ellis, which had previously represented Mr. Epstein. It is not clear why that tie would not limit Mr. Barr’s involvement in the New York charges.
During his confirmation hearing earlier this year, Mr. Barr told lawmakers he would have to recuse himself from Epstein matters. Although that was before the Justice Department initiated its review of the plea agreement and the new charges filed on Monday.
“I have to recuse myself from Kirkland & Ellis matters, I am told, and I think Kirkland & Ellis may be involved in that case so I need to sort out what my role can be,” Mr. Barr said at the January hearing.
Mr. Epstein faces one count of sex trafficking and another count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. The indictment said he recruited girls as young as 14, paying them hundreds of dollars for nude massages that escalated to sexual acts.
The girls were then tasked with recruiting new victims, creating a “vast network of underage victims,” prosecutors said.