The Barr Family and Epstein
A Long String of Crossed Paths, from Dalton to Iran-Contra
An Introductory Note:
When researching the FBI investigation surrounding the arrest of Jeffrey Epstein for the article on Ghislaine Maxwell and child sacrifice, one topic that came up continually was a demand for then-AG Bill Barr to recuse himself from the investigation. He didn’t, and Epstein then died in Bureau of Prisons custody.
The recusal demand was an aspect of the Epstein saga I didn’t remember, so I got diverted and read those articles. Reading them, the reasons for demanding Barr’s recusal were surprisingly non-spurious. Rather, they had teeth: AG Barr and his father had had a surprising number of run-ins and connections with Jeffrey Epstein from the mid-1970s to 2019. This article comes out of that, as it’s another aspect of the Epstein horror movie worth remembering and understanding, whatever your view of former AG Barr. I thought he did a reasonably good job as AG and have nothing against him, but real journalism should explore whatever avenues it discovers rather than shying away from ones that concern a person on one side of the political spectrum.
Bill Barr could well have been doing the right thing when, in 2019, he didn’t recuse himself from the Epstein case, and Epstein subsequently died in Bureau of Prisons custody. But a series of coincidences and connections leading up to 2019 are worth exploring, if only to know about them. This article, the second in our series on Epstein, will explore those connections and let you make your conclusions about them.
Epstein’s First Job
If you were an aspiring teacher looking for work in New York City but had not completed college, much less gotten a teaching degree, where might you look for a teaching job? One of the worst public schools in the area in desperate need of teachers? A struggling private school in similar straights? Perhaps even somewhere out of the city or state so that you could get a start in the world and then move upward?
When Jeffrey Epstein dropped out of college and was looking for work, he was in a similar spot. Though he had been a promising high school student and graduated early, he dropped out of college and had no degree. Further, he hadn’t gotten a teaching degree or certificate from a two-year school, nor did he have any experience with teaching other than a bit of tutoring.1
But, unlike other struggling, aspiring teachers, Mr. Epstein didn’t start at the very bottom and work his way to the top. Rather, the future pedophile financier jumped all the way over the ladder and started at the very top: New York City’s famous Dalton School.
Dalton School Blues
Epstein got lucky with mid-1970s Dalton. Though prestigious, it also was different than public schools in that the hiring process was “more unconventional.”2 So, whereas public schools were stuck with hiring processes that ensured teachers were, at the very least, qualified to be there, Dalton didn’t. Instead, thanks to a bizarre and open-minded hiring process, it ended up with “a new teacher who pushed the limits on the school’s strict dress code, wandering the halls in a fur coat, gold chains and an open shirt that exposed his chest.”3 Who was the teacher known for flirting with students in the hallway to such a degree that a former student said, “There was a real clarity of the inappropriateness of the behavior — that this isn’t how adult male teachers conduct themselves” when thinking about his time at the school?4 That teacher, of course, was Jeffrey Epstein.
And who was the headmaster under whose aegis Dalton hired him? Well, that would be Donald Barr, OSS operative turned high school educator. He served as the headmaster of Dalton from 1964 to 1974.5 It is with him that our story begins.
Barr, who left the school when its board tried to reign in his autonomy, served in the OSS (the precursor to the CIA) during World War II. After the war, he studied English while teaching courses, eventually becoming an assistant dean at Columbia University. Moving on from the CIA’s predecessor and higher education, Barr moved to Dalton, where he was the headmaster when Epstein was hired.
While it would be unfair to say that Donald Barr is the one who hired Epstein, as that’s not confirmed, he is the headmaster under whose aegis Epstein was hired despite having no credentials and was brought into the fold of New York society. As Intelligencer said, Donald Barr is the “headmaster who offered entrée.”6
Further, it was apparently Barr’s disdain for credentials that made Dalton more liable to Epstein’s infiltration than public schools; Susan Semel, a teacher at Dalton from the 1960s to 1980s, said, “Barr didn’t care about credentials as long as you were interesting and knew your stuff.”7 Epstein was interesting and, being remarkably intelligent, presumably knew his stuff. So he was hired and given an opening into the prestigious upper reaches of New York society.
That “entrée” to New York society that Barr’s provided Epstein was highly important in developing Epstein into the monster he became: though Epstein was eventually fired from the school for poor performance8 and the attention he paid to young girls raised eyebrows, he landed on his feet thanks to a connection made at Dalton.
That was with Alan Greenberg, an executive at Bear Stearns. Like Dalton under Barr, he evidently didn’t care about degrees and decided to hire Epstein after Epstein was fired from Dalton.9 Perhaps it helped that Epstein taught a son10 of Greenberg rather than a daughter.
In any case, that job set Epstein up for his future roguery, as it was through Bear Stearns that he developed his skill at hiding money and his connections with those who needed him to hide it,11 which then led to much of his future career success and his relationship with Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of Robert Maxwell.12 Further, the Bear Stearns credential on his resume presumably gave him credibility when he later proposed to manage some of Les Wexner’s money.13 Wexner, founder of Victoria’s Secret, became a lifelong Epstein associate and how Epstein advanced up the ladder of society14 and met the members of America’s wealth elite.
Who Was Donald Barr?
So, Donald Barr was the headmaster under whose aegis Dalton offered Epstein a channel into the upper rungs of society, an opportunity Epstein grabbed with relish and used to become fabulously wealthy and immensely well-connected. What else is there about him that’s important?
For one, he was an operative in the predecessor of the CIA, the OSS, during World War II. That’s interesting because Alex Acosta, many years later, said he was forced to make a deal with Epstein when told Epstein “belong[ed] to intelligence.”15
More relevant to the Epstein situation is that he was an aspiring novelist who, in 1973, a year before his time as Dalton’s headmaster ended, published a book about intergalactic sex slavery called Space Relations. Vice, reporting on the book and its disturbing content, said: “In September of 1973, a year before his tenure at Dalton ended, Barr published Space Relations. The book is highly unsettling and depicts the rape of enslaved people, especially teenage girls, and other coercive sex acts for the dual purposes of entertainment and controlled procreation.”16
Continuing, the Vice article on the book notes that it revolves around mainly-male oligarchic predation on teenage girls and that “By far the most disgusting aspect of the novel is its fixation on sexualizing adolescents, and its depictions of rape. Even the adult characters in the book are constantly infantilized. The novel is also rife with casually unsettling observations such as: ‘To me, pederasty seems utterly lacking in aesthetic appeal.’”17
So, Donald Barr, at the time he was headmaster of Dalton and Dalton hired Epstein, the pedophile who hung around flirting with young girls and later ran a massive sex trafficking operation in which mainly male oligarchic elites preyed on young girls, wrote a book about oligarchic elites sadistically preying on young girls. As Vice noted in its article on the book, “the connection between Epstein and Barr is flimsy, and any link between Epstein’s crimes and the book’s contents even more so.”18 But it is a coincidence.
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AG William Barr and Epstein
The Barr family’s encounters with Epstein didn’t end at Dalton with Donald Barr, but continued on with William Barr both when he as at the CIA and then also when he served as an AG both for HW Bush and Trump.
The CIA, Iran-Contra, and Hiding Money for Gun Runners
William Barr, who started his career by working in the CIA19 and, while at the CIA, fought against the Church Committee’s attempts to hold the Agency accountable.20 Barr also served as AG for HW Bush, and, in that role, helped cover up Iran-Contra.21
Epstein was allegedly also involved in Iran-Contra.22 Though mainly a rumor, his involvement would make sense for a number of reasons.
One is that “Epstein was trained in moving money off-shore and that a mentor of Epstein’s was someone Hoffenberg knew: a British defense contractor, who died in 2011, named Douglas Leese.”23
Another is that, after his 2009 release from prison, Epstein also told people that he was “making a fortune out of arms, drugs, and diamonds,” a business that stemmed from “Epstein’s dealings in the arms world in the 1980s.”24 Drugs and arms were integral to the CIA’s attempts to arm the contras, so it stands to reason that Epstein was involved and that rumors of his involvement have some basis in fact.
More bits of evidence leaning in favor of Epstein’s involvement is that a Florida lawsuit asserts Leese “was involved with various highly confidential business enterprises including business in the United States, some of which involved governmentally- involved or other highly confidential business projects” and that “a source who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of what was discussed [said] that Epstein had invited the source to join him and Leese on a private-jet trip to the Pentagon in 1981.”25
Further, Epstein was closely associated with Robert Maxwell and his daughter, Ghislaine Maxwell; “Robert Maxwell [was] implicated in the Iran Contra affair and the transfer of tracking technology called PROMIS, which the CIA altered with a backdoor, through Israel and to the KGB. Like his daughter, he mastered forging powerful connections; U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s stepfather, Samuel Pisar, was Maxwell’s ‘lawyer and confidante.”’26
The Kirkland and Ellis Connection
Then Barr worked at Kirkland and Ellis as counsel, though never as a partner, in 2009. Barr never defended Epstein or worked with him. But the firm represented Epstein and struck the “obscenely lenient” deal with the federal government Epstein got in 2008.27 That federal deal was agreed to in 2008 after he was convicted on state charges.28 NPR, reporting on the deal, said29:
“The deal allowed the wealthy hedge fund manager to avoid harsher federal penalties on allegations he abused underage girls in return for pleading guilty to Florida state charges. Under the agreement, Epstein served 13 months in Palm Beach County jail with a work release during the day. He also had to register as a sex offender.”
The DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility, commenting on that deal after an investigation, said30, in part:
“After examining the full scope and context of the government’s interactions with victims, OPR concludes that the government’s lack of transparency and its inconsistent messages led to victims feeling confused and ill-treated by the government; gave victims and the public the misimpression that the government had colluded with Epstein’s counsel to keep the NPA secret from the victims; and undercut public confidence in the legitimacy of the resulting agreement. The overall result of the subjects’ anomalous handling of this case understandably left many victims feeling ignored and frustrated and resulted in extensive public criticism.”
Kirkland and Ellis represented Epstein through 2011, so Barr’s time with the firm in 2009 overlapped somewhat with its defense of him. However, Barr was not involved with the plea deal. It was Jay Lefkowitz, former Kirkland litigator and then US attorney for Southern Florida Alexander Acosta, and former Kirkland litigator Kenneth Starr (yes, that Ken Starr of Clinton investigation fame) that handled the Epstein deal, with Acosta on one side and Kirkland’s lawyers on the other.31
After he became AG, Barr brought a large number of Kirkland and Ellis lawyers into the DOJ.32 Further, Epstein supposedly bragged to his close friend, the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, that he had “direct knowledge” that “Bill Barr is in charge” of the White House instead of Trump after Barr became AG.33
That Kirkland and Ellis connection became a problem for Barr when Epstein was arrested in 2019 and charged by the DOJ in federal court with one count of sex trafficking of minors.34 That is the case from which Barr did not recuse himself despite having recused himself from the investigation into the deal Kirkland and Ellis stuck for Epstein.35
That refusal to recuse and involvement drew outrage from the right and left.
TIME, for example, remarking on that refusal after Epstein died, said36 :
“This is concerning. In addition to the law-firm conflict, Alex Acosta, who served in Donald Trump’s Cabinet with Barr, was the U.S. Attorney in Miami when Epstein received his travesty of a plea deal. And Barr’s father was the headmaster of an elite New York City school that hired college dropout Epstein to teach math and physics. Do these circumstances amount to a conflict of interest requiring mandatory recusal? Barr, apparently after consulting with career ethics officials at DOJ, concluded they did not.”
Also on the left was “Mueller She Wrote,” which said, “Whether you believe there are nefarious forces within the DoJ that assisted with or turned a blind eye to the Epstein death, the bigger point is no one trusts the department of justice. No one.”37
On the right and more recently, Alex Strenger approached Barr and asked38:
“I appreciate all the work you’ve done. But what ever happened with Jeffrey Epstein and how come he hung himself in his cell when you were the director of prisons? Mr. Barr, why did Jeffrey Epstein hang himself while you were in charge of the Bureau of Prisons, and why did your dad hire him to teach at the Dalton school?”
Also on the right, during Barr’s confirmation hearing, Republican Sen. Ben Sasse expressed outrage over the sweetheart deal Epstein had gotten.39
Then, as everyone knows, Epstein died under mysterious circumstances. Republican Sen. Ben Sasse ripped into Barr, the DOJ, and the Bureau of Prisons in a letter shortly after Epstein’s death occurred, writing:40
This morning, Jeffrey Epstein, the wealthy American financier indicted on numerous charges for running an international child sex trafficking ring, was found dead by apparent suicide. Epstein was being held in federal Bureau of Prisons custody after a federal judge denied him bail. Disturbingly, his suicide occurred after an incident less than three weeks ago when he was found injured and semi-conscious in his cell from a possible suicide attempt. News reporting indicates that he was then placed on suicide watch but may have been taken off suicide watch before today's events.
The Department of Justice failed, and today Jeffrey Epstein's co-conspirators think they might have just gotten one last sweetheart deal. Every single person in the Justice Department - from your Main Justice headquarters staff all the way to the night-shift jailer - knew that this man was a suicide risk, and that his dark secrets couldn't be allowed to die with him.
Given Epstein's previous attempted suicide, he should have been locked in a padded room under unbroken, 24/7, constant surveillance. Obviously, heads must roll.
During your nomination process, you committed to me to ensuring that justice would be done for his victims. I was pleased to see the Department open an investigation into the mishandling of the ridiculous 2008 non-prosecution agreement, and then the decision to bring subsequent charges against Epstein. Knowing this monster's history of thwarting justice, I also called for him to be held without bail upon his July 6 arrest.
It should have been abundantly clear that Epstein would go to any lengths to avoid being held accountable for his crimes, including by killing himself. Being responsible for Epstein's custody and prosecution, the Department of Justice should not have allowed this to happen. His death not only deprives his victims of the opportunity to confront him in court and to see him held accountable for his crimes, but also makes it harder to unravel his ring and to hold accountable the many other powerful men who raped and exploited these children.
Barr, for his part, blamed the prison for Epstein’s death.41 And with that, Jeffrey Epstein, the pedophile, financier, money hider, and supposed intelligence asset, went to the grave with his secrets, and the Barr family’s connections with him ended.
Was It All Just a Coincidence?
So, what happened? Donald and William Barr had run-ins with Epstein and his network over the years. Donald Barr’s Dalton hired him around the time that Donald wrote and published a book about pedophile space pirates acting much as Epstein and his friends acted. However, there was no real indication Epstein would act that way at the time, other than his flirtations with the high school students, nor is there any indication whatsoever that Donald Barr would have known about that when writing his odd book.
Similarly, though Donald was in the OSS and William in the CIA, there’s no real indication that either worked with Epstein in an intelligence role. The only possible connection is that William Barr’s helped cover up Iran-Contra, and Epstein was alleged involvement in it through Leese and Maxwell. But that connection is distant and flimsy at best, as it’s not even clear Epstein was involved. Further, there is zero evidence that Barr covered for him when trying to cover up Iran-Contra.
Then there’s the Kirkland and Ellis law firm overlap; the firm defended Epstein, William Barr worked there, and he appointed numerous former members of it to the DOJ. But Kikland and Ellis has worked for many corporations and individuals, not just Epstein; it’s a high-profile, high-powered firm involved deeply with people on both sides of the political aisle and which donates heavily to both.42 So, though it was enough of a connection to get him to recuse himself in one case, it wasn’t a particularly close connection nor did it lead to him getting involved with Epstein while at the firm.
And there’s Epstein’s death in jail. Though it’s suspicious that an alleged intelligence asset died in jail, with no security camera footage of what happened, when a former CIA employee was head of the Justice Department, that all could just be a coincidence or a conspiracy of which AG Barr was not a part. The jail had its own issues, the guards appear to have been negligent,43 and Epstein was having issues of his own.44 Further, Epstein was allegedly involved with other intelligence agencies, such as Mossad,45 which would have wanted him to stay silent and were not connected to AG Barr.
All of it could just be a coincidence. One hopes it was, given the good work Barr did as AG. But there were connections of note between the Barr family and Epstein, and Epstein, a likely intelligence asset, died before he could rat anyone out, in the CIA or otherwise. That deserves far more scrutiny than it has yet gotten, whether or not Barr was involved.
Previously in the Epstein series: Ghislaine and Child Sacrifice; Up Next: The Biden Family Owned an Island Right Next to Epstein’s Little St. James
‘“Epstein, as a kid, was chubby, with curly hair and a high, ‘hee-hee’ kind of laugh,’ childhood friend Beverly Donatelli told James Patterson for Filthy Rich, his book about the Epstein case. ‘He tutored my girlfriend and myself in the summer. He taught me geometry in just two months.”’ From: https://seankelder.medium.com/the-outsider-jeffrey-epstein-at-the-dalton-school-d463771094b3
“The hiring process was simpler, and more unconventional, at Dalton, which is consistently ranked among the top private day schools in the United States. ‘The thing about a private school is that you don’t have the same kind of accountability as you do at a public school,’ says Gitelle. ‘We had a lot of teachers who had different kinds of backgrounds. It felt very laissez faire.’ From: https://seankelder.medium.com/the-outsider-jeffrey-epstein-at-the-dalton-school-d463771094b3
“It was his association with Ohio-based Les Wexner, founder and CEO of L Brands (Victoria’s Secret, Henri Bendel) that secured his fortune. He made hundreds of millions managing Wexner’s billions, bought mansions in NY, Paris, and Palm Beach, and Little Saint James in the US Virgin Islands.” From: https://seankelder.medium.com/the-outsider-jeffrey-epstein-at-the-dalton-school-d463771094b3
“Barr interned at the C.I.A. in the summers of 1971 and 1972. In 1973, after completing his graduate degree in government and Chinese studies, he married Christine Moynihan, whom he met at a fraternity party. The next day, the couple drove to Washington, and Barr began a permanent job at the C.I.A. the day after that” From: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/01/magazine/william-barr-attorney-general.html
“Barr drafted two letters, each signed by Bush, asking Congress if the C.I.A. could resume the routine destruction of documents. The request was denied.” From: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/01/magazine/william-barr-attorney-general.html