Move comes after Donald Trump calls for ‘full investigation’ into billionaire’s death
Guardian staff and agencies
The US justice department said on Tuesday that two guards assigned to watch Jeffrey Epstein at the New York jail in which he died have been placed on leave and the warden temporarily reassigned.
The billionaire sex offender was found dead on Saturday morning, having apparently hanged himself in his cell at the Metropolitan correctional center (MCC) in lower Manhattan.
“Basically what we’re saying is we want an investigation,” the president told reporters in New Jersey. “I want a full investigation, and that’s what I absolutely am demanding. That’s what our attorney general, our great attorney general, is doing. He’s doing a full investigation.”
Trump made the comments a day after the attorney general, William Barr, vowed to carry on the Epstein investigation. Barr has ordered the justice department’s inspector general to look into the matter.
Trump also defended his decision on Saturday to retweet an unfounded conspiracy theory from a conservative comedian named Terrence K Williams that Bill Clinton was involved in Epstein’s death.
“He’s a very highly respected conservative pundit,” Trump said of Williams. “He’s a big Trump fan. And that was a retweet. That wasn’t from me … So I think I was fine.”
Epstein, who once counted Trump and Clinton as friends, was arrested on 6 July and pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking involving dozens of underage girls as young as 14.
The 66-year-old had been on suicide watch, but a source familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity said he was not on watch at the time of his death.
At the MCC, two jail guards are required to make separate checks on all prisoners every 30 minutes but that procedure was not followed overnight, according to the source.
Guards on the unit are now suspected of falsifying log entries to show they were making the checks, according to another person familiar with the investigation.
Surveillance video reviewed after the death showed guards never made some of the checks noted in the log, according to the person, who also was’t authorized to disclose information and spoke to the Associated Press Tuesday on condition of anonymity.
New York City’s medical examiner has said an autopsy on Epstein was completed on Sunday, but the cause of death remained pending.
A growing chorus of lawmakers has demanded that the government hold responsible people who allegedly helped Epstein engage in sex trafficking. Senator Ben Sasse, the Republican chairman of the Senate judiciary oversight subcommittee, called on Barr to void a 2008 agreement that Epstein entered into with federal prosecutors in Florida that has been widely criticized as too lenient.
Under that deal, Epstein pleaded guilty to state prostitution charges and served 13 months in jail, but he was allowed to leave the detention facility regularly for his office.