Durbin Reverses Position on Epstein Records, Agrees to Help Obtain Subpoenas


The announcement was made during a Congressional hearing on the America’s foster care system and its connection to child sex trafficking

U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has agreed to cooperate with securing subpoenas for records relating to Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking operation, according to a note passed to a fellow Democrat during a Dec. 14 Congressional hearing on the connection of America’s foster care system and child sex trafficking.

“I also have a note here from chairman Durbin, making clear his intention and willingness to work with Senator Blackburn on a bipartisan basis to obtain records relevant to the Jeffrey Epstein case, ” said Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), chairman of the Human Rights subcommittee. The subcommittee falls under the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Mr. Durbin serves as chairman.

The announcement of Mr. Durbin’s reversal follows a week of heavy criticism from Republicans, mainly senior Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), of Mr. Durbin for blocking efforts to subpoena records relating to Mr. Epstein’s sex trafficking activities, including previously released files that were redacted along with his flight logs to his Palm Beach mansion in Florida.

The note was passed to Mr. Osoff shortly after Mrs. Blackburn called Mr. Durbin “unconscionable” and expressed outrage that he was leading Democrats away from a process that would tackle what she described as one of the potentially largest sex trafficking operations in the United States. 

“We have lost sight of how important it is to protect children,” said Mrs. Blackburn. 

Mr. Ossoff noted Mrs. Blackburn’s comments in relaying the note. “And so I want to make sure that that was made clear for the record since chairman Durbin has another engagement, and this time it isn’t here.”

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The news came amidst testimony that children placed in foster homes by the government are turning up in sex and labor trafficking operations.

The hearing had opened with a pitch for more taxpayer dollars to fund programs to track children who are victims of sex trafficking, but Mrs. Blackburn dampened the idea that more money would fix the problem when she scrutinized FBI’s Deputy Director Jose Perez for the agency’s continued refusal to release information they had on Mr. Epstein’s infamous operations.

“[You’re] talking about the need to get this information from these groups. And here you have a group, an organization, and we can’t get the information. And it is just ridiculous,” she said.

“That we are sitting here;  we have laws on the books. We have expectations of agencies, and we have a need for information. You’ve got it. We can’t get it.”

According to Mrs. Blackburn, a recent  Tennessee Bureau of Investigation shows that a child in the United States “is bought or sold” every two minutes.

In addition to sex trafficking operations, Mrs. Blackburn testified that some foster children have been found working in factories and food processing plants. “We are talking about little ones,” she said. 

She also cited the estimated 85,000 missing migrant children that have come over the border under the Biden administration. “What has HHS done with 85,000 migrant children?” she asked, referring to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Trafficking of Foster Children

Mr. Ossoff provided evidence that a growing number of foster children are ending up in trafficking rings.

He questioned Rebecca Jones Gaston, Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF), an agency under the HHS,  specifically about a recent report by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children based on a collection of data from child welfare agencies in 46 states showing that 45 percent of children who went missing from their foster homes were never reported.

 U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 20, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 20, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein-Pool/Getty Images)

He also asked her what her agency was doing in response to a 2022 audit of child welfare agencies in five states that showed when a child ran away from a foster home based on allegations of abuse, the child was returned without any investigation into the allegations. 

Mr. Ossoff also pointed to a recent case study specific to his home state of Georgia that showed the state’s child protection agency was chronically not vetting foster homes before placing already abused and neglected children in them. 

“What is happening to foster children across the United States is unacceptable,” he said. 

Ms. Gaston said that under a program that has been in place since 2000, her administration is always working with states to improve their foster care system through worker training programs and voluntary audits of their monitoring approaches and that financial penalties are levied against states that do not comply with federal safety regulations when it comes to vetting foster homes. 

Mr. Perez emphasized that the biggest challenge the FBI faces in combating child trafficking is something called end-to-end encryption, an online security method that blocks third parties from infiltrating communication between two parties. 

Bipartisan Measures

Mrs. Blackburn and Mr. Ossoff, who have joined forces on bipartisan measures to improve America’s foster care system and tackle child sex trafficking in the U.S., introduced a bill earlier this year aimed at cracking down on the use of the internet by child traffickers.

Called The Report Act, it would set up a cyber tipline for social media platforms that detected any evidence of child sexual exploitation. The platforms would be mandated to report it and be subject to fines of up to $850,000 for failing to do so.

 Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) asks questions at a Senate hearing on Nov. 1, 2023. (Senate Judiciary Committee/Screenshot via NTD)
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) asks questions at a Senate hearing on Nov. 1, 2023. (Senate Judiciary Committee/Screenshot via NTD)

Mr. Perez also said that not every missing child report is referred to the FBI.

“Reports of missing children might not necessarily equate to something that gives us judicial authority or statutory authority to investigate,” he said. “Usually how we identify and prioritize these would be if there’s indication of a child of the tender years 12 and under and who got missing based on some type of suspicious circumstances, with some indication that it wasn’t voluntary or that they’re being held against their will or that they were again taken from an environment against her will and being held, then that is something we would immediately deploy resources too.”

Mr. Ossoff said the committee is going to conduct a “deep dive into the federal government’s efforts and responsibilities to protect children in foster care from abuse,  from neglect, and from sex trafficking.”

Mr. Osoff asked Mr. Perez and Ms. Gaston to pledge to work harder in the fight against child trafficking, which they both did.


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