Mark Steyn: Ghislaine Maxwell trial is merely emblematic of broader problems

Should British judges even be entertaining the question of extradition to the United States?

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The trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of the late and disgraced Robert Maxwell, has opened today in US federal court in New York. She faces eight decades in gaol on sex trafficking and perjury charges. So, if she’s convicted, she won’t be out until she’s 139.

Miss Maxwell was the long-time companion of Jeffrey Epstein, the paedophile billionaire. No one seems to know quite how the late Mr Epstein made all that money, but he owned a private island and a private plane to fly him there, known as the Lolita Express.

The flight manifests for the Lolita Express contain all kinds of interesting names: Bill Richardson, the former Governor of New Mexico; former Senator George Mitchell, the American end of the Irish peace process a generation back; oh, and William Jefferson Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States. Yet none of these powerful and influential figures are the subject of inquiries by either the FBI or the court eunuchs of the pathetic American media. Instead, the only people caught in the crosshairs are some English gal, and some fellow who’s seventh – ooh, no, wait, ninth – in line to a distant throne: Prince Andrew, Duke of York, whom most Americans couldn’t have picked out of a police lineup until he started turning up in the tabloids. Gee, it’s almost as if the US Department of Justice is using these two British subjects as some sort of distraction for all the American bigshots they’re giving a pass to.

Now I should say I have no use either for Miss Maxwell – I’ve never met a member of the Maxwell family I wasn’t creeped out by - or for His Royal Highness, a buffoon who thinks he’s a genius. But I am interested in due process and equality before the law, both of which are dying concepts in America’s so-called justice system. Ghislaine Maxwell, for example, has filed multiple motions in which she asserts that, for a year-and-a-half of solitary confinement, her gaolers have woken her up every couple of hours – or even every fifteen minutes – to check that she hasn’t killed herself. You’ll recall that Mr Epstein, the most high-value prisoner in the custody of the US Bureau of Prisons, quote-unquote “committed suicide” while both his guards were sleeping and the security cameras were malfunctioning. He had been on so-called Suicide Watch, but they’d quietly taken him off Suicide Watch because they thought his suicidalness had all cleared up. So we’ll never see him on the witness stand.

As for Miss Maxwell, in a functioning judicial system it might be thought prejudicial to sleep-deprive the accused before her trial and testimony. Certainly, if you did it to the jihad lads at Guantanamo, you’d never hear the end of it from Amnesty International and every other human-rights group on the planet. Miss Maxwell’s family has filed a complaint with the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, for whatever that’s worth. One American incarceration expert, dismissing her dissatisfactions, says she should look on gaol as quote “a chance to grow”. That’s fine and dandy, except she hasn’t been convicted of anything, so the growth process has been a bit premature.

Bit of pub trivia for you: Who’s the prosecutor in the Ghislaine Maxwell case? Why, it’s Maurene Comey, daughter of James Comey, the former FBI director who took it upon himself to absolve Hillary Clinton of all crimes relating to her emails and to launch the now discredited Russia investigation intended to cripple the incoming Trump Administration. America apparently has an hereditary deep state.

But this week’s trial is merely emblematic of broader problems. There are many admirable things about the United States of America, but its federal justice system is not one of them. My old boss Conrad Black, who was on GB News with me a fortnight back, likes to point out that the US Department of Justice wins 97 per cent of its cases without a trial. If it goes to trial, there’s a 99 per cent conviction rate. If you did that in China or North Korea or Afghanistan, Chairman Xi and Kim Jong-Un and the big beards of the Taliban would be going, “Whoa, are you nuts? Are you guys trying to make us look ridiculous? Dial it back to 94.2 per cent or 93.7 per cent, something that’s semi-credible...”

But, with the US Department of Justice, to be accused is to be convicted. Ask the January 6th protesters, who after a year in solitary with no trial date in sight, have been prevailed upon to plead guilty to various offences. For years, my advice to anyone who attracts the attention of the US Department of Justice is to clean out your bank account, grab a cheap rental car, head for a remote Canadian border crossing, and prepare to spend your remaining years in a country with no extradition treaty with the United States.

Right now, another subject of the Crown, from Australia, is facing the grim and life-shortening possibility of joining Ghislaine Maxwell in the federal penitentiary. The US money-no-object Big Security state has spent the last two-and-a-half years seeking to extradite Julian Assange, officially for publishing the so-called Wikileaks documents from America’s most secure intelligence agencies, but unofficially for making them look like a bunch of chumps. He’s being charged under the US Espionage Act: he’s not an American, he owes the American state no allegiance; he’s an Australian, and his allegiance lies elsewhere. Americans would be furious if some American were to be extradited to Australia for publishing Australian secrets.

In the dysfunctional toilet of American intelligence, more than four million people have a top-secret security clearance. That’s equivalent to the entire population of New Zealand. So it’s no surprise that their secrets keep walking out the door. And in fact the same worthless Department of Justice trying to extradite Mr Assange for leaking its secrets leaks its own secrets all the time – the FBI just last week leaked confidential attorney-client communications of a guy whose pad they’d raided to The New York Times, and the Times was happy to publish them. The aforementioned Mr Comey was happy to leak details of that fake Trump dossier about incontinent hookers in hotel rooms...

Should British judges even be entertaining the question of extradition to the United States