In August 2019, financier Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide in his prison cell, just a month after being arrested for allegedly sex trafficking underage girls in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005. The Daily Beast first reported the new charges against Epstein, and according to the New York Times, they carried a combined maximum sentence of up to 45 years in prison.
But this wasn’t the first time Epstein was faced with such accusations and, what’s more, the entire scandal has numerous ties to one particular leader of the free world: President Donald Trump. Below, what you need to know about Epstein’s alleged crimes and how they tie back to the current President of the United States.
The Plea Deal
In the early 2000s, Epstein was suspected of similar crimes in Florida. While federal prosecutors prepared a 53-page federal indictment against him, he ended up striking a plea deal in 2008 and only pled guilty to two prostitution charges.
The deal was kept secret from victims, and it protected Epstein’s potential co-conspirators. Epstein served 13 months in a county jail, and he was allowed to leave for work release six days a week. The Miami Herald described the deal as “one of the most lenient sentences for a serial sex offender in U.S. history.”
Then-U.S. attorney Alexander Acosta was instrumental in the deal, and in February 2017, Trump nominated Acosta to be the U.S. Secretary of Labor. He was ultimately confirmed to the position, despite the deal with Epstein being brought up during his confirmation hearings.
In February 2019, a Palm Beach judge ruled that federal prosecutors, including Acosta, broke the law when they signed the agreement with Epstein since the deal was kept from the victims, in violation of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act. However, Vox reported that in June 2019, the Department of Justice declined to invalidate the deal.
Later, in July 2019, Acosta resigned from his role as Labor Secretary following criticism surrounding his role in the Epstein case.
Epstein and Trump’s Friendship
Besides the Acosta connection, Epstein had other ties to President Donald Trump, namely the fact that the two were friends. In a 2002 profile of Epstein in New York Magazine, Trump was quoted as saying, “I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it—Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”
The Washington Post also reported that Sam Nunberg, a former Trump aide, said Trump and Epstein “knew each other a long time.” “Bottom line,” he said, “Donald would hang out with Epstein because he was rich.”
The Post also spoke with Epstein’s brother, Mark, who said Trump flew on Epstein’s private plane “numerous times,” though Mark was only present for one of those flights. (Unsealed flight logs show Trump was on Epstein’s plane in 1997, and it’s been previously reported that Epstein once flew on Trump’s private plane.) Mark told the paper: “They were good friends. I know [Trump] is trying to distance himself, but they were.” Trump’s phone number, as well as numbers for his wife, Melania, and others members of his inner circle were found in Epstein’s little black book of contacts. Message pads found at Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion showed that Trump called Epstein at least twice in November 2004.
A 2019 report from the New York Times provides a bit more insight into Epstein and Trump’s friendship and its apparently petty conclusion. The Times called their relationship a “yearslong friendship” that is rumored to have ended after both attempted to buy the same oceanfront mansion in Florida.
The piece also described a 1992 “calendar girl” competition hosted at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club. What was billed by Trump as an exclusive party was actually just a gathering of Trump, Epstein, and about two dozen girls flown in for the event.
NBC archival footage also shows the two partying together at Mar-a-Lago in November 1992, where the two seem to be discussing the women there. Trump appears to tell Epstein that one of the women is “hot” before saying something in his ear that makes Epstein double over with laughter.
Roger Stone, Trump’s former adviser, wrote in his 2016 book titled The Clintons’ War on Women, that once after Trump visited Epstein’s home in Florida, he commented about the girls he saw, saying, “The swimming pool was filled with beautiful young girls. ‘How nice,’ I thought, ‘He let the neighborhood kids use his pool.’” Stone also wrote that Trump had “turned down many invitations to Epstein’s hedonistic private island and his Palm Beach home.”
Accusations Against Trump and Epstein
According to the Miami Herald, in June 2016, a woman filed a lawsuit in Manhattan claiming that she was raped by Trump at a party at Epstein’s Manhattan home in 1994. (She would have been 13 years old at the time.) Trump and Epstein both denied her account, and journalists remained skeptical about the accusations. She ended up dropping the suit.
The Herald also reported that one of Epstein’s alleged victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, worked at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club when she was introduced to Epstein, when she alleges his sexual abuse began.
The 2009 Subpoena
Brad Edwards, an attorney who represented several of Epstein’s victims, said that when he served Trump with a subpoena in a case against Epstein in 2009, Trump was “the only person who picked up the phone and said, ‘Let’s just talk. I’ll give you as much time as you want. I’ll tell you what you need to know.'” Edwards said Trump “was very helpful in the information that he gave and gave no indication whatsoever that he was involved in anything untoward whatsoever.” Edwards continued, saying Trump offered “good information that checked out and that helped us.”
Trump Distances Himself
Trump has made a show of backing away from his association with Epstein in recent years. Before his presidential campaign, the Times reports Trump told Nunberg that he had already barred Epstein from his clubs after Epstein tried to recruit a woman who worked at Mar-a-Lago. In 2017, Trump Organization attorney Alan Garten said that Trump “had no relationship with Mr. Epstein and had no knowledge whatsoever of his conduct.” Then in July 2019, Trump told reporters at the White House that he knew Epstein “like everybody in Palm Beach knew him.” He said, “I had a falling out with him. I haven’t spoken to him in 15 years. I was not a fan of his, that I can tell you.”
After Epstein’s Death
Shortly after Epstein was found dead, Trump retweeted a conspiracy theory that implied there was a connection between his death and President Bill Clinton.
Died of SUICIDE on 24/7 SUICIDE WATCH ? Yeah right! How does that happen
#JefferyEpstein had information on Bill Clinton & now he’s dead
I see #TrumpBodyCount trending but we know who did this!
RT if you’re not Surprised
#EpsteinSuicide #ClintonBodyCount #ClintonCrimeFamily
(While Clinton had been connected to Epstein in the past—he admitted he took trips on Epstein’s private jet and Epstein reportedly visited the Clinton White House—a spokesperson for Clinton said he did not know of Epstein’s “terrible crimes.” Epstein was also taken off suicide watch nearly two weeks before he was found dead for reasons that remain unclear. There is no proven connection between the Clintons and Epstein’s death.)
Lynne Patton, a Trump-appointed member of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, also weighed in on the news of Epstein’s death on Instagram. She posted a screenshot of the news with the caption “Hillary’d!!” and wrote “P.S. Let me know when I’m supposed to feel badly about this…”
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Later, in January 2020, it became public that Trump hired two of Epstein’s former lawyers, Kenneth W. Starr and Alan Dershowitz, to defend him during his Senate impeachment trial. Giuffre has claimed that she had sex with Dershowitz when she was underage “at Epstein’s behest in the early 2000s,” according to the Washington Post. Dershowitz called her a “certified, complete, total liar” and Giuffre sued him for defamation; he then countersued her for defamation.
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