Spoiler: You’ll recognize a lot of them
There’s a joke doing the rounds on Twitter at the moment, something to the effect of: “As more and more photos of celebrities emerge looking chummy with Ghislaine Maxwell, I too begin to wonder: Did I also take a picture with her and just don’t remember it?”
It’s funny in a grim, ridiculous way that speaks to the baffling reach of Maxwell and her long-time friend Jeffrey Epstein, and their connections to some of the highest echelons of global power. Knowing what is alleged about this couple—sex trafficking minors, with Maxwell working to procure these underage female victims for Epstein and others—their social-climbing becomes skin-crawling, deeply sinister… and a really, really bad look for anyone who appears to have even the most remote association with either of them.
Which is not to say, of course, that just because someone knew Maxwell or Epstein they were involved in or knew anything about the things authorities allege they did. Maxwell was a socialite and Epstein a hedge-fund manager who needed wealthy clients, and that meant a large part of their life consisted of party-hopping all over the world, attending benefits and being photographed at galas with people they may have known superficially, or simply just been in proximity to at the event—a list that includes everyone from Barbara Walters to Julianna Margulies, Elon Musk to Mick Jagger. A posed group photo does not a relationship make, but it is a fascinating window into this twosome’s ability to gain access to everyone from politicians to celebrities and even royals. (According to New York magazine, Epstein was known to say, “I invest in people…It’s what I do.”)
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But before we get to dissecting the who’s who of their circle, a brief recap: Maxwell is currently awaiting trial for 18 pages worth of charges, related to her alleged role in helping Epstein to groom and then abuse girls they knew were underage in a multi-state trafficking operation between 1994 and 1997. She denies these allegations and pleaded not guilty to federal charges during a virtual bail hearing on July 14. Before her arrest, Maxwell had disappeared from the public eye following Epstein’s 2019 arrest on federal sex trafficking charges. He died by suicide in jail while awaiting trial.
Here are some of the famous and powerful people we know to have known Maxwell and Epstein on a more than “acquaintance at a party” level—and what they’ve said about their relationship since these allegations have surfaced.
While he’s distancing himself now—according to his mouth-piece Kellyanne Conway they haven’t seen each other in years, and he thinks his actions are “disgusting”—U.S. President Donald Trump once boasted about his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein. “I’ve known Jeff for 15 years,” he told New York magazine in the same 2002 profile of Epstein mentioned above. “Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.” They moved in the same circles in New York and Palm Beach, Florida, and, as their shared lawyer Alan Dershowitz to the New York Times last year: “If you didn’t know Trump and you didn’t know Epstein, you were a nobody.” According to the Washington Post, their friendship ended when they tried to buy the same $56 million mansion in 2004.
Andrew, Queen Elizabeth II’s third child, was introduced to Epstein by Maxwell in the early 1990s, and the men remained friends for years; they were even photographed together after Epstein got out of jail in 2009, having served 13 months in prison after pleading guilty to “solicitation of prostitution involving a minor.” In 2015, Andrew was named in a civil suit against Epstein, filed by a woman named Virginia Giuffre who alleged she’d been forced to have sex with the royal when she was just 15. Andrew has always strenuously denied the allegations, but a disastrous BBC interview last year—in which he showed no empathy for Epstein’s victims, and gave some bizarre justifications for why the allegations against him were false—resulted in him resigning from royal duty, seemingly permanently.
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In January, Virginia Giuffre tweeted out a series of photographs taken at Naomi Campbell’s 31st birthday in 2001. Taken on a yacht in Saint-Tropez, they show Campbell in a crowd alongside Epstein, Maxwell and a then-underage Giuffre. She captioned the tweet: “You saw me at your parties, you saw me in Epstein’s homes, you saw me on the plane, you saw me get my haircut, you saw me on the streets, you watched me be abused. You saw me!” She then hashtagged Prince Andrew, Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein and Naomi Campbell, making it unclear who precisely was the “you.” Campbell’s reps have denied she was close with Epstein, and that her connection was only through her then-boyfriend, Italian businessman Flavio Briatore.
In pictures obtained by Britain’s Telegraph newspaper, Kevin Spacey—since accused of unwanted advances toward a teenage boy, although the charges were dropped—is sitting on a throne at Buckingham Palace, playing the Duke of Edinburgh to Maxwell’s Queen Elizabeth. According to the paper, the pair were there on a private tour arranged by—you guessed it—Prince Andrew, who had organised the tour for Spacey and Bill Clinton, then in town en route to a conference. Before arriving in London, however, Clinton, along with Spacey, Maxwell and the comedian Chris Tucker, had flown on Epstein’s jet to Africa, where they toured AIDS projects. According to The Telegraph, Maxwell was invited on this tour as Andrew’s guest.
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The former U.S. President has known Epstein since the early ’90s, and Maxwell was a guest at Chelsea Clinton’s 2010 wedding. Clinton has also acknowledged, in a statement released last year, that he flew on Epstein’s jet a number of times in 2002 and 2003, although he stresses this was on Clinton Foundation business, and his staff and Secret Service detail were with him. (Epstein’s jet has been called “the Lolita express” for its alleged role in ferrying people to a Caribbean island for sex with underage girls.) According to his spokesman, Clinton knew “nothing about the terrible crimes” and had not spoken to him in “well over a decade.”