On Saturday, billionaire hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein was found dead by an apparent suicide in his jail cell. Epstein was 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 had been 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. 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, though Acosta’s deal with Epstein was brought up during his confirmation hearings.
The deal was kept secret from victims, and it gave immunity to any of Epstein's potential co-conspirators. Epstein served 13 months in a county jail, and he was also allowed to leave for work release six days a week.
The Miami Herald described the deal, which was then sealed, to be 'considered one of the most lenient sentences for a serial sex offender in history.'
In February, a federal judge in Palm Beach ruled that federal prosecutors, including Acosta, broke the law when they signed the plea deal with Epstein since the deal was kept from his alleged victims, thus violating the Crime Victims’ Rights Act. However, in June, the Department of Justice declined to invalidate the deal, according to Vox.
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 2002, in a profile about 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.'
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 had both denied her account, and she ended up dropping the suit.
The Herald also reported that one of Epstein's alleged victims, Virginia Roberts, worked at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club when she was introduced to, and began to be sexually abused by, Epstein. In November 2018, Roberts was one of the dozens of alleged victims identified by the Herald in a shocking expose into the allegations against Epstein.
Now, a new report from the New York Times provides a bit more insight into Epstein and Trump’s friendship, and the later fallout. The Times called their relationship a 'yearslong friendship' that is rumoured 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 advisor, wrote in his book titled 'The Clintons’ War on Women,' that once when Trump visited Epstein's home in Florida, he later joked about the girls he saw, saying, 'The swimming pool was filled with beautiful young girls. "How nice," I thought, "He let the neighbourhood kids use his pool.”'
Trump has tried to distance himself from Epstein in recent years, and on Tuesday, 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.'
And before his presidential campaign, the Times reports that Trump told his former campaign aide that he barred Epstein from his clubs after Epstein tried to recruit a woman who worked at Mar-a-Lago.
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.
The tweet read: '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 before—a spokesperson for Clinton said he did not know of Epstein's 'terrible crimes.' Also, Epstein was not on suicide watch when he was found dead and there has been no proven connection between the Clintons and Epstein's death.)
Mother Jones reported that Trump then defended the retweet to reporters, saying that it was posted by a 'highly respected conservative pundit,' though that has not been confirmed.
Lynne Patton, a Trump-appointed member of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, also commented on the news of Epstein's death with an 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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