Former President Bill Clinton distanced himself on Monday from Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire financier and former donor who was arrested for child sex trafficking over the weekend.
Clinton, who has taken a lower public profile since the 2016 presidential race, issued a statement through his press secretary, Angel Ureña, claiming to know “nothing about the terrible crimes” Epstein is purported to have committed.
“President Clinton knows nothing about the terrible crimes Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty to in Florida some years ago, or those with which he has been recently charged in New York,” the statement reads. “In 2002 and 2003, President Clinton took a total of four trips on Jeffrey Epstein’s airplane: One to Europe, one to Asia, and two to Africa, which included stops in connection with the work of the Clinton Foundation.”
The statement denotes that “staff, supporters of the Foundation,” and the former president’s Secret Service detail were along on “every leg” of those trips.” Fox News, however, reported in May 2016 that Clinton went on at least 26 trips aboard Epstein’s plane — the “Lolita Express” — between 2001 and 2003, according to flight logs from the Federal Aviation Administration. Listed as the destination for those trips were exotic locales like the Azores, Singapore, Brunei, Norway, and Russia, among others.
On at least five of those excursions, the flight logs denote that Clinton was not accompanied by any Secret Service personnel. The former president, though, did occasionally travel in the company of Ghislaine Maxwell, a New York socialite, and Sarah Kellen, Epstein’s former assistant. Both women were previously investigated by the FBI and Florida law enforcement over concerns they helped recruit Epstein’s underage victims.
Clinton claimed he had “one meeting with Epstein in his Harlem office in 2002, and around the same time made one brief visit to Epstein’s New York apartment with a staff member and his security detail.” The former president stated he had not spoken to Epstein “in well over a decade” and has “never been” to any of the locations where the abuse is alleged to have taken place.
Epstein was arrested in New Jersey Saturday on one count of sex trafficking and a separate count of conspiracy. On Monday, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York officially charged the billionaire with exploiting “dozens” of underage girls in New York, Florida, and other locations over a three year period.
The U.S. Attorney’s office told reporters Epstein gave his victims “hundreds of dollars in cash” to engage in sexual acts. Often the victims were lured to his mansions in Florida and New York under the pretext they would only be giving Epstein a massage. Prosecutors also allege that Epstein paid his victims to find other underage girls for him to abuse. The incidents were purported to have taken place between 2002 and 2005.
If convicted, Epstein faces upwards of more than 40 years in prison, which is likely to be a life sentence, as he is 66-years-old. In 2008, Epstein pled guilty in the state of Florida to one charge of soliciting and procuring prostitution from an individual under 18 years of age. That case, which only resulted in a 13 month prison sentence and financial restitution for dozens of the victims, has recently come under scrutiny after the Miami Herald investigated the confines of the plea deal Epstein struck with then-Florida prosecutor Alexander Acosta — now the secretary of labor.
Prior to that conviction, Epstein was a Democrat megadonor. From 1989 to 2003, he donated more than $139,000 to Democratic federal candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Of that sum, a significant portion went either directly to or in aid of Clinton’s 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns.