The establishment media is attempting to link President Donald Trump to Jeffrey Epstein without any evidence connecting him to the underage sex trafficking case against the billionaire hedge fund manager.
Immediately following a Daily Beast report revealing Epstein’s Saturday day arrest, a handful of news figures and outlets posted social media posts and stories painting a picture that the wealthy investor’s arrest was bad news for President Trump — with one editor even going as far to suggest he could be directly implicated in the case.
Tim O’Brien, a Trump biographer and Bloomberg Opinion executive editor, kicked off speculation by tweeting a years-old quote of then-real estate tycoon Trump about Epstein from a New York magazine profile on the billionaire.
Others in the media, including Axios’s Jonathan Swan and CNBC reporter John Harwood, flashed back to the quote.
O’Brien’s post appears to have been the basis of a Business Insider story titled “Jeffrey Epstein: Trump once praised billionaire charged with sex trafficking minors for liking women ‘on the younger side.'” The article includes a 2000 picture featuring President Trump, first lady Melania Trump, with Epstein and his then-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell, at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida.
In a Monday op-ed titled “Epstein Arrest Is a Worry for Donald Trump,” O’Brien speculated that the hedge fund manager has damaging information on the president.
O’Brien wrote for Bloomberg:
There’s a strong likelihood that Epstein will end up trying to flip for prosecutors as the reality of a lengthy prison sentence approaches, but it’s unclear how much he has that would be interesting to the feds. If he has anything sordid or compromising that he’s willing to trade about Trump, however, the president could be in for an uncomfortable summer. The public may be interested in that kind of stuff even if prosecutors aren’t.
O’Brien also cites revelations that President Trump flew on Epstein’s private jet at least once and faced an anonymous, quickly-withdrawn lawsuit — filed at the peak of the 2016 Republican primary — which claimed he raped a teen girl at the investor’s New York City Home.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, an unidentified young woman filed a suit against Trump in which she alleged that he raped her when she was 13 at a party at Epstein’s Upper East Side townhouse in Manhattan. Trump denied the claims and the woman later dropped the suit because, her lawyer said, she was intimidated by death threats. The Trump camp described her allegations as “untrue.”
Yahoo News published a similar article — “Sex-trafficking charges against Epstein could rock Trump’s cabinet” — rehashing the same Trump quote about Epstein while throwing together comments from far-left lawmakers such as Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), who has previously been humiliated for pushing debunked conspiracy theories about the president. Despite the hyperbolic headline, author Christopher Wilson buries a claim contradicting his premise eight paragraphs in — a quote from a lawyer representing a trio of Epstein accusers who explained that President Trump actually assisted authorities in building a civil lawsuit against the highly-connected investor.
“The only thing that I can say about President Trump is that he is the only person who, in 2009 when I served a lot of subpoenas on a lot of people, or at least gave notice to some pretty connected people, that I want to talk to them, is the only person who picked up the phone and said, let’s just talk,” Bradley Edwards told New York magazine. “I’ll give you as much time as you want. I’ll tell you what you need to know, and was very helpful, in the information that he gave, and gave no indication whatsoever that he was involved in anything untoward whatsoever, but had good information. That checked out and that helped us and we didn’t have to take a deposition of him in 2009.” Edwards has also said President Trump barred Epstein from Mar-a-Lago “because Epstein sexually assaulted an underage girl at the club,” court documents say.
A Daily Mail story citing reports that fired FBI Director James Comey’s daughter, Maurene Comey, is an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York handling the Epstein case, referred to Epstein as a “Trump pal.”
New York magazine’s explainer on the Epstein saga included a section raising the prospect that President Trump, perhaps nervous about what revelations could come to light, may direct Attorney General William Barr to scuttle the case. “Attorney General William Barr could legally do so and has repeatedly shown a willingness to put loyalty to Trump above all else — though he did tell Congress he might recuse himself from Epstein-related cases since he worked for one of the firms behind Epstein’s controversial plea deal,” authors Chas Danner and Matt Stieb wrote. “And yes,” they continue, “Trump could pardon Epstein if he were so inclined.”
Frank Figliuzzi, a former FBI Assistant Director who serves as an NBC News national security contributor, concurred with the magazine’s analysis.
Several Hollywood figures joined corporate media in trying to connect President Trump with Epstein.
Federal prosecutors charged billionaire and philanthropist Epstein Monday in an indictment that says he sexually exploited “dozens” of minor girls in New York, Florida and other locations over a period of three years.
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York told reporters Epstein gave girls “hundreds of dollars in cash” to engage in sexual acts at his mansions in Manhattan and Palm Beach — sometimes luring them under the pretext they would give him a massage. The indictment, unsealed Monday, also said he sometimes paid victims to recruit other victims, and the reported incidents occurred between 2002 and 2005.
“During the encounter, Epstein would escalate the nature and scope of physical contact with his victim to include, among other things, sex acts such as groping and direct and indirect contact with the victim’s genitals,” alleges the indictment unsealed in New York.
“Epstein typically would also masturbate during these sexualized encounters, ask victims to touch him while he masturbated, and touch victims’ genitals with his hands or with sex toys,” it reads.
Epstein, 66, who was arrested in New Jersey Saturday, faces one count of sex trafficking and a count of conspiracy. He is scheduled to appear in New York court Monday afternoon.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said Epstein will be detained before trial because he’s a flight risk.
“If you believe you are a victim of this man, Jeffrey Epstein, or if you have evidence or information related to the conduct alleged in the indictment unsealed today, we want to hear from you,” Berman urged potential victims Monday.
Prosecutors asked the judge to order Epstein forfeit his New York mansion, which is estimated to cost more than $37 million. Authorities knocked down the door there Saturday to execute search warrants. Epstein is already a registered sex offender in Florida, stemming from an unrelated 2008 case.
“The charges are very serious, and they carry a maximum of 45 years in jail, which to someone of Epstein’s age is basically a life sentence,” Berman said.
Victims’ attorneys said the sex operation was like an organized crime ring with schedulers, recruiters, pilots, and bookkeepers. Authorities said girls were brought in from around the world with the promise of modeling careers, educational opportunities, and fashion jobs.
“Epstein intentionally sought out minors and knew that many of his victims were in fact under the age of 18.”
A Miami Herald investigation last year into the prior case said Epstein struck a deal with then-Miami prosecutor Alexander Acosta in 2007, in which he would plead guilty to two prostitution charges in exchange for dropping all other charges. At the time, Epstein faced a 53-page federal indictment and life in prison. After the plea, he served 13 months. The deal also gave immunity to others involved. Acosta is now labor secretary under President Trump.
The UPI contributed to this report.