The case against billionaire financier and registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who was arrested Saturday night on charges of sex trafficking underage girls, could potentially involve several big names, among them two presidents. The connections between Epstein and Donald Trump, opinion writer and Trump biographer Timothy L. O'Brien writes, should be "a worry" for the president.
On Saturday, the FBI-NYPD Crimes Against Children Task Force arrested Epstein on charges connected to the alleged sex trafficking of dozens of minors between 2002 and 2005, The Daily Beast reported Sunday. As detailed by the Miami Herald last year, Epstein infamously received only a slap on the wrist from the feds in 2008 after pleading guilty to "one count of solicitation of prostitution and one count of solicitation of prostitution with a minor under the age of 18," avoiding hard prison time despite a slew of allegations (see more details of his 2008 sentence below). In February, a Palm Beach judge ruled that deal unconstitutional; now, the billionaire investor faces up to 45 years in prison.
Amid the reports on the case against Epstein, Donald Trump's name has come up repeatedly, with O'Brien, who wrote the Trump biography "TrumpNation" in 2005, leading the way in emphasizing the alleged connections.
In response to The New York Times' report on the arrest of Epstein, O'Brien tweeted a quote from Trump in 2002 that has since found its way into several reports: "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," Trump told New York Magazine for a rather flattering and intriguing Epstein profile piece published in October 2002.
In an op-ed for Bloomberg Monday, O'Brien elaborates on why the "Epstein arrest is a worry for Donald Trump." Among the famous names reported by the Miami Herald's Julie Brown, O'Brien notes, are: "A former president, Bill Clinton; the U.K.’s Prince Andrew; powerhouse attorneys such as Alan Dershowitz, Kenneth Starr, and Roy Black; and business contacts such as Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of the late publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell, and Leslie Wexner, the owner of retailer Victoria’s Secret. Several years ago, Gawker published a copy of Epstein’s address book and it was packed with marquee names from Hollywood, Wall Street and Washington. Trump’s name was among them, too."
While Trump being mentioned among a long list of power players isn't surprising, O'Brien writes, "Trump was more than just a casual acquaintance of Epstein":
The financier was a member of Trump’s Palm Beach club, Mar-a-Lago, and the men dined at one another’s homes. Trump flew on Epstein’s plane at least once. According to Brown, Epstein is quoted in court papers as saying he wanted to set up his modeling agency – which prosecutors believe he used to get access to underage girls – “the same way Trump set up his modeling agency.”
Although a court filing says Mar-a-Lago eventually dumped Epstein from its ranks after he approached an underage girl there, Trump has generally spoken about Epstein fondly – to me and to others. “I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy,” Trump told New York magazine in 2002. “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.”
New York Magazine's 2002 profile of Epstein offers a slightly longer verison of Trump's description of Epstein: "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 profile piece also features a flattering quote from Clinton's team, which praised Epstein as a "committed philanthropist":
"Jeffrey is both a highly successful financier and a committed philanthropist with a keen sense of global markets and an in-depth knowledge of twenty-first-century science," Clinton says through a spokesman. "I especially appreciated his insights and generosity during the recent trip to Africa to work on democratization, empowering the poor, citizen service, and combating HIV/AIDS."
Epstein likewise had a lot of complimentary things to say about Clinton, whom he celebrated as "the world’s greatest politician."
"I invest in people – be it politics or science. It’s what I do," Epstein reportedly told friends, and one of those people was Clinton. "If you were a boxer at the downtown gymnasium at 14th Street and Mike Tyson walked in, your face would have the same look as these foreign leaders had when Clinton entered the room. He is the world’s greatest politician," he said.
Business Insider notes that Epstein "has donated to the Clinton Foundation repeatedly and lent his jet to former President Bill Clinton for overseas trips."
*In 2008, Epstein ended up only serving a total of 13 months of an 18-month sentence. During that period, as Time details, Epstein "was allowed to spend six days a week at an office for 12 hours a day under a work-release privilege" and financially settle with some of his accusers.
Editor's note: This article has been revised to include more details about Epstein's 2008 sentence.