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Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein’s Connection, Explained
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Netflix’s Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich focuses on the most important figures in the Jeffrey Epstein saga—sexual assault survivors. But it also tells stories of the late multimillionaire financier and convicted sex offender’s ties to some of the most influential men in the world. And though there were plenty of big names in Epstein’s little black book, he at one point counted two presidents among his friends: Bill Clinton and Donald Trump.
Trump and Epstein’s friendship ended in an apparent falling out, but the Epstein story still intersected with the future president’s political life. Here’s what you need to know.
Both Trump and Epstein were fixtures in New York and Palm Beach society circles.
The wealthy pair were fixtures of the 1980s and 1990s society scene. “In those days, if you didn’t know Trump and you didn’t know Epstein, you were a nobody,” famed attorney Alan Dershowitz, who’s served as a lawyer for both men, told The New York Times last year.
The same Times article told of a party the future president hosted at his Mar-a-Lago club in 1992. The guest list? Epstein, Trump, and 28 “calendar girl” competition contestants. Ten years later, Trump told New York Magazine that he’d known Epstein for 15 years. “Terrific guy,” said Trump. “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’s name appears on the flight log for Epstein’s plane, and Epstein’s brother claimed that Trump flew on the aircraft “numerous times”
Donald and Melania Trump, Jeffrey Epstein, and Ghislaine Maxwell.
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When the allegations against Epstein became national news in 2019, Trump distanced himself from the convicted sex offender, saying that he “was not a fan” of the disgraced financier and eventually banned him from Mar-a-Lago.
And it does seem to be true that the two had a falling out in the years following that now-infamous New York Magazine quote. The Washington Post reported that in 2004 the two men each tried to buy the same Palm Beach mansion. Trump eventually won the auction, and later sold the home for more than twice the $41.35 million he spent on it. But the Post reported that the competition over the beachfront property spelled the end of Trump and Epstein’s friendship.
During the 2016 election, an anonymous woman filed and then dropped a lawsuit accusing Trump of raping her at a party hosted by Epstein in 1994, when she was just 13-years-old. Trump denied the allegations as being “categorically false,” and reporters have also deemed the account to be potentially unreliable, as it was shopped to the media by fringe figures that included a former Jerry Springer producer. According to Vox, the sole journalist who was able to interview the anonymous accuser, “came away confused and even doubting whether [she] really exists.”
Epstein’s plea deal became a scandal for a member of Trump’s cabinet.
In 2005, a Florida woman told police that her stepdaughter had been molested by a rich local man. That tip led to an investigation by Palm Beach police and the FBI that uncovered multiple alleged victims who told of a “sexual pyramid scheme” in which girls were hired to recruit other young women to be molested, with victim counts numbering in the dozens.
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In 2007, Epstein was indicted on sexual abuse charges that could have garnered him a life sentence. But instead, then-Miami US attorney Alexander Acosta cut Epstein a deal that found the financier of pleading guilty to soliciting prostitution from a minor in exchange for serving just 13 months in Palm Beach county jail. He was allowed to leave the jail for 12 hours a day almost every day of the week under a work release program that was supposed to exclude sex offenders.
“Acosta can talk until he’s blue in the face about what they had and what they couldn’t do,” Joe Berlinger, director of Netflix docuseries Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, told Esquire. “but it was an unprecedented, unheard of sweetheart deal.”
That deal would catch up with Acosta, who eventually became President Trump’s labor secretary, more than a decade later. Amid outrage over the leniency of the deal granted Epstein, Acosta stepped down from his cabinet position in 2019.
“He felt the constant drumbeat of press about a prosecution which took place under his watch more than 12 years ago was bad for the Administration, which he so strongly believes in,” tweeted Trump, “and he graciously tendered his resignation.”
Gabrielle Bruney is a writer and editor for Esquire, where she focuses on politics and culture.
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