|DAVIDOFF STUDIOS / GETTY IMAGES|
I've known Jeff for 15 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. ~ DONALD TRUMP (2002)
Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein were "fuck buddies," although I've been advised to not use that term. Not because it isn't appropriate or I might get sued. The term is appropriate, but gross and inappropriate for young readers. So I'll say that Trump and Epstein "had a lot in common," although only one of them became a registered sex offender and one a president of the United States inappropriate for any age group.
Billionaire financier Epstein is back in the news because justice prevailed, something that makes Trump livid in the too few cases when it happens, in this instance a federal indictment charging him with a now-familiar and deeply sick scheme -- running a sex-trafficking operation that brought dozens of girls as young as 14 to his opulent mansion on the Upper East Side of New York where he could satisfy his cravings and sometimes pay the girls to recruit other girls in a kind of carnal pyramid scheme.
Accusations of sexual predation have dogged Epstein for decades. But until his arrest on Saturday, he was a prime and especially sordid example of how insulated, powerful, politically-connected men can escape accountability when they prey on young, vulnerable women and girls ripe for exploitation.
By all rights, the new indictment against Epstein unsealed on Monday should be triple trouble for Trump.
First, it is the revival of a years-long case against onetime pal Epstein, who faced similar accusations involving girls that were brought to his mansion in South Florida from 2002 to 2005 and assaulted. Second, it casts a harsh light on Alexander Acosta, Trump's labor secretary, whom House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi declared should "step down" because Trump knew of a sweetheart plea deal Acosta made with Epstein in 2008. And third, it dredges up questions about whether Trump's long friendship with Epstein has, shall we say, sordid aspects.
Epstein, according to the original indictment, paid cash to dozens of teenage girls -- in some cases as young as 13 -- for nude massages, masturbation, oral sex and, in one alleged case, rape.
The Florida case, outlined in a 53-page indictment, unraveled in 2008 after Epstein was offered a secret plea deal in the 11th hour by federal prosecutor Acosta, who allowed Epstein's attorneys an unusual amount of control over the deal's terms. The baffling deal transformed a possible life sentence into a mere wrist slap on two state charges of solicitation. Epstein served 13 months in the private wing of a county jail but was allowed to leave the facility for up to 16 hours six days a week, had to register as a sex offender and pay restitution to his victims. The deal effectively ended an FBI investigation, and under its generous terms he and four alleged accomplices were shielded from far tougher federal prosecution.
Epstein later joked about the deal, telling the New York Post, "I'm not a sexual predator, I'm an 'offender.' . . . It's the difference between a murderer and a person who steals a bagel."
In February, a U.S. district judge ruled that because prosecutors did not inform Epstein's victims of the plea deal or provide them the opportunity to testify about it, the deal violated the Crime Victims' Rights Act, clearing the way for Epstein to be charged anew.
Not to spoil the plot for you, but while the 66-year-old pedophile may be going away for a very long time, Trump will again defend Acosta, which he did when the revelation of the secret deal threatened to scuttle his Labor nomination, while denying, obfuscating and otherwise surviving yet another instance -- and we're talking dozens here -- in which his copiously documented history as a misogynist, adulterer and pussy grabber is again laid bare but will neither move his "base" nor diminish his credibility. This, it should be noted, is because he has no credibility.
As the quote notes and the photo atop this post shows, Trump and Epstein go way back.(That's Trump and Epstein at Mar-a-Lago, aka the Winter White House, in 2000 with their main squeezes, Melania Knauss and Ghislaine Maxwell.)
In all, Epstein is believed to have molested hundreds of victims that were brought to him from around the world, according to witnesses who have testified in civil court proceedings. More indictments may be forthcoming, including one for Maxwell, a 57-year-old British socialite and publishing heiress who has been accused of working as Epstein’s madam.
Epstein has run with a fast crowd, including Bill Clinton, who flew on his private plane over a dozen times, and Prince Andrew, Duke of York, who along with Trump were guests at his New York and Palm Beach mansions and his Caribbean island. Epstein's inner circle has included onetime legal big shot and sometime Trump defender Alan Dershowitz, former Clinton independent counsel Ken Starr, Victoria's Secret magnate Leslie Wexner and legendary criminal defense attorney Roy Black.
Virginia Roberts Giuffre, one of Epstein's victims, has said she was recruited by Maxwell to give Epstein massages when she was 15 and working as a towel girl at Mar-a-Lago. She has alleged that she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew on three separate occasions in 2001. Roberts Giuffre (with Andrew and Maxwell in photo, above) also alleges she was paid handsomely by Epstein as a "reward" for sleeping with Andrew.
Dershowitz, who used to pal around with and perhaps party with Epstein (there are lots of blurred lines in this saga), has come to the naughty duke's defense, so you know the allegation can't be true.
Another woman, identified in court records only as "Jane Doe," alleged during Trump's presidential campaign that he had raped her at a party at Epstein’s New York mansion in 1993, at the age of 13. A Trump lawyer denied her claim and the woman later dropped the lawsuit because she was too afraid to go through with it, according to her lawyer.
Trump has denied having had a social relationship with Epstein, something the White House repeated on Monday, but in 2015 Gawker published Epstein's contact list, which contained 14 telephone numbers through which he could reach Trump, his wife and their staffs.
|THE NEW YORK TIMES|
Prosecutors apparently do not have significant double jeopardy concerns or concerns about Epstein's previous plea, meaning the charges probably involve new victims and new wrongdoing. Epstein, who entered a not guilty plea late Monday afternoon to one count each of sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy, is being held without bail until a hearing next Monday. He faces a combined maximum sentence of up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
Meanwhile, Attorney General William Barr said on Monday that he had recused himself from the politically-fraught case because his former law firm, Kirkland & Ellis, had represented Epstein. And in a weird plot twist, one of the New York prosecutors is Maureen Comey, the daughter of James Comey, who was assigned to the SDNY office before Trump fired his FBI director nemesis.
"It's been a long time coming -- it's been too long coming," said attorney David Boies, who represents accusers Roberts Giuffre and Sarah Ransome, after Epstein's arrest on Saturday night by the FBI-New York Police Department Crimes Against Children Task Force at Teterboro (N.J.) Airport outside New York City when he arrived on a private flight from France.
"It is an important step towards getting justice for the many victims of Mr. Epstein's sex trafficking enterprise," Boies said. "We hope that prosecutors will not stop with Mr. Epstein because there were many other people who participated with him and made the sex trafficking possible."
In addition to charging Epstein with one count of sex trafficking and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, prosecutors are also seeking the forfeiture of Epstein’s townhouse on East 71st Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues (photo, above), one of the largest in Manhattan at 21,000 square feet over seven floors. When police broke into the mansion following his arrest, they found a "vast trove" of lewd photographs of girls inside a locked safe.
The cache of photos demonstrate the predatory attitude that Epstein continues to have toward young women, prosecutors said.
"This is not an individual who has left his past behind," Alexander Rossmiller said.
To given credit where it's due, Epstein is finally getting his comeuppance and his many victims some closure because of Miami Herald reporter Julie Brown, whose exposé of Epstein's sex empire and the secret Florida plea deal, combined with the #MeToo Movement and new awareness about sex trafficking, put Epstein's perversions on the front burner.
So I've not only spoiled the plot, but I'm going to take an unsolicited bow in saluting the courageous Ms. Brown. This is because she cut her teeth as an investigative gumshoe working for me at the Philadelphia Daily News in the 1990s.