|DAVIDOFF STUDIOS / GETTY IMAGES|
With an intact gag reflex and so much else on our deeply troubled planet to write about, I have been fighting the urge to wade back into the beyond sordid saga of former Donald Trump fuck buddy and pedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein, whose escape acts from justice would seem to rival the Great Houdini's until you consider that the legendary illusionist's feats of a century ago were not aided and abetted by a cast of powerful, politically-connected characters with deep pockets.
But now Epstein is dead, an apparent suicide after he hanged himself early Saturday morning at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, where he was being held without bail while awaiting what was going to be the latest trial of the century.
Epstein, 66, had been found nearly unconscious in his cell with apparently self-inflicted neck injuries on July 23 and was put on a suicide watch for six days before being returned to the prison's segregated housing unit, an area with extra security. The FBI said it is investigating his death, while there was immediate speculation about whether an unseen hand might have contributed because of the secrets he will now conveniently take to his grave.
His many victims, who hoped to confront him in court, expressed outrage that the justice they sought had now eluded them.
The cast of characters in Epstein's orbit included celebrity lawyer and Trump toady Alan Dershowitz, independent counsel Ken Starr and Victoria's Secret CEO Les Wexner, with Prince Andrew, Kevin Spacey, Woody Allen and Bill Clinton peering in from the darkness of his sordid shadow world.
And lest we forget, there is Trump's late unlamented Labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, who brokered the secret 2008 Florida plea deal that allowed Epstein to keep on chasing and enslaving young girls for his sexual gratification, which he did with great gusto with the knowledge and involvement of some of those characters until he was arrested on July 6 in New York on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.
Epstein is "as complete and round a ball of sleazy and corrupt energy as can be imagined," as Esquire's Charles Pierce described him prior to his death.
Yet our imaginations kept being taxed, most recently by a New York Times investigative deep dive that found Epstein hoped to seed the human race with his DNA by impregnating women at his vast New Mexico ranch.
The wild scheme is a reflection of Epstein's profound narcissism, a trait he shared with his one-time friend Trump, and longstanding fascination with the solipsistic social movement of transhumanism, which is improving the human race through technologies like genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. It is a trendy modern-day version of eugenics, the discredited field of improving the human race through controlled breeding.
Adherents of transhumanism think they are so important that they should live forever by genetically enhancing their offspring and thereby redesigning the human race into a "post-human" species made in their own image.
Epstein's perversities aside, transhumanism is not a fringe pursuit.
To the contrary, it has become quite the elite phenomenon. Hundreds of millions of dollars go into into transhumanist technological research, and some of the biggest names in the tech world are devotees. They include Google's Ray Kurzweil and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who is said to have introduced Epstein to Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg at a star-studded Silicon Valley dinner.
Epstein attracted a number of prominent scientists to his scheme, some of whom he promised financing for their pet projects. They included the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann, who discovered the quark; the theoretical physicist and best-selling author Stephen Hawking; the paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould, and neurologist and best-selling author Oliver Sacks.
There is no evidence that Epstein's scheme came to fruition. But it should be noted, which The Times story did not, that the young girls he pursued and enslaved were invariably white and his procurers were under orders to never bring him African-Americans.
With the predictability of another sunny day on Florida's Gold Coast, Trump has claimed
since Epstein's rearrest that he never had a social relationship with him. This although they swam in the same social pool for years.
Epstein was a frequent visitor at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach while Trump dined at Epstein's Manhattan mansion. Trump flew on Epstein's private jets and famously remarked in 2002 that "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."
Their non-relationship is said to have chilled because of unspecified misbehavior on Epstein's part during a visit to the future Winter White House, a convenient dodge for the self-righteous Trump.
But the truth predictably is much stranger and not surprisingly considering Trump's profound sleaziness, involves one of the Russian oligarchs who used his stateside properties, including his casino-hotels, to launder their ill-gotten gains, repeatedly rescuing his shaky business empire and in their own way paving the way to his improbable presidency.
The Washington Post reports that the Trump-Epstein falling out was over Maison de l'Amitie (House of Friendship), an opulent six-acre estate with a breathtaking 180-degree view of the Atlantic near Mar-a-Lago being sold out of bankruptcy and coveted by the two men.
In November 2004, Trump, who was starring in NBC’s "The Apprentice" at the time, declared himself intent on buying Maison de l'Amitie, which he called "the finest piece of land in Florida and probably the U.S." Trump said he planned to create "the second greatest house in America, Mar-a-Lago being the first," and then resell it. But Epstein was also enraptured by the property, which he said he planned to occupy.
Nursing home magnate Abe Gosman had purchased Maison de l'Amitie in 1988 for about $12 million from Les Wexner, one of Epstein's aforementioned best buddies over whom he is said to have long exerted a Svengali-like influence. (Wexner this week belatedly accused Epstein of misappropriating "vast sums of money" from he and his family.)
Long story shortish, an auction on the property began with an attempt by one of Epstein's three attorneys to knock Trump out of the bidding, which began with Epstein's offer of $37.25 million. Epstein dropped out after his bid of $38.6 million was topped by Trump, who also outbid a second prospective buyer and got the estate for $41.35 million.
Four years later, his business empire teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, Trump sold
unoccupied Maison de l'Amitie to Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev for $95 million, which at the time was considered one of the most expensive house sales on record.
Trump more than doubled his investment, while Rybolovlev never lived in the house. He later had Maison de l'Amitie demolished.
|PATRICK McMULLAN VIA GETTY IMAGES|
Then there is Ghislaine Maxwell, a character who merits special attention because she seems to have played more roles in Epstein's life than there are positions in the Kama Sutra. The daughter and favorite child of suicided or murdered (pick one) British press lord Robert Maxwell, she is one of those social crawlers who seems to have been friends with everyone but an intimate of few.
Maxwell, like Epstein, has known many rich and powerful people.
They included Clinton, with whom she has dined and attended daughter Chelsea's wedding; Arianna Huffington and Martha Stewart; the aforementioned Musk; Trump, with whom she and Epstein partied during his courtship of future wife Melania Knauss, and that Prince Andrew, Duke of York, who one of Epstein's young victims alleges she was coerced by Maxwell to have sex with on three separate occasions.
Euan Rellie, an investment banker who attended dinner parties that Maxwell and Epstein hosted in New York, said she "seemed to be half ex-girlfriend, half employee, half best friend, and fixer."
In court documents, Epstein's accusers allege that Maxwell played another role as a recruiter, an instructor, and in some cases a participant in the abuse Epstein practiced on girls and young women.
Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who claims that Maxwell recruited her on behalf of Epstein when Giuffre was a 16-year-old spa attendant at Mar-a-Lago, said in a defamation lawsuit against Maxwell that was settled out of court in 2017 that much of her grooming came from Maxwell herself.
"The training started immediately," she said in a video interview in connection with Miami Herald reporter Julie Brown's award winning series on Epstein, which in turn led to Acosta's belated fall. "It was everything down to how to give a blowjob, how to be quiet, be subservient, give Jeffrey what he wants. A lot of this training came from Ghislaine herself. Being a woman, it kind of surprises you that a woman could let stuff like that happen. Not only let it happen but to groom you into doing it."
Maxwell, 57, has denied these and other civil suit allegations and has never been criminally charged.
She grew up in a 53-room mansion in Buckinghamshire, where childhood activities included sailing on a family yacht named the Lady Ghislaine (she was the youngest and her father's favorite among nine children) and rubbing shoulders with aristocrats and royals. Her father, Robert Maxwell, was a Czech-born World War II hero who founded Pergamon Press, an extremely successful publishing house for science and medical books, and later bought British tabloids, including The Mirror, as well as a stake in MTV Europe and the American publishing giant Macmillan.
She attended Oxford University and moved to New York in 1991, around the time her father bought The Daily News. But later that year, he tumbled off the Lady Ghislaine in a drunken stupor exacerbated by the pain-relieving drugs he took.
The cause of death was listed as a suicide, but Maxwell in all probability was a spy for Israeli intelligence and also was considered to be a valuable player by the British, Soviet and French governments because of his extensive contacts. Their possible role in the death of a once valued but now deeply troubled asset has been long suspected although never proven.
(Epstein also was a U.S. intelligence asset, according to investigative reporter Vicky Ward, who has suggested in The Daily Beast stories that was a determining factor in why he was treated leniently by Acosta, resulting in the 2008 wrist-slap plea deal. This possible connection is sure to raise questions over whether Epstein's death was made to look a suicide.)
Following Maxwell's death, it was revealed that he had piled up enormous debt and had pillaged his employees' pensions. With much of her family's publishing empire gone, Ghislaine moved into a modest Upper East Side apartment, but soon met Epstein and began her climb in New York and Palm Beach society.
Documents unsealed on Friday only hours before Epstein's apparent suicide, part of Roberts Giuffre's now-settled lawsuit, depict an organized system to regularly provide Epstein with girls. Roberts Giuffre names a number of prominent men she claims she had sex with at Maxwell’s instructions in addition to Prince Andrew, including former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson and former Senate majority leader George J. Mitchell.
She also says Maxwell and Epstein directed her to have sex with "another prince," a "foreign president," a "well-known prime minister" and the owner of a "large hotel chain." None of the men named have been charged with a crime and all have denied inappropriate behavior.
"My whole life revolved around just pleasing these men and keeping Ghislaine and Jeffrey happy," Giuffre said in the deposition. "Their whole entire lives revolved around sex."
In a final indignity, Trump on Saturday ignored questions as to how Epstein could have died in federal custody and tried to cast doubt on the Justice Department's explanation of Epstein's death, retweeting a comedian's apparent conspiracy theory -- for which there is no evidence -- rejecting the notion that the death was a suicide and linking it to the Clinton family.