Monday, July 22, 2024

Analysis | Trump and Jeffrey Epstein: No links shown in latest documents

Analysis | Trump and Jeffrey Epstein: No links shown in latest documents

“Something I’ve heard that doesn’t seem to be being covered are the Epstein files. These files were released. And, like, Donald Trump is sort of all over this. There are pictures of him with Epstein. He’s taken multiple plane flights with Epstein with young girls on board. He’s in call logs with Epstein. One of the highest trending hashtags on Twitter right now is about Trump and Epstein. … You all might want to look at that. Because that’s highly disturbing.”

— Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), remarks to reporters, July 9

Florida Circuit Judge Luis Delgado unsealed nearly 200 pages of grand jury testimony last week related to the 2006 Florida case involving disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was alleged to have raped teenage girls. In 2019, after he was charged in federal court with sex trafficking of minors, guards found Epstein dead in his cell at a federal jail in New York. Investigators said he hanged himself.

The documents showed that prosecutors had heard testimony about Epstein assaulting teenage girls before they cut a plea deal with him in 2008 that was kept from victims and provided for lenient work-release. “The details in the record will be outrageous to decent people,” Delgado wrote in his order. “The testimony taken by the grand jury concerns activity ranging from grossly unacceptable to rape — all of the conduct at issue is sexually deviant, disgusting, and criminal.”

But Donald Trump’s name never appears anywhere in the transcripts.

That hasn’t stopped Democrats — perhaps seeking to distract from President Biden’s travails — from suggesting on social media that there’s a disturbing connection between the former president and a sex predator. Some social media posts have claimed that Trump was mentioned in a draft indictment released last week, but that’s false. Only 2006 grand jury testimony was released.

Julie K. Brown, the Miami Herald journalist whose diligent reporting forced a reopening of the Epstein case, has valiantly tried to point out the errors on X, but the misinformation keeps spreading. “I’ve come to believe that the American public won’t pay for the truth,” she lamented. “They would rather believe the lies they get for free on the internet.”

(Trump may have fueled some of this speculation by hedging in a recent Fox News interview about whether he’d seek to release all documents related to Epstein. “You don’t want to affect people’s lives if it’s phony stuff in there,” he said.)

When we asked Lieu’s office for evidence to back up his speculation, we were supplied with a variety of old Washington Post articles that explored the links between Trump and Epstein. But, contrary to Lieu’s statement, none shows that Trump engaged in anything inappropriate. Let’s explore what’s in the public record.

‘Pictures of him with Epstein’

Trump has acknowledged that he and Epstein were in the same Palm Beach social circle decades ago. But their relations appeared to have ended by the time Epstein’s legal troubles began.

There are numerous photos of Trump and Epstein. In 2019, NBC News released video of Trump keeping company with Epstein at a 1992 party with NFL cheerleaders. At one point, Trump points out someone to Epstein and appears to say, “She’s hot!”

In 2002, Trump was quoted in a profile 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.”

But as The Washington Post reported, the relationship soured in 2004 after the two men battled over acquiring a choice Palm Beach property, an oceanfront mansion called Maison de l’Amitie. Trump won the auction, and phone records — the call logs Lieu referenced — indicate that the two men did not communicate after that. Two weeks after the auction, Palm Beach police received a tip that young women were seen coming and going from Epstein’s home — which led to the grand jury investigation.

‘Multiple plane flights with Epstein’

Many prominent people, including former president Bill Clinton, flew on Epstein’s jet. Trump took at least seven flights with Epstein in the 1990s, according to flight logs released as evidence in the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, an Epstein associate who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for helping him sexually abuse girls. Lieu claimed that “young girls were on board,” but no evidence of that has surfaced. The ages of passengers were not recorded in the logs.

Trump took flights between Palm Beach and New York City airports. A June 1994 flight lists some of the other passengers as Marla and Tiffany, an apparent reference to Trump’s then-wife, Marla Maples, and their less than 1-year-old daughter.

‘Highly disturbing’

Trump was briefly mentioned in about 1,000 pages of documents released in January in a separate case involving a defamation suit filed against Maxwell by an alleged victim, Virginia Giuffre. (Lieu’s staff sent an article about those documents.)

But these were minor references.

In a 2016 deposition of Giuffre that was released, she was asked about Trump. Giuffre said she had been recruited by Maxwell when she was a 17-year-old spa attendant at Mar-a-Lago.

“I don’t think Donald Trump participated in anything,” she said. “That would have to be another assumption. I never saw or witnessed Donald Trump participate in those acts, but was he in the house of Jeffrey Epstein.”

She said that anyone who visited Epstein’s house would have seen his many nude photos of women displayed on the walls. “These are salacious acts of girls, young girls doing things to each other that would be considered child pornography,” Giuffre testified. “If you walked foot into Jeffrey Epstein’s house and you went in there and you continued to be an acquaintance of his then you would have to know what was going on there.”

Meanwhile, Johanna Sjoberg, one of Epstein’s other alleged victims, was quoted as saying Epstein’s plane made an unplanned stop in Atlantic City between 2001 to 2006. There is no indication they saw Trump, and she said she never gave Trump a massage.

The documents also included emails from an accuser who made allegations against Trump but then withdrew them. (Separately, a woman with the pseudonyms Katie Johnson and Jane Doe accused Trump of raping her in Epstein’s home when she was 13; those filings were dismissed or withdrawn years ago.)

In a statement, Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said: “Ted is a total degenerate and loser who continues to beclown himself. He has let Trump Derangement Syndrome rot his brain and, instead of getting the proper care he so desperately needs, has allowed himself to be the laughingstock of all his colleagues, who secretly joke about his glaring short comings.”

Lieu’s office did not comment beyond providing links to articles.

The Pinocchio Test

As we have documented, 17 women have claimed Trump engaged in sexual misconduct. A Manhattan jury found that Trump sexually abused and defamed one woman on our list. But no credible allegation has emerged to connect Trump to any of Epstein’s crimes.

Lieu is a member of Congress who doesn’t need to rely on dubious social media posts for his information — especially if he’s going to make a statement like this. Trump wasn’t mentioned in the latest batch of Epstein documents. He was barely mentioned in the earlier batches. Rest assured — if Trump were prominently mentioned, it would have been a huge story.

Lieu earns Four Pinocchios.

Four Pinocchios

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