While Donald Trump deals with the aftermath of lewd comments he made about women back in 2005, the public still has not gotten any real answers about at least another potentially problematic aspect of Trump’s history: his past friendship with billionaire and convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Trump’s friendship with Epstein has been largely untouched in the mainstream press, and those around Trump have been reluctant to provide details on the nature of the two billionaires’ relationship.
Epstein, who reportedly ran a sex ring where he trafficked young girls to his elite circle of friends, served time in jail for soliciting an underage prostitute and has reached out of court settlements with 17 of his then-underage victims. He’s been the subject of an almost endless string of court cases. (For a deeper look at Epstein’s abuse of underage girls, see this 2010 piece from The Daily Beast.)
Epstein’s ties to Clinton and Prince Andrew have largely overshadowed his ties to Trump.
Clinton allies have yet to makes Trump’s Epstein ties a campaign issue.
Then again, any attacks on Trump over his ties to Epstein would almost certainly guarantee that Trump would bring up Clinton’s own documented Epstein ties, including flight logs showing that Clinton took at least 26 trips on Epstein’s infamous private sex plane, dubbed the “Lolita Express.”
To the extent that Trump’s representatives have been asked about his ties to Epstein, they’ve tried to downplay the two billionaires’ relationship.
Last January, Trump attorney Alan Garten told Vice News that his client had “no relationship” with Epstein.
In a statement to The Daily Caller on Sunday, Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said that “Mr. Trump only knows [Epstein] socially through the Mar-a-Lago Club, one of the finest private clubs in the world.”
But Trump talked up his friendship with Epstein before the latter’s arrest and public fall from grace.
“I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy,” Trump told New York Magazine for a 2002 profile of Epstein. “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.”
And when FBI investigators looked through Epstein’s private address book, they found 14 different phone numbers for Trump, including numbers for his security guard and houseman. Epstein also had numbers for Trump’s daughter Ivanka and his ex-wife Ivana.
When put under oath, Epstein admitted that he had “socialized” with Trump. But Epstein chose to exercise his Fifth Amendment rights when asked: “Have you ever socialized with Donald Trump in the presence of females under the age of 18?” Epstein similarly pleaded the fifth when asked about his relationship to Bill Clinton.
Trump rode on Jeffrey Epstein’s private plane at least once, according to the deposition of Mark Epstein, Jeffrey’s brother. That number pales, however, to Bill’s 26 trips on the “Lolita Express.”
In June, Trump was accused in a lawsuit of raping one of Epstein’s 13-year-old sex workers. Trump’s attorney has called the lawsuit a “publicity stunt.” The case is scheduled for a hearing in mid-December, after the election.
A week later, The Daily Beast ran a story titled “The Billionaire Pedophile Who Could Bring Down Donald Trump And Hillary Clinton.”
A month after the lawsuit surfaced, the Huffington Post ran an opinion article titled “Why The New Child Rape Case Filed Against Donald Trump Should Not Be Ignored.”
That article, however, focused more on Trump’s past behavior with women, largely ignoring his friendship with Epstein. The author of the story, NBC legal analyst Lisa Bloom, left out altogether Clinton’s ties to Epstein.
Outside of the smattering of articles mentioning the lawsuit, Trump’s relationship with Epstein has yet to receive any consistent press coverage during the 2016 election. Clinton’s ties, too, have yet to be seriously discussed so far this election.