억만장자 제프리 엡스타인(66)의 미성년 성범죄 사건으로 미국 사회가 떠들썩하다. 엡스타인은 10년 전 같은 범죄로 종신형 선고를 받을 뻔했지만, 이례적인 불기소 처분을 받아 특혜논란에 휘말린 바 있다. 거액의 재산 축적과정과 빌 클린턴 전 대통령과의 밀월관계에 대해서도 오랫동안 의혹이 제기돼 왔다.
Jeffrey Epstein was arrested on July 6 after landing at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey upon his return from a trip to France. Epstein was previously indicted in 2007 on charges he abused underage girls, but reached a controversial plea deal, in which he served only 13 months in a low-security facility that allowed him to work from his office each day.
Epstein now faces federal charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking that may lead to him spending the rest of his life in prison. DOJ officials have indicated that they expect the charges against Epstein to expand as they delve further into the case. Attorney General William Barr has said he will not recuse himself from the newly opened Epstein case, although he “will remain recused from any retrospective review” of Epstein’s earlier case in Florida.
Questions surrounding Epstein have existed for a long time, including the source of his wealth and his relationship to former President Bill Clinton, who, according to flight logs, flew on Epstein’s personal jet 26 times.
Trump’s Plane Flight to New York City
Much of the mainstream media has chosen to focus on President Donald Trump’s past social ties to Epstein. In 2002, Trump was quoted in an article from New York Magazine, which was one of the first publications to profile Epstein following a well-publicized trip he took to Africa with Clinton:
“‘I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy,’ Trump booms from a speakerphone. ‘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.’”
This quote, along with a plane flight that Trump took on one of Epstein’s planes, has been used to portray the president as being close to Epstein. But a closer examination highlights how this characterization is likely inaccurate.
In a Sept. 21, 2009, deposition of Mark Epstein, Jeffrey’s brother, the plane flight that involved Trump was specifically discussed. Mark Epstein was asked if he had ever met Donald Trump and allowed that he had one time—on a flight from Florida to New York aboard the smaller of Jeffrey Epstein’s planes:
Mark Epstein: “We flew up on my brother’s plane from Florida together. Donald was on the plane.”
Mark Epstein: “Somewhere between 5 and 10 years ago.”
Q: “Okay. So we are talking about -”
Mark Epstein: “It’s either late ’90’s early 2000. Probably more like late ’90’s.”
Q: “Was that the only time you’ve met Donald Trump?”
Mark Epstein: “Yes.”
As mentioned, the flight took place on Jeffrey Epstein’s smaller plane—not the larger 727 that has been dubbed the “Lolita Express”:
Q: “Was this one of the big planes, the 727?”
Mark Epstein: “No. It wasn’t that one, no.”
Q: “Okay. How many people were on this airplane?”
Mark Epstein: “It was my brother, myself, Donald, the pilot the co-pilot.”
It appears that Trump hitched a ride back to New York on Jeffrey Epstein’s smaller plane following a stay at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. It also appears that this may be the only time that Trump flew on one of Jeffrey Epstein’s planes.
Q: “What was the purpose of Donald Trump riding on your brother’s airplane?”
Mark Epstein: “You’ll have to ask Donald. I think he wanted a ride back to New York.”
In January 2016, Trump’s attorney Alan Garten told Vice News that “the presidential candidate had ‘no relationship’ with [Jeffrey] Epstein, and only knew him because Epstein was a member of Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club and residence in Palm Beach.”
Trump Bars Epstein From Mar-a-Lago
During a December 2018 interview with YouTube user The Conscious Resistance, Bradley Edwards, an attorney who represented some of Jeffrey Epstein’s victims in a Palm Beach civil case, discussed how Trump was the only one willing to help him on the case against Epstein.
“The only thing that I can say about President Trump is that he is the only person who, in 2009 when I served a lot of subpoenas on a lot of people, or at least gave notice to some pretty connected people that I wanted to talk to them, [Trump] is the only person who picked up the phone and said, ‘Let’s just talk. I’ll give you as much time as you want. I’ll tell you what you need to know,’” Edwards recalled.
Edwards added that Trump “was very helpful, in the information that he gave, and gave no indication whatsoever that he was involved in anything untoward whatsoever, but had good information that checked out and that helped us.”
Best-selling author James Patterson, who wrote a book on Epstein titled “Filthy Rich,” has stated that Trump banned Epstein from Mar-a-Lago. In a recent interview on Fox News, Patterson said: “There were some complaints about Epstein at Mar-a-Lago. I spoke to the head of the spa there. … She said she went to Trump, and he threw [Epstein] out of the club.”
A similar version of events was reported in a December 2018 article by The Washington Post, which noted that Trump had permanently banned Epstein from Mar-a-Lago “because Epstein sexually assaulted an underage girl at the club,” according to court documents filed by Edwards.
The Washington Post article also noted that all sides agreed that Trump’s involvement in the Epstein case was only tangential and wouldn’t even require his testimony:
“Lawyers involved with the various Epstein cases said there is virtually no chance that the president will be required to testify in a matter in which both sides agree his involvement was tangential.”
On July 9, 2019, in response to questions, Trump commented on Epstein, saying: “Well, I knew him, like everybody in Palm Beach knew him. People in Palm Beach knew him. He was a fixture in Palm Beach.”
But Trump continued: “I had a falling out with him a long time ago. I don’t think I’ve spoken to him for 15 years. I wasn’t a fan. I was not—a long time ago, I’d say maybe 15 years. I was not a fan of his. That I can tell you. I was not a fan of his.”
Trump Under a Microscope
Despite Trump having been under close investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller for nearly two years, no information relating to Epstein was brought up.
But the Mueller investigation was not the only scrutiny that Trump has been subjected to. The Washington Times reported in a December 2017 article, that Glenn Simpson and his firm, Fusion GPS—which were behind the so-called “Steele dossier” on Trump—had tried to push “the idea of a close relationship between Mr. Trump and Jeffrey Epstein,” but failed to find any actual issues or events relating to the president.
“The Trump–Epstein link appears purely social, far short of Mr. Clinton’s 20-plus plane rides on Epstein’s ‘Lolita Express’ private jet around the globe in the early 2000s,” reported The Washington Times.
Trump is one of, if not the, most vetted presidential candidates in U.S. history. It seems almost certain that if there had been an untoward association with Epstein’s activities, it would have been unearthed long ago.
It appears, however, that other well-known figures might be caught up in the Epstein scandal. Christine Pelosi, the daughter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, highlighted the potential fallout in a July 6 tweet:
“This Epstein case is horrific and the young women deserve justice. It is quite likely that some of our faves are implicated but we must follow the facts and let the chips fall where they may – whether on Republicans or Democrats.”
Bill Clinton’s Ties to Epstein
It has long been reported that former U.S. President Bill Clinton has ties to Epstein, and on July 8, 2019, in response to Epstein’s arrest, a Clinton spokesperson issued a short statement saying the former president “knows nothing” about the “terrible crimes” Epstein had been charged with:
“In 2002 and 2003, President Clinton took a total of four trips on Jeffrey Epstein’s airplane: one to Europe, one to Asia, and two to Africa, which included stops in connection with the work of the Clinton Foundation,” the statement said.
“Staff, supporters of the foundation, and his Secret Service detail traveled on every leg of every trip. He had one meeting with Epstein in his Harlem office in 2002, and around the same time made one brief visit to Epstein’s New York apartment with a staff member and his security detail. He’s not spoken to Epstein in well over a decade, and he has never been to Little St. James Island, Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico, or his residence in Florida.”
Clinton’s statement may be factually correct, but it also appears to be a potential lie by omission. Note that Clinton’s statement only addresses flights on Epstein’s jet that took place in 2002 and 2003. Clinton states that he’s not spoken to Epstein in “well over a decade.” In other words, the Clinton statement leaves the years prior to 2002 and the period from 2004 to 2008 notably unaddressed.
In a 2016 article, Fox News reported that, based on a review of flight logs, Clinton had made “at least 26 trips” aboard Epstein’s private jet, which has been called the “Lolita Express” in media reports. The flight logs indicate that Clinton flew without a Secret Service detail for at least five of the flights.
The Fox article specifically mentions 2001, a year not covered by Clinton’s statement, as being a period in which Clinton traveled aboard the Epstein jet:
“Trips between 2001 and 2003 included extended junkets around the world with Epstein and fellow passengers identified on manifests by their initials or first names, including ‘Tatiana.’ The tricked-out jet earned its Nabakov-inspired nickname because it was reportedly outfitted with a bed where passengers had group sex with young girls.”
It’s possible that the former president is correct in his assertion that he has never been to Little St. James Island, Epstein’s private island. Indeed, Fox reported that flight logs do not show Clinton aboard any flights to St. Thomas, the nearest airport to Little St. James.
What does seem clear is that Clinton was a frequent traveler on Epstein’s 727 jet. According to the article, these same flight logs “show Clinton flying aboard Epstein’s plane to such destinations as Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, China, Brunei, London, New York, the Azores, Belgium, Norway, Russia and Africa.”
The article also notes that those regularly traveling with Clinton included “Epstein’s associates, New York socialite Ghislaine Maxwell and Epstein’s assistant, Sarah Kellen, both of whom were investigated by the FBI and Palm Beach Police for recruiting girls for Epstein and his friends.”
During one 5-stop Asia trip that took place in May 2002, no Secret Service agents were included in the flight logs. Fox News attempted and failed to force the Secret Service to answer requests under the Freedom of Information Act regarding the lack of agents on this trip.
Clinton’s repeated presence on Epstein’s plane also is noted during an Oct. 15, 2009, deposition of Epstein pilot Larry Visosky:
Q: You had Bill Clinton on the airplane ten or twenty times, right?
Visosky: Yeah. He’s my main focus. I remember him being on the aircraft, sure.
At the February 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference, in the runup to the 2016 presidential election, Trump indicated to Fox’s Sean Hannity that Bill Clinton’s connections to Epstein would prove problematic for the former president:
“Nice guy. Got a lot of problems coming up, in my opinion, with the famous island, with Jeffrey Epstein. A lot of problems.”
According to a 2007 letter sent by Epstein attorneys Alan Dershowitz and Gerald Lefcourt, Epstein was part of the original group that conceived of the formation of the Clinton Global Initiative, a now-defunct division of the Clinton Foundation:
“Mr. Epstein was part of the original group that conceived the Clinton Global Initiative, which is described as a project ‘bringing together a community of global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges.’”
The claim by Epstein’s attorneys was first reported by Fox News in 2016. Epstein donated $25,000 to the Clinton Foundation in 2006.
Epstein’s Mysterious Past
Epstein has been described as both a billionaire and a money manager for billionaires. It’s likely that both descriptions are incorrect.
Epstein’s status as a billionaire evolved from court statements that came from an earlier civil case in West Palm Beach, Florida. Despite a judicial order, Epstein had initially refused to “divulge any information about his net worth other than to say its [sic] upwards of $50 million.”
The judge in the case threatened Epstein with the forced disclosure of his tax returns unless he provided a more definitive accounting of his net worth. In papers filed with the U.S. District Court, Epstein’s attorneys stated he was worth “more than nine figures,” which, depending on your reading, leaves the matter open to interpretation. Nine figures equate to Epstein being a multi-millionaire. Ten figures would mean Epstein was a billionaire.
No documents were ever actually produced to back up this claim, and Epstein’s actual wealth remains tenuous at best. In 2010, Forbes reported on Epstein’s billionaire designation, noting that Spencer Kuvin, an attorney who represented three of Epstein’s alleged victims, told the magazine that “in the litigation itself we were never able to get him to produce verified financial information. The ‘nine figures’ came by negotiation. It kept going up and up and up. They started at zero—they wouldn’t tell us at all.”
Epstein has never been ranked or listed on the Forbes 400 list, and in a recent revisiting of the Epstein case, Forbes reporters noted that “Forbes has never included Epstein, 66, in its rankings of the World’s Billionaires, since there is scant proof he holds a ten-figure fortune.”
As Bloomberg noted, “Today, so little is known about Epstein’s current business or clients that the only things that can be valued with any certainty are his properties.”
Equally nebulous is Epstein’s stature as a money manager for billionaires. The reported source for Epstein’s wealth is his money management firm, The Financial Trust Co., located in the U.S. Virgin Islands. But no records from the firm have ever been made public, nor has any client list been released. One known former Epstein client is Leslie Wexner, the billionaire founder of Limited Brands, now known as L Brands, but Wexner reportedly severed ties with Epstein more than 10 years ago.
It has been speculated that Wexner was the primary source of Epstein’s wealth. At one point, Wexner assigned Epstein fiduciary power “over all of his private trusts and foundations,” according to a 2003 Vanity Fair article that relied on interviews with Epstein and people close to Wexner.
The strangeness of this relationship was first highlighted to New York Magazine by a Wall Streeter who knows Epstein. “It’s a weird relationship,” the source said.
“It’s just not typical for someone of such enormous wealth to all of a sudden give his money to some guy most people have never heard of.”
In the 2003 Vanity Fair article, Vicky Ward pointed to some early signals that Epstein might not be what he seemed:
“You won’t find Epstein’s transactions written about on Bloomberg or talked about in the trading rooms. ‘The trading desks don’t seem to know him. It’s unusual for animals that big not to leave any footprints in the snow,’ says a high-level investment manager.”
For a man reputed to have been managing at least $15 billion—all for billionaires—it would seem all but impossible that Epstein wouldn’t be known to the Wall Street trading desks. Additionally, Epstein reportedly employed no portfolio managers or analysts, telling people that he handled the entire investment side of the business himself, with all other employees being purely administrative.
Epstein, for reasons unknown, was also reported to be highly selective when it came to his clients. In the New York Magazine article, famed mergers and acquisition lawyer Dennis Block said that he once sent Epstein a $500 million client, only to have Epstein turn the client down. Block noted: “Both the client and I were amazed. But that’s Jeffrey.”
The Vanity Fair article quotes Epstein as saying: “Very few people need any more money when they have a billion dollars. The key is not to have it do harm more than anything else. … You don’t want to lose your money.” But then the article goes on to discuss Epstein’s supposed heavy involvement in currency trading—a market that is both volatile and risky. Hardly the place one goes to safely invest and preserve your client’s money.
The article also reported that “Epstein had several meetings with Harold Levin, then head of Wexner Investments, in which he enunciated ideas about currencies that Levin found incomprehensible.”
Ward, who no longer works for Vanity Fair, has recently detailed how her reporting for the 2003 story was meant to include a significant section concerning allegations made by two young women that Epstein had sexually assaulted one of them while she was underage.
Vanity Fair responded to an inquiry by The Daily Beast, stating, “Epstein denied the charges at the time and since the claims were unsubstantiated and no criminal investigation had been initiated, we decided not to include them in what was a financial story.”
The Bear Stearns Hedge Fund
Epstein reportedly got his start in the financial world while working for investment bank Bear Stearns but abruptly left the firm in 1981 under less than clear circumstances. Some media reports indicate Epstein was forced out. Other reports indicate that Epstein left of his own volition. But whatever the reason behind his departure, Epstein may have kept financial ties with the firm in place.
The Miami Herald reported that “as part of the plea deal, Epstein provided what the government called ‘valuable consideration’ for unspecified information he supplied to federal investigators.” It remains unknown exactly what information was provided by Epstein, but as the Miami Herald notes, “Epstein’s sex crime case happened just as the country’s subprime mortgage market collapsed, ushering in the 2008 global financial crisis.”
According to the Herald’s reporting: “Records show that Epstein was a key federal witness in the criminal prosecution of two prominent executives with Bear Stearns, the global investment brokerage that failed in 2008, who were accused of corporate securities fraud. Epstein was one of the largest investors in the hedge fund managed by the executives, who were later acquitted. It is not known what role, if any, the case played in Epstein’s plea negotiations.”
The fact that Epstein was reported “one of the largest investors” in the Bear Stearns hedge fund runs contrary to his portrayal as the sole and direct manager of his clients’ funds and raises questions as to the purposes behind any management fees.
Rumors of blackmail have surrounded Epstein for years. In a 2015 court filing, Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre said that Epstein “trafficked” her to “to many other powerful men, including politicians and powerful business executives.” She stated that “Epstein required me to describe the sexual events that I had with these men presumably so that he could potentially blackmail them.”
(원제: Jeffrey Epstein’s Ties to Clinton, and His Questionable Source of Wealth)