Published On: Tue, Jul 9th, 2019

Jeffrey Epstein, the Billionaire With Ties to Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, & More, Charged With Sex Trafficking Minors

US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announces charges against Jeffery Epstein

**Content warning: sexual assault, child abuse, sex trafficking.**

For years, billionaire Jeffrey Epstein has been living proof that if you’re rich enough and well-enough connected, our laws do not apply to you and serious repercussions for even the most heinous crimes are not something you have to worry about.

In 2007, Epstein was convicted of abusing dozens of underage girls. He pleaded guilty to sex trafficking and received barely a slap on the wrist—just 13 months in prison for crimes that would normally carry a life sentence. This “extraordinary plea agreement” was thanks in part to the prosecutor in the case, Alex Acosta, who illegally withheld information from Epstein’s victims.

As for just how big a role money, connections, and political aspirations played in Epstein’s sentencing, Acosta is currently Donald Trump’s secretary of labor. Trump, a close friend of Epstein’s, refused to call for Acosta’s resignation after his role in that plea deal came out earlier this year. Epstein also got his start working for Attorney General Bill Barr’s father.

I’m not saying any those things are directly related as one big conspiracy–just that this is the world these people live in, one where the favors that can be bestowed by men like Epstein outweigh the needs of sexually abused minors, and that those who play the game, who offer protection and culpability, can see their ambitions fulfilled. Epstein has boasted about his “collection” of famous friends, saying in a 2002 profile, “I invest in people — be it politics or science. It’s what I do.”

As of today, Epstein has again been arrested and charged with abusing underage girls, some as young as 14. According to the indictment, which was unsealed today, Epstein “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls,” but he also paid some of his victims to recruit other girls, creating “a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit”.

During a search of his home Saturday, investigators seized “a vast trove of lewd photographs of young-looking women or girls.” Even after he was convicted of abusing girls, he still kept these photos. In arguing against bail, the federal prosecutors in the case wrote that this makes it entirely clear that Epstein “is not reformed, he is not chastened, he is not repentant.”

According to the indictment, these crimes took place at Epstein’s homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, “among other locations.” Epstein’s parties were infamous, as was his private plane, which he was known to fill with celebrities and, according to writer Michael Wolff in one profile, “model-like” teenage girls. Trump took at least one trip on that plane and during the 2016 election, an anonymous woman accused Trump of having raped her at a party at Epstein’s New York mansion in 1994. She was 13 at the time.

That woman dropped her lawsuit, saying she had received threats and was too scared to continue. But Trump’s relationship with Epstein and his attendance at those parties is no secret; nor are Epstein’s proclivities. Here’s what Trump said about his friend, proudly and publicly in a 2002 profile:

“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.”

Trump’s relationship with Epstein is disturbing, but he is by no means the only ultra-powerful man to have close social ties to the convicted pedophile. Bill Clinton was also in Epstein’s “collection” of friends and took trips on that plane. The collection is vast and includes at least a few other men who have been either accused or convicted of sex crimes, including Bill Cosby and Kevin Spacey.

The whataboutism is sure to be strong when talking about Epstein, so let’s be clear: If there is more immediate attention paid to Trump’s relationship with Epstein than, say, Bill Clinton’s, that’s valid because Trump is the current president of the United States and that needs to be addressed. His ties to Epstein as well as his own possible actions deserve the absolute highest level of immediate scrutiny because of the amount of power he currently holds. But this is not about partisan politics. This is about holding these men accountable. Every single one of them.

Epstein is the living embodiment of pretty much everything driving the modern #MeToo movement. It’s not just the monstrous acts of the individual that need to be stopped. You don’t need to be a billionaire to have systemic support protecting you from the consequences of your actions, but men like Epstein have networks of powerful people working to keep their crimes buried.

Today, reporter Vicky Ward commented on a profile of Epstein that she wrote in 2002. She had comments from a woman and her two daughters, one of them on 16 at the time, whom Epstein had tried to “seduce.” According to Ward, Vanity Fair’s then-editor Graydon Carter cut the entire section from the profile, apparently as a favor to Epstein.

Men like Epstein don’t work alone, and hopefully every single person who helped cover his tracks is held accountable.

(image: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

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