What friendship? Donald dumps Epstein after child sex charges
In 2002, when Jeffrey Epstein was known only as a mysterious financial whiz with a private island and a roster of A-list friends, being friendly with him was something to boast about. And Donald Trump did.
"I've known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy," Trump told 'New York Magazine' that year for a story headlined 'Jeffrey Epstein: International Moneyman of Mystery'. "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."
Now Epstein (66) is in jail, charged with sex trafficking by federal prosecutors who allege he abused dozens of underage women in Palm Beach, Florida, and New York.
And now, Trump doesn't claim that friendship. Alan Garten, an attorney for the Trump Organisation, has said Trump had "no relationship" with Epstein.
Outside of Trump's own words, there is clear evidence that the two men - both members of the same high-flying societies in Manhattan and Palm Beach - socialised together in the past.
Epstein visited Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach and posed for photos there with Trump in 1997 and 2000. Epstein's voluminous personal address book - leaked by an Epstein employee in 2009 - contained 14 phone numbers for Trump, his wife, Melania, and members of his staff, according to media reports.
The relationship, whatever it was, appears to have cooled by 2007. Garten said in an interview on Monday that, although Epstein was never a member of Mar-a-Lago, Trump prohibited him from visiting the club around that time, as a reaction to criminal charges that had been filed against Epstein.
"He banned him from stepping foot on the property," Garten said. He said Trump's private attorneys were not contacted during the more recent investigation of Epstein, which resulted in a 14-page federal indictment. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
In the earlier case, Epstein pleaded guilty to Florida charges of soliciting prostitution to resolve allegations that he molested dozens of girls. That arrangement - overseen by then-US attorney Alex Acosta, who is now Trump's secretary of labour - has been widely criticised as too lenient. As part of the deal, Epstein had to spend a little more than a year in jail. (© The Washington Post)