The next presidential election is only about 500 days away, and it could become one of the ugliest races in recent memory.
The infighting between Democrats over who will secure their party’s nomination has already revealed that this election cycle will be a mud-slinging contest, but now a proverbial hand grenade has been tossed into the mix: Jeffrey Epstein.
Epstein, as you probably know by now, is the billionaire fund manager and convicted sex offender now facing charges of sex trafficking of underage girls. That’s chilling enough, but the case could become intertwined with national politics due to Epstein’s many connections to the rich and famous.
He has rubbed elbows with some big names in both Democratic and Republican circles. Outlets such as the Daily Mail and Gawker published a list of the billionaire’s contacts several years ago, and not one but two U.S. presidents appear on the list, all but guaranteeing that the case will add to the rising 2020 drama.
“The document’s existence was disclosed in a series of papers marked Epstein v Edwards at the Federal Court for Southern Florida,” the Mail explained when the evidence came to light.
“The list was cited as an exhibit — and therefore entered into court records — as lawyers for women who alleged they were abused by Epstein brought a damages claim against him,” the report said.
An FBI affidavit details how the list ended up in the hands of investigators and then the media. Epstein employee Alfredo Rodriguez called the list the “Holy Grail” or “Golden Nugget” that would map out the billionaire’s alleged underage sex network. Rodriguez first tried to sell it to journalists; instead, authorities seized it as evidence.
You can view the so-called black book here, with sensitive information such as phone numbers and the names of possible victims redacted. Some well-known names will jump out, with Donald Trump and Bill Clinton among them.
“Donald Trump, Courtney Love, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and uber-lawyer Alan Dershowitz may have been identified by a butler as potential ‘material witnesses’ to pedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s crimes against young girls,” Gawker reported in 2015.
“An annotated copy of the address book, which also contains entries for Alec Baldwin, Ralph Fiennes, Griffin Dunne, New York Post gossip Richard Johnson, Ted Kennedy, David Koch, filmmaker Andrew Jarecki, and all manner of other people you might expect a billionaire to know, turned up in court proceedings after Epstein’s former house manager Alfredo Rodriguez tried to sell it,” the outlet continued.
Some notes in the document raise red flags, such as the handwritten word “witness” next to several names. But while all of the people on the list no doubt will face questions and scrutiny, the exact nature of the document is still vague.
It’s possible that the list was simply a phone directory used by the billionaire as he wined and dined his way through the upper echelons of society. We know, for example, that Epstein patronized Mar-a-Lago, a resort owned by Trump.
“I know him, just like everybody in Palm Beach knew him,” Trump said Tuesday, according to Fox News. “People in Palm Beach knew him. He was a fixture in Palm Beach.
“I had a falling out with him a long time ago. I don’t think I’ve spoken to him in 15 years. I was not a fan.”
Indeed, court documents show that Trump and Mar-a-Lago banned Epstein because he “sexually assaulted an underage girl at the club,” Fox News reported.
Many of Epstein’s contacts are on the other side of the political aisle. Clinton seemed to be particularly chummy with the accused sex trafficker and flew on the billionaire’s private jet multiple times.
“[I]t is quite clear that Mr. Clinton spent a lot of time on Jeffrey Epstein’s private jet, found his way to Epstein’s private island. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that anything illegal or improper took place,” Miami Herald investigations editor Casey Frank told NPR on Monday.
“His political contributions have been mostly on the Democratic side, but they tapered off or stopped completely when he found himself in hot water in South Florida,” Frank said.
While questions remain, it is undeniable that Epstein cultivated a network of powerful people around the globe. Whether that will implicate other big names in the scandal remains to be seen.
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