Disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein died while awaiting trial this weekend in what jail officials say was a suicide — bringing one of the highest-profile prosecutions in the nation to an abrupt conclusion.
The sex trafficking charges against Epstein filed last month were notable for many reasons: the scope of his alleged crimes, his wealth and influence, and the controversial non-prosecution agreement the Justice Department struck with him a decade earlier. But they also got a good deal of attention because of Epstein’s past ties to President Donald Trump.
There are all sorts of unsupported speculation and dark conspiracy theories related to Epstein and Trump —but here’s our understanding of the known facts right now.
In the years before Epstein’s 2007 guilty plea to solicitation of prostitution with a minor, he was known for “collecting” friendships with many noteworthy or influential people — including Donald Trump, who were social acquaintances.
Trump reportedly attended Epstein-hosted events in New York and Florida, as Epstein patronized the Mar-a-Lago Club. In 2002, Trump even gave a remarkable on-the-record comment about Epstein to a New York magazine journalist, calling him “terrific” and adding that he “likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”
So, at the very least, Trump was friendly with someone who turned out to be a very bad guy.
By Trump’s own description, his social relationship with Epstein started several decades ago, in the late 1980s. Describing Epstein to Landon Thomas Jr. of New York magazine for a 2002 profile, Trump made a comment that, in retrospect, was frighteningly on-the-nose:
“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.”
In other words, Trump praised Epstein, dated their social relationship as beginning around 1987, said they shared a taste for “beautiful” women, and specifically noted that Epstein liked women “on the younger side.”
Since Epstein’s legal troubles became known, Trump’s attorneys have tried to downplay his association with Epstein. But even beyond Trump’s own words further up, there’s a good deal of evidence that the two were more than just social acquaintances.
Media reports from the late 1990s and early 2000s frequently mention Trump attending Epstein-hosted social events, and Epstein attending events at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club.
“Friends and associates” of the pair told the Washington Post that Epstein and Trump “had socialized for years, drawn together by a mix of money, women and power.”
NBC News recently aired a video from 1992 of Trump and Epstein together at a Mar-a-Lago party, discussing women and laughing together.
The New York Times reported that Trump asked Epstein to organize a “calendar girl” party at Mar-a-Lago — and said he and Epstein would be the only men in attendance.
The New York Times also reported that Epstein has claimed to people that he introduced Donald Trump to Melania.
Trump called Epstein several times, according to message pads seized from Epstein’s Florida mansion by the government.
Several phone numbers for Trump, including an emergency contact and a number for Trump’s security, were among many notable people’s numbers listed in Epstein’s “black book” (which was later obtained by the government).
Epstein’s brother Mark testified that Trump flew on Epstein’s plane “numerous times.”
At some point around the time of Epstein’s legal problems, Trump started spreading the story that he banned Epstein from Mar-a-Lago for making sexual advances to a masseuse. However, the New York Times reported that by some accounts the two men only fell out “after a failed business arrangement between them.”
Trump’s name has also come up in legal wrangling around Epstein — albeit for very different reasons.
The Katie Johnson lawsuit: An anonymous woman sued Trump in 2016, claiming that in 1994, he violently raped her at an orgy hosted by Epstein. She said she was 13 years old at the time, and accused Epstein of raping her as well. She filed the lawsuit in New York under “Jane Doe.” But ended up withdrawing her lawsuit days before the 2016 election after receiving multiple “death threats.”
In his defense, Trump said that “the allegations are not only categorically false, but disgusting at the highest level and clearly framed to solicit media attention or, perhaps, are simply politically motivated.”