By Branko Marcetic
The trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was disappointing for those hoping it would blow the lid off the Jeffrey Epstein sex ring. But the trial and new reporting have shown Epstein's relationship with political elites runs even deeper than we already knew.
Donald and Melania Trump, and Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell pose together at the Mar-a-Lago club, Palm Beach, Florida, 2000. (Davidoff Studios / Getty Images)
The past few years have been disappointing for anyone hoping the public would learn the full scope of Jeffrey Epstein’s child sex trafficking operation. Epstein himself is dead, having mysteriously pulled off a suicide during a high-security prison stay filled with unexplained irregularities, and prosecutors targeting his coconspirator, Ghislaine Maxwell, opted for a fairly conservative case that has kept a lid on details that might have revealed more of the picture of who was involved.
But it’s easy to overlook the fact that, as minimal as it was, the trial has added to our understanding of the Epstein case, principally through the unsealing of more years of the financier’s flight logs and some details in witness testimony, coupled with years of reporting on the case.
We’ve long known about Epstein and Maxwell’s long friendship with Donald Trump, but the trial has made clear just how extensive these connections were.
The big headline news of the release of Epstein’s flight logs last December was that Trump flew on Epstein’s private jet — the one nicknamed “The Lolita Express,” a knowing wink at Epstein’s predilection for underage girls, whom he would transport on the plane — far more than was previously known. Trump flew on the plane at least seven times, and on two occasions took his children, Eric and Tiffany, as well as his ex-wife Marla Maples and a nanny.
Another log shows Trump flew in April 1993 with Epstein and Erin Nance, who is explicitly identified as “Miss Georgia, runner up Miss USA.” Nance, who was indeed crowned Miss Georgia in 1993 but fell short of the top prize later that year, had thirteen phone numbers listed in Epstein’s second address book, whose existence had been unknown until Business Insider obtained it last year, including several numbers for her parents (both home and work numbers).
Three years after that flight, Trump would buy the Miss Universe Organization, which included the Miss USA pageant that Nance (now Erin Hill) competed in, as well as the Miss Teen USA pageant, owning them until 2005. Besides picking the finalists and winners, Trump’s been accused by numerous former contestants of ogling them, kissing them, and barging into a dressing room while they changed — a charge made by multiple Miss Teen USA contestants, and one Trump freely admitted to in a 2005 interview with Howard Stern.
In the course of the trial, one of Maxwell’s accusers, known only by the synonym “Jane,” testified that not only had she taken part in one of the Miss Teen USA pageants owned by Trump, but that Epstein took her when she was only fourteen years old to Mar-A-Lago, where he introduced her to the future president. (It’s not clear in what order these discrete events took place).
This isn’t Epstein’s only link to the beauty world. We know now the sex offender used his close and still-mysterious relationship with Leslie Wexner, the Ohio billionaire and former owner of Columbus-based Victoria’s Secret, to lure victims, posing as a talent scout for the company. For years, Victoria’s Secret worked with models represented by a talent agency owned by Epstein associate Jean-Luc Brunel, which one Epstein survivor alleged in court he used to traffic underage girls into the United States from overseas (Brunel has now been arrested and charged with rape of a minor as part of a probe into Epstein). In her 2015 book TrafficKing, investigative reporter Conchita Sarnoff wrote that Epstein used the “modelling business to source underage girls for sex.”
Another Trump connection in the logs is Celina Midelfart, a Norwegian heiress and socialite, who Epstein’s former pilot and Maxwell’s former assistant both testified had dated Epstein in the mid-90s while he was in a relationship with Maxwell, and who later reportedly dated Trump until he met his current wife, Melania. Midelfart has vehemently denied dating either man, though she shows up numerous times on flights without Maxwell present — a relatively uncommon occurrence in the logs — and has numerous phone numbers listed in Epstein’s black book, including that of her summer house and her mother.
All of it hints at a much deeper and potentially even sleazier relationship between the two men. Trump had infamously told New York magazine in 2002 that he’d known Epstein, a “terrific guy,” for fifteen years, and that he “likes beautiful women as much as I do,” with many of them “on the younger side.” As photos and video footage suggests, for years the two partied together, including one instance in 1992 when Trump had dozens of women flown to Mar-a-Lago for a “calendar girl” competition where only he and Epstein were the audience.
As Trump was running for president in 2016, he was hit with a lawsuit by a woman alleging both Trump and Epstein raped her in 1994 when she was thirteen, at parties held by the latter, a charge backed up by an affidavit from a woman who “recruited” her for Epstein. She later dropped the suit, according to her lawyer, because of a flurry of death threats and hacking attempts. Epstein also reportedly claimed to have introduced Trump to Melania, at the time a Slovenian model, a claim strongly denied by one of Trump’s friends who takes credit for the pairing. Last year, Business Insider reported on the presence of Suzanne Ircha (now Johnson), Melania Trump’s best friend, in Epstein’s address book from the 1990s.
Despite all this, Trump and the oligarch-backed movement behind him have managed to redirect outrage around the Epstein case into the absurd QAnon mythos, which Trump and his political allies have taken to winking at in public. QAnon, whose entire basis is a series of anonymous message board posts, puts Trump, perversely, at the head of a secret battle against a pedophilic elite that’s, conveniently, made up exclusively of Democrats, prominent liberals, and other political opponents of the former president.
Of course, one of the defining features of the Epstein case is that the financier pedophile wasn’t aligned with just one political faction, but was cozy with US elites across the political spectrum, a fact further reinforced by recent revelations.
Most prominent was Epstein’s friendship with former Democratic president Bill Clinton, whose presence on Epstein’s flight logs made waves when they were first revealed years ago. The expanded release prompted by the trial shows Clinton aide Mark Middleton — whose many phone numbers appear in both of the Epstein address books unearthed — flew four times on Epstein’s plane in May 1994 alone, and once with Trump, his then-wife Marla, and their daughter.
Clinton had previously claimed he had only met Epstein a handful of times, even as evidence quickly emerged that he had been raising money from and meeting with him from the start of his presidency. Roughly the same time in 2019, unearthed records from Epstein’s 2008 prison stint showed he was visited at least twenty times by Arnold Paul Prosperi, a longtime Clinton associate and fundraiser who was among the flurry of controversial pardons the former president made in his final days in office, commuting his prison sentence for fraud to house arrest.
One of the defining features of the Epstein case is that the financier pedophile wasn’t aligned with just one political faction, but was cozy with US elites across the political spectrum.
While Maxwell’s trial was going on last December, the Daily Mail revealed through a FOIA request that Epstein had visited Clinton’s White House at least seventeen times, his first visit in February 1993 coming through an invitation from “Rubin,” most likely Robert Rubin, the Wall Street banker who later became Treasury secretary and helped engineer the 2008 financial crisis. Those visitor records also show Epstein numerous times visited Middleton, who went on to tar Clinton with scandal by using his presidential connections to cash in after leaving the White House in 1995.
At least some of Middleton’s activities were for official Clinton business. Middleton, who raised money for and served as the director of the Clinton Birthplace Foundation, also worked on soliciting funds for Clinton’s future presidential library, refusing to cooperate in a subsequent GOP-led Congressional probe of Democratic fundraising. According to one book on Epstein, the seed money for another of these post-presidential projects, the Clinton Foundation’s Global Initiative, may have come from Epstein.
Further illustrating how closely connected this Epstein-linked strata of American society is, among the presidential library’s files was a copy of The Art of the Deal given to Middleton and personally inscribed by — who else? — Trump. Lest we forget, years later as he weighed up jumping in the Republican presidential race, Trump was personally encouraged by Clinton to do so.
Dems the Breaks
Clinton is by no means the only Democrat. Former Senate majority leader George Mitchell (D-ME), who prominent Epstein survivor Virginia Giuffre has accused of sleeping with her, shows up five times on the flight logs between 1994 and 1995, three of those times with his wife.
In other words, Mitchell, who later called Epstein “a friend and a supporter” who “organized a fund-raiser for me once,” was consorting with the sex trafficker in at least his final year in one of the country’s most politically powerful roles. Mitchell went on to oversee the Philadelphia archdiocese’s payment of compensation for survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of priests, assailed by critics at the time as a ploy to get abuse victims to sign away their right to sue.
Another former congressman listed on the flight logs is former representative Tom McMillen (D-MD), who’s listed as flying on Epstein’s jet twice on January 29, 1993 — twenty-six days after he left Congress. McMillen went on to have a prolific and controversial career in the private sector, with the Baltimore Sun comparing him to a “carnival barker” as he attempted to cash in on the burgeoning homeland security industry in the wake of September 11 with a “blank check company” — firms without any business plan, that exist to raise money from investors for a future, unspecified deal.
Numerous phone numbers for McMillen, who appears to have had a home in Epstein’s fiefdom of Palm Beach, are listed in both of Epstein’s address books. One lists him as a congressman, while the other lists his email at Washington Capital Advisors, the private equity firm he owned and served as CEO for since 2004, according to SEC filings, suggesting their acquaintance extended well past that one day in January 1993.
The logs also suggest how Epstein’s still-never satisfactorily explained relationship with Leslie Wexner — who gave Epstein unilateral control of his finances and practically gifted him his Manhattan home — drew in a wider world of elites. The July 5, 1992 log, for instance, shows Steve Tuckerman, the local construction executive who built the Georgian homes in Wexner’s idyllic, affluent neighborhood of New Albany, flying with his wife Judy from Aspen (where Wexner owned a home) to nearby Columbus. Wexner’s wife Abigail, who Judy Tuckerman has called a friend, flew on two of the legs of that trip.
Also flying with Epstein were Yehuda and Zipora Koppel, jetting together with the Tuckermans to Paris in September 1997. The Koppels are the parents of Abigail Wexner, making them the in-laws of the man widely believed to be the chief source of Epstein’s mysterious wealth.
In 2007, as Epstein was being charged by prosecutors in what would end up his first, remarkably lenient prison stay, Abigail Wexner formed and then quickly dissolved the YLK Charitable Fund, named for the initials of her father. It soon received a $47 million donation from Epstein at the same time that he sold his New Albany home to the couple for $0, and just one month before he was replaced as Leslie Wexner’s financial manager. Epstein’s involvement in the charitable foundation was then used to secure his unusually generous work release, which he used to continue abusing girls while he was meant to be in prison for that very crime.
Epstein’s connection to the Koppels has gotten little notice until now. Yehuda Koppel, who died in 2006, had been a prominent Israeli military figure during the 1948 war that led to the country’s founding (and to the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians). Afterward, he oversaw the development of Israel’s state-owned airline, El Al, in the United States, becoming its director.
Like many airlines in the Cold War era, El Al had a close relationship with its national intelligence agency, operating at times as a front for Mossad operations, most notably in the arrest of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in 1960. Its connection to the intelligence world appeared to continue decades later, when leaked South African spy cables showed the country’s intelligence services backing up a whistleblower’s claims that the airline was a cover for spy work.
Epstein’s relationship to Koppel is only one of several of his possible murky connections to the Israeli national security establishment. Most notable is the late Robert Maxwell, the newspaper magnate and father of Ghislaine, who according to multiple reports was the one who introduced Epstein to his daughter and, according to the deposition of Brunel’s bookkeeper, “started” Epstein’s wealth.
Epstein’s relationship to Koppel is only one of several of his possible murky connections to the Israeli national security establishment.
Famed Israeli spy Rafi Eitan (who incidentally led the Eichmann operation) told Gordon Thomas, author of a history of the Mossad, that he used Maxwell for the “crowning achievement” of his spying career: selling rigged terrorist-tracking software to foreign governments that allowed Israeli intelligence to secretly vacuum up the data they were all collecting. Thomas later put the claim in an affidavit.
Four sources, including Epstein’s former business partner, told journalist Vicky Ward that Epstein worked for various governments, including Israel, and that Maxwell had introduced Epstein to Israeli leadership, who decided they could make use of him. Ward had earlier reported that Alexander Acosta, Trump’s labor secretary and the prosecutor who had cut Epstein his lenient non-prosecution deal back in 2008, had explained that he’d been told Epstein “belonged to intelligence.” Authorities later found a fake passport used to enter several countries in the 1980s, along with diamonds and cash in a safe, in Epstein’s Manhattan mansion.
The Cue for Q
The Jeffrey Epstein saga is the story of the world’s most prolific child sex trafficker who operated more or less unhidden for decades, but was able to consistently escape media scrutiny, legal punishment, and, finally, justice by dying before he went to trial. In a normal world, this tale of sprawling criminality and public corruption would be the subject of an intense, wide-ranging government investigation that would expose the conspiracy’s full scope and the identities of those involved.
Instead, information about the case continues to come in dribs and drabs, thanks only to the work of a few dogged reporters and the occasional fortuitous legal disclosure, limited in this most recent trial by the judge’s order to avoid “needless” naming of names, and prosecutors’ decision to leave tens of thousands of photos seized from Epstein’s home by the FBI unreleased. The public may end up having to wait for the civil suit against Prince Andrew or for Maxwell herself to strike some kind of deal to learn more.
Just as with the John F. Kennedy assassination, obscuring the full truth of the crime has only fed the growth of disreputable nonsense like QAnon, which serves to launder and distract from the intimate involvement of elites like Trump in Epstein’s crimes, turning them into yet another culture war sideshow. This is the double tragedy of Epstein’s death: it’s denied many of his survivors full justice, and turned the terrible truth of his crimes into a shield for his fellow perpetrators.
Thanks to: https://jacobinmag.com