Trump shares unfounded theory on Epstein death and Clintons

Financier accused of sex trafficking was found dead in a federal jail on Saturday

US president Donald Trump. Photograph: Yuri Gripas/Reuters

US president Donald Trump. Photograph: Yuri Gripas/Reuters

 

US president Donald Trump used Twitter on Saturday to promote unfounded theories about how Jeffrey Epstein, the financier accused of sex trafficking, died in a federal jail, even as the administration faced questions about why Mr Epstein had not been more closely monitored.

Hours after Mr Epstein was found dead in his Manhattan jail cell, having died by suspected suicide, Mr Trump retweeted a post from comedian Terrence Williams linking the Clintons to the death. Mr Epstein “had information on Bill Clinton & now he’s dead,” wrote Williams, a Trump supporter. In an accompanying two-minute video, Williams noted that “for some odd reason, people that have information on the Clintons end up dead.”

There is no evidence to substantiate the claim, which derives from speculation on the far right, dating to Bill Clinton’s early days as president, that multiple deaths can be traced to the Clintons and explained by their supposed efforts to cover up wrongdoing.

Responding to Mr Trump’s retweets, a spokesman for Bill Clinton mockingly wrote, “Ridiculous, and of course not true - and Donald Trump knows it.” The spokesman, Angel Urena, added: “Has he triggered the 25th Amendment yet?” The 25th Amendment contains a provision allowing for the removal of a president if he is unable to perform his duties, potentially in the event of mental instability.

Donald Trump retweeted Terrence K Williams on Saturday
Donald Trump retweeted Terrence K Williams on Saturday

Posting from his luxury golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, Mr Trump also shared a tweet, from an unverified account, which claimed that recently unsealed documents involving accusations of Mr Epstein’s abuse had revealed that Mr Clinton “took private trips to Jeffrey Epstein’s ‘pedophilia island.’”

A spokesman for Mr Clinton has denied that the former president travelled to Mr Epstein’s private island in the Virgin Islands. The documents unsealed Friday also include an acknowledgment from one of Mr Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Giuffre, that an earlier claim she made about Mr Clinton visiting Mr Epstein in the Caribbean was untrue.

Mr Epstein’s death, 12 days after being taken off suicide watch, prompted questions about the safeguards jail officials took to keep him alive and ensure he answered for allegations of sexual abuse.

The US justice department faced criticism, drawing outrage from accusers seeking justice and from legal experts questioning why officials deemed Mr Epstein was no longer at risk of taking his own life.

Attorney general William Barr said on Saturday that the justice department’s independent watchdog would conduct an inquiry into the circumstances of Mr Epstein’s death. The FBI also said it would investigate. The pair of retweets came on a day when Mr Trump expressed outrage on Twitter over what he called “dishonest” and “inaccurate” coverage of his presidency by the news media, including the New York Times. Mr Trump insisted that reports that several survivors of the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, last weekend had refused to see him when he visited their hospital Wednesday were false, but he provided no evidence.

Like Mr Trump, Mr Clinton had been friendly with Mr Epstein but broke ties with him many years ago. In a July statement Mr Clinton’s spokesman said the former US president had taken several trips with Mr Epstein on his private plane in 2002 and 2003 but that the men had not spoken in more than a decade. Mr Clinton “knows nothing about the terrible crimes” of which Mr Epstein was accused, the statement said.

Even before Mr Trump weighed in on the subject, US senator Marco Rubio said on Twitter that while scrutiny of Mr Epstein’s death was warranted, “the immediate rush to spread conspiracy theories about someone on the ‘other side’ of partisan divide having him killed illustrates why our society is so vulnerable to foreign disinformation & influence efforts.”

Earlier Saturday, one of the president’s senior appointees at the department of housing and urban development, Lynne Patton, posted a headline about Mr Epstein’s death on Instagram, perpetuating a debunked right-wing narrative. Including the comment, “Hillary’d!!” she also referred to Vincent Foster, the Clinton White House counsel who died by suicide in 1994 – a crucial episode in the unfounded theory tying the Clintons to allegedly suspicious deaths.–New York Times