Trump’s warm words for Ghislaine Maxwell: ‘I just wish her well’
By Ed Shanahan
President Donald Trump’s return to the White House podium on Tuesday to discuss the coronavirus pandemic took an unusual detour when he offered warm words for Ghislaine Maxwell, who is facing federal charges of helping Jeffrey Epstein recruit, groom and sexually abuse girls.
Trump’s comment about Maxwell, who was arrested in New Hampshire this month and is being held without bail in a federal jail in Brooklyn, came in response to a reporter’s question about whether he expected her to go public with the names of powerful men who have been accused in lawsuits of taking part in the sex-trafficking ring that Epstein allegedly ran.
“I don’t know,” Trump said. “I haven’t really been following it too much. I just wish her well, frankly.”
“I’ve met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach, and I guess they lived in Palm Beach,” the president continued, referring to the Florida town where his Mar-a-Lago resort is and where Epstein had a home. “But I wish her well, whatever it is.”
Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The remarks renewed attention on Trump’s ties to Epstein, who was arrested almost exactly a year before Maxwell, Epstein’s longtime companion. Epstein was charged in a federal indictment with sexually exploiting and abusing dozens of girls and women at his mansion in Manhattan and elsewhere, including at his Palm Beach estate.
A month after his arrest, Epstein, 66, hanged himself in his cell at the federal jail in Manhattan where he was awaiting trial. Federal prosecutors said after his death that they would continue to investigate his associates.
After Epstein’s arrest, Trump sought to distance himself from the disgraced financier, who had avoided federal sex-crime charges under a widely criticized plea deal in 2008 that allowed him to plead guilty to lesser state charges of soliciting prostitution. (A furor over the plea deal ultimately caused Trump’s labor secretary, who negotiated it, to resign.)
Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House last July, said he knew Epstein “like everybody in Palm Beach knew him.”
But, the president added: “I had a falling-out with him. I haven’t spoken to him in 15 years. I was not a fan of his, that I can tell you.” The circumstances of the rupture in their relationship have never been made clear.
Trump’s comments last year were a reversal from the opinion he expressed in 2002, when he told New York magazine that Epstein was a “terrific guy” whom he had known for 15 years.
“He’s a lot of fun to be with,” Trump said at the time. “It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”
Epstein was never a dues-paying Mar-a-Lago member, but Trump treated him like a close friend and the two men were photographed together at the club in the 1990s and early 2000s — Trump always wearing a tie, Epstein never wearing one. They also attended many of the same dinner parties in Manhattan.