Friday, February 26, 2016

Dirt on the Donald

The Republicans are beating themselves up for not doing oppo research on Donald Trump.
Multiple Republican campaign sources and operatives have confided that none of the remaining candidates for president have completed a major anti-Trump opposition research effort. There are several such efforts being run by outside conservative organizations. But those efforts are still gathering intel on the businessman after having started late in the primary season, these sources told The Huffington Post. And they worry that it may come too late.

"It is one of the many ways we underestimated him, I suppose," conceded one top Republican campaign official whose candidate has since exited the race.
You want to dig up some dirt on The Donald? Let me start you off with a name: Jeffrey Epstein.

The Republicans have long had good reason to avoid all mention of the Epstein scandal. Until recently, the most vulnerable candidate was Jeb Bush, governor of Florida when the sweetheart deal was made.

But Jeb is out of the race now, and the GOP establishment yearns for some means to take down Trump.

Here's a fun fact: The father of Virginia Roberts (Epstein's underaged "masseuse") worked for the Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, owned by one Donald Trump. Virginia worked in the same establishment, when she was all of 15 years old. (She looked rather younger, to judge from the photo I've seen).

Question: Is it common for a country club to employ girls of that age? Perhaps one of my readers can help me out here. I know many things, but I'm ill-educated on the subject of country clubs.

Incidentally, Trump may have another reason to regret ever purchasing the Mar-a-Lago: It turns out that Trump -- the candidate who insists that American jobs should go only to American citizens -- employed many guest workers from eastern Europe.

(Would you consider me a sensationalist if I mentioned, in this context, the fact that Jeffrey Epstein routinely surrounded himself with young girls imported from eastern Europe? Would you consider me terribly scurrilous if I also mentioned, in this context, the Yugoslavian topless model who may well be our next First Lady? If this hasn't alienated evangelical voters, nothing will.)

In a 2002 interview, Trump bragged about being Epstein's friend, and noted their shared interest in beautiful women. The Donald even admitted that The Jeffrey liked girls "on the younger side." Clearly, our potential next president was well aware of Epstein's dangerous tastes.

I don't see any proof that Trump had anything to do with introducing Roberts to Epstein, but the possibility is tantalizing.
In the late 1990s, Roberts was recruited to perform a massage for Epstein while working as a $9-per-hour locker room attendant at Mar-A-Lago. Roberts' father also worked at Mar-A-Lago, which is located about 3 miles away from Epstein's estate, as a maintenance manager.
(At this stage, let's make one thing very clear: Donald Trump is in no position to accuse me or anyone else of trading in conspiracy theories, considering his history of making claims far more outrageous than anything you'll see here. What's good for the goose is good for the Donald.)

Trump was served with a subpoena in connection with the Epstein case. In the following passage from a Vice News investigation, "Garten" is Trump's lawyer, Alan Garten...
When asked about a subpoena served to Trump in 2009, Garten said it "never happened." The subpoena called for Trump to give a deposition in a case against Epstein; Garten's denial baffled Brad Edwards, one of Virginia Roberts' attorneys.

"There is no debate over what happened," Edwards told VICE news. "I served Mr. Trump with a subpoena for deposition in 2009. He talked to me voluntarily, and consequently we withdrew the subpoena in light of his voluntarily providing information…. I can't imagine there being any dispute of any of this."

Edwards also said that it is "obvious" Trump himself was not involved in any of Epstein's illicit activity.

Three days after denying the subpoena, Garten emailed VICE News.

"Brad [Edwards] called me to let me know that you had reached out to him," Garten said. "I looked back at my records and saw that Mr. Trump was subpoenaed.
The article later says that Brad Edwards spoke to Trump after the subpoena was served, and that Trump convinced Edwards that he (Trump) had no connection to any of Epstein's unsavory activities.

Some would argue that the shifting nature of Garten's story tells us something about Trump's lawyer. (Is this the same brilliant jurist who made lawsuit noises against Bill Maher and Ted Cruz?) Let us give the attorney the benefit of the doubt: Memory can be a tricky thing.

Oppo research is also tricky. The question before us is simple: Can the Republicans make use of any of this?

Perhaps not -- at least, not in any obvious way. The person who recruited young women for Epstein's harem -- Ghislaine Maxwell -- is the daughter of Robert Maxwell. He was a Mossad asset, and it seems quite possible that the daughter has emulated the father. There is some reason to posit that Ghislaine used Epstein as a cover for a sexual blackmail operation.

(This may be a good time to remind readers that the entire basis of Epstein's vast fortune remains mysterious.)

Maxwell also appears to know Trump. Garten has denied that the two know each other well.

As you know, Bill Clinton's name has popped up in many articles about Jeff Epstein. You'd think that the GOP would love to make this connection Topic A in our national conversation. But even here, the Republians face a serious problem.

Although many have tried, it's impossible to use the Epstein case to besmirch Bill Clinton without also conceding the truth of the claims which Virginia Roberts has made against lawyer Alan Dershowitz. Like it or not, no-one has accused Clinton of sexual impropriety in this case. But Roberts has accused Dershowitz of rape.

I doubt that the GOP wants to antagonize Dershowitz. But I just don't see any way to use the Epstein scandal as a cudgel against Trump or Clinton while leaving Dershowitz out of it. Either Roberts is believable or she isn't. You can't cite her as a credible witness only on those occasions when the target is someone you don't like.

The above-linked Vox story includes this passage:
In a 2011 interview with her attorneys, Virginia Roberts, one of the teenagers preyed upon by Epstein, said he had told her he had "compromising" information on Bill Clinton and that the former president "owes me a favor."
This claim -- which you can find all over the net -- is more than a little problematic. In fact, I would go so far as to call it false.

Just when and where did this interview take place, and why can't we see the actual document? Why was there no mention of this interview until after the Dershowitz allegations surfaced?

I've checked the origin of this oft-heard assertion of "compromising information." Apparently, it all traces back to this sensationalistic story in Radar online, published on January 23, 2015. (If memory serves, I discussed this article in a previous post.)
During the trip, she said in the interview, Clinton was there with two of Epstein’s regular girlfriends and “two young girls that I could identify. I never really knew them well anyways. It was just two girls from New York.”

Clinton stayed in one of the “four or five different villas on the island separate from the main house,” she alleged.
“I remember asking Jeffrey, ‘What’s Bill Clinton doing here?’ kind of thing and he laughed it off and said ‘Well, he owes me a favor,’” Roberts alleged. “He never told me what favors they were.”

“He told me a long time ago that everyone owes him favors,” she said. “They’re all in each other’s pockets.”

Roberts said in a sworn statement filed in court earlier this week that despite some media reports, she never had sex with Clinton, nor witnessed him having sex with anyone else.
Nota bene: There is nothing here about "compromising information." That term seeped into the story later. And where is this 2011 interview with Roberts' lawyer?

Although Radar does everything it can to skew the story against Clinton, the actual text indicates that the girls were with Epstein, not Clinton. The phrase "owes me a favor" could refer to the fact that Epstein flew Clinton and Kevin Spacey to a conference in Africa. Virginia Roberts explicitly denied any sexual activity with Clinton -- a denial suspiciously (and tellingly) missing from nearly all subsequent versions of this story.

Since we do not have the actual interview, we must therefore rely on Radar's version, which is obviously biased toward sensationalism. That's a big problem.

What Roberts said under oath is quite different from the story now being told in so many places. I've quoted this passage from her deposition in a previous post:
I have seen reports saying or implying that I had sex with former President Bill Clinton on Little Saint James Island. Former President Clinton was present on the island at a time when I was also present on the island, but I have never had sexual relations with Clinton, nor have I ever claimed to have had such relations. I have never seen him have sexual relations with anyone.
It is fascinating to trace the way the story has morphed from that paragraph to the much more sordid tale published in Vice News (and in many other places).

That same Vice News story offers documentary proof that Epstein's links to Trump were more substantial than were any links to Clinton:
In 2000, both Trump and Epstein reportedly attended a small party hosted by media magnate Conrad Black, who in 2007 was convicted and served time in prison for fraud and obstruction of justice (the fraud charges were overturned on appeal). Black is currently an enthusiastic supporter of Trump's presidential bid.

Mark Epstein, Jeffrey's brother, testified in 2009 that Trump flew on Jeffrey's private jet at least once. Meanwhile, message pads [see below] from Epstein's Palm Beach mansion that were seized by investigators and obtained by VICE News indicate that Trump called Epstein twice in November of 2004.

Garten said Trump had never been to Epstein's home. But a 2002 story in Vanity Fair listed Trump as one of a small group of mega-rich businessmen, including newspaper publisher Mort Zuckerman and Revlon chairman Ronald Perelman, who periodically dined with Epstein at his Palm Beach estate. And a 2003 story in New York reported that Trump had dined at Epstein's Upper East Side home, a nine-story building that is reportedly the largest private residence in Manhattan.
Here's another fascinating passage from the Vice inquiry:
Among people listed in the phone book were well-known political figures such as Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, Tony Blair, former Utah governor and Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, Senator Edward Kennedy, and Henry Kissinger. Also listed were major political contributors like David Koch and Pepe Fanjul.

All those names were listed alphabetically at the front of Epstein's telephone book, along with the names of Trump's former wife, Ivana, his daughter Ivanka, and his brother, Robert.

Epstein created a number of other odd categories, including one called "Jeffrey." There were dozens of names in the Jeffrey category, including Ehud Barak, Alan Dershowitz, then–Senator John Kerry, former senator and lobbyist George Mitchell, powerhouse DC lobbyist Thomas Quinn, and David Rockefeller.

Trump was also listed in this section. Under his name were 14 phone numbers, including emergency numbers, car numbers, and numbers to Trump's security guard and houseman.
It appears that Trump cut ties to Epstein a few weeks after the non-prosecution agreement was reached. On October 15, 2007, the New York Post reported that Mar-A-Lago had barred Epstein because he hit on a masseuse at the club. Epstein denied to the the Post that he had been banned. One of the Jane Doe attorneys told VICE News a slightly different account, saying that he had been told Trump broke ties with Epstein after Epstein tried to pick up the underage daughter of a Mar-A-Lago club member.
My take on all of this? It looks to me as though Trump -- whose political ambitions were starting to solidify in 2007 -- belatedly understood that there might be a downside to befriending a guy like Epstein, the notorious lover of beautiful girls "on the younger side." Trump severed all ties with Epstein only after the scandal broke.


That's our next president, folks: Mr. Classy.

I posted it earlier but it may interest readers here. Does Donald Trump have mob ties?
This post does a good job of explaining the scandal, but also why neither party is going to touch this. I also suspect that if everything was known about Epstein, various prominent media figures would be implicated - so another reason this story probably goes nowhere.

I read "interview with her attorneys" to mean a meeting between Virginia Roberts and her attorneys, presumably while they were deciding whether to take her case or during its early formulation; is this is the case, the document isn't publicly available because it would be considered privileged communication.

The 2011 date would support this, as her suit against Epstein wasn't filed until early 2015.

LOL, the very name that leapt out to me, too.
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