The press secretary of former President Bill Clinton issued a statement on July 8, saying that Clinton "knows nothing about the terrible crimes" related to Jeffrey Epstein—the billionaire registered child sex offender who was arrested in New Jersey on July 6 on sex trafficking charges.
According to an indictment unsealed by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, Epstein, 66, sexually abused and exploited dozens of girls, some as young as 14, in New York and Florida. The documents were published online (pdf) by the court on July 8.
“President Clinton knows nothing about the terrible crimes Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty to in Florida some years ago, or those with which he has been recently charged in New York,” the statement from Clinton's press secretary, Angel Ureña, states.
The statement goes on to note that Clinton had taken "a total of four trips" on Epstein's plane. At least two of those trips, in 2002, involved Clinton meeting with Epstein.
“In 2002 and 2003, President Clinton took a total of four trips on Jeffrey Epstein’s airplane: One to Europe, one to Asia, and two to Africa, which included stops in connection with the work of the Clinton Foundation.
"Staff, supporters of the Foundation, and his Secret Service detail traveled on every leg of every trip. He had one meeting with Epstein in his Harlem office in 2002, and around the same time, made one brief visit to Epstein's New York apartment with a staff member and his security detail."
The statement then points out that Clinton has "not spoken to Epstein in well over a decade" and "has never been to Little St. James Island, Epstein's ranch in New Mexico, or his residence in Florida."
Clinton's statement on Epstein didn't mention any financial ties between them. The Daily Beast reported that the COUQ Foundation, a former charity under Epstein, donated $25,000 to Bill and Hillary Clinton's charity in 2006, and that COUQ is on a list of former and present donors on the Clinton Foundation’s website.
It's unclear how many flights were involved in each of the four trips that Clinton disclosed in his statement. However, flight logs indicate that Clinton made 26 separate trips aboard Epstein’s 727 jet, infamously known as the “Lolita Express,” after press reports alleged that the plane had a bed that was used for sex with young girls.
In 2015, Gawker reported that flight logs (pdf) also showed that both Clinton and Epstein were aboard a 2002 domestic flight between Miami and Westchester County, New York.
Epstein was arrested on July 6 at Teterboro Airport near New York City, after his private jet touched down from France. He is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a federal detention facility, before appearing at the Manhattan courthouse for his bond hearing on July 8.
Epstein will remain in federal custody until at least July 15, when his bail hearing will resume.
According to the latest charges (pdf), from 2002 up to at least or about 2005, Epstein “enticed and recruited minor girls to visit his mansion in Manhattan, New York, and his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, to engage in sex acts with him, after which he would give the victims hundreds of dollars in cash.”
Authorities noted that Epstein "paid certain of his victims to recruit additional girls to be similarly abused" to maintain and increase his supply of victims. The girls were as young as 14 and Epstein was aware some of them were underage because they directly told him.
A Previous Plea Deal
In 2007, Epstein was accused of operating an international child sex ring at his Palm Beach mansion and 72-acre private island estate in the Caribbean—Little St. James Island.
The minor-aged girls, mostly 13 to 16 years old, were often transported from the United States to his island estate on the "Lolita Express."
Epstein's July 6 arrest came months after the Department of Justice issued a strongly worded statement on Feb. 6, announcing an internal investigation of the plea deal made in 2007 regarding accusations that Epstein molested more than 100 underage girls over an eight-year period.
The plea agreement saw Epstein become a registered sex offender, after he pleaded guilty in 2008 to just two counts of soliciting a prostitute.
He avoided serious time behind bars, serving just 13 months in a Florida jail, in exchange for giving undisclosed information to the authorities. During that time, he was afforded a work-release program that allowed him to leave the jail for 12 hours each day, six days a week, and work unsupervised at his downtown West Palm Beach office.
His 13-month sentence is believed to be one of the most lenient in U.S. history for a serial sex offender.
A federal judge ruled on Feb. 21 that prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida broke the law when arranging the plea deal, because they failed to notify Epstein’s alleged victims during plea negotiations, in violation of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act.
Jack Philips, Zachary Stieber, and Melanie Sun contributed to this report.