As the Democratic National Convention approaches, it has been reported that Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the embattled chair of the Democratic National Committee, will resign after the convention following the release of nearly 20,000 internal DNC emails by Wikileaks on Friday.
While much of the coverage of the email leaks so far has focused on what appears to be evidence of DNC favoritism towards Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, another sketchy topic that comes up in one of the leaked email threads has received less media attention (although it has received some). The thread from May of this year shows a back and forth between DNC and White House staff about whether the lawyer for a billionaire and convicted pedophile with questionable ties to both the Clintons and Donald Trump could host a fundraiser, ultimately concluding that allowing him to host would be inappropriate (“no hosting, fine to attend”).
The attorney in question is Roy Black, who according to one of the emails has a “Wild reputation, has defended unsavory characters” and “parties with flagged celebrities” including perhaps Justin Bieber and Rush Limbaugh, who the email mentions Black as having represented. More crucially, however, Black has defended Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted pedophile who has been accused of abusing dozens of underage girls and who has alarming ties to both sides of the 2016 presidential election circus. Indeed, the extent of those ties is becoming increasingly clear as the election race heats up.
It has been known for some time that Bill Clinton, who was accused of rape and sexual misconduct while president and faced impeachment over the Monica Lewinsky scandal, flew in Epstein’s private jet – the “Lolita Express” – on multiple occasions and visited Epstein’s private “Orgy Island.” In May of this year it came to light that Clinton had flown on Epstein’s plane more than twice as many times as previously known, at least 26 times between 2001 and 2003.
Earlier this year, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump called former President Clinton “one of the great woman abusers of all time” and Hillary Clinton “an enabler.” During Clinton’s presidency, Trump said, “a lot of things happened that were very seedy.” He even once said, over a year ago, that Bill Clinton had “a lot of problems coming up, in my opinion, with the famous island with Jeffrey Epstein.”
But given Trump’s tendency to shoot his mouth off on seemingly any subject, no matter who might be offended, and to seemingly have no problem citing questionable sources for his various assertions, his subsequent silence on Clinton’s relationship with Epstein has seemed strange. The Clinton-Epstein connection was extensively reported in mainstream outlet The Daily Beast, among others, not only on obscure fringe blogs.
Trump’s relative silence on the Epstein issue may be more understandable, however, in light of allegations that recently became public when an anonymous accuser filed a federal lawsuit against Trump alleging that he raped her decades ago when she was 13 years old and threatened to have her entire family killed if she ever said anything, and that she met him at one of Epstein’s parties. An attorney for Trump has reportedly said the allegations are “categorically untrue, completely fabricated and politically motivated.” A report that backers of Trump’s accuser are an eccentric and dysfunctional group with political agendas to push seems to lend some credibility to that narrative.
Still, it seems clear that Trump is playing the same plausible deniability game that he has throughout the presidential campaign, such as he did after mocking a New York Times reporter with a disability, or when he claimed to not “know anything” about former KKK leader David Duke. An attorney for Trump has reportedly denied any relationship with Epstein aside from Epstein’s membership in a private club that Trump owns in Palm Beach, Florida.
Yet Trump reportedly attended Epstein’s parties in New York in the 1990s on a regular basis. It was nearly fifteen years ago that Trump told New York Magazine that he had, at the time, already known Epstein for fifteen years, and called him a “terrific guy.” Despite his lawyer’s claim that “Mr. Trump has NEVER been accused of having any involvement or even having any knowledge of any of Mr. Epstein’s conduct by anyone,” Trump has, like Bill Clinton, reportedly ridden in Epstein’s private jet, as well as dining at his mansion in Palm Beach. In 2002 Trump said Epstein was “a lot of fun to be with,” adding that “it is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”
The sordid saga of Jeffrey Epstein and his disturbing connections to the rich and powerful continues to unfold. Aside from the DNC email leak revelation showing that Democratic operatives are mindful of the potential PR problems posed by Epstein, for example, a video emerged this month showing a 2005 police search of Epstein’s home and the decidedly creepy contents therein.
It was also reported this month that Epstein’s lawyers once claimed that the financier helped start the Clinton Foundation, and Epstein did in fact give at least $25,000 to the organization, whether or not his claims of involvement in founding the foundation are overblown. Interestingly, Trump himself has reportedly given 10 times this amount to the Clinton Foundation. If this strikes you as odd, you are not alone. Conspiracy theorists who see something strange in Trump’s relationship with the Clintons include Washington Post columnist George Will, along with former Florida governor (and son of a former director of central intelligence) Jeb Bush.
As the latest DNC email leaks show, there are plenty of unanswered questions about what is going on behind the scenes of the 2016 presidential race, as well as the candidates’ past activities. As became clear in the recent high-profile investigation of Hillary Clinton’s custom private email server that she used as secretary of state, which came close but fell just short of getting her indicted earlier this month, many of those questions revolve around the Clinton Foundation. Unfortunately, it could be quite some time before we learn all the answers to them, if we ever do.
As the 2016 U.S. presidential election cycle progresses, the severe inadequacy of both major candidates is increasingly clear. The level of apparent corruption and criminality that has been exposed on both sides is nothing short of bewildering. It all might be laughable, were it not for the grim reality that in all likelihood the next president of the United States will be either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.