U.S. President Trump is raising eyebrows, yet again, for something he said. But this time it's not political (or at least, not yet) and is directed toward disgraced socialite Ghislaine Maxwell. During a coronavirus briefing on Tuesday, Trump gave well-wishes to Maxwell, the woman accused of serving as a de facto “madam” for billionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s child sex trafficking ring. The comments came after a reporter asked Trump if he expected Maxwell to begin naming names of powerful men who used Epstein for access to underage girls. “I don’t know,” Trump said. “I haven’t really been following it too much. I just wish her well, frankly.”
Maxwell was arrested earlier this month on charges related to conspiring to help Epstein traffic and abuse young girls. She is currently being held in a Brooklyn jail without bail after a judge deemed her a flight risk. “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. “But I wish her well, whatever it is.”
The internet immediately responded to Trump’s comments — and his failure to condemn a person accused of despicable things (remember his “very fine people” comments about Nazis?) — with speculation about why he chose kind words for someone being accused of abuse on a national level. “There's a fairly large possibility that Trump is being kind to Ghislaine Maxwell because she's got damning information on him and he doesn't want to trigger her,” tweeted writer Laura Bassett, kicking off a stream of Twitter theories regarding Trump and Maxwell's previous relations.
“In the aftermath of the Stone pardon,” a prosecutor in the Justice Department told POLITICO, referring to Trump recently granting clemency to Roger Stone, his former advisor, “it reeks of the president indicating to her that he might reward her if she’ll stay silent about whatever she knows about him.”
As the president himself admitted, he does know Maxwell, who, via Epstein is connected to a number of high-profile politicians. They ran in the same circles, particularly in the late-1990s and early 2000s, according to public photos. They were photographed together several times, and Maxwell appears in the background of a video showing Trump and Epstein together at a party at Mar-A-Lago. Epstein and Trump were friends for many years, until they had a falling out around 2004. “I had a falling-out with him. I haven’t spoken to him in 15 years,” Trump said last July. “I was not a fan of his, that I can tell you.”
It’s not possible yet to know why Trump really made these comments about Maxwell, just like it’s often not possible to know why he says any of the things he says. Even still, his refusal to acknowledge the heinous crimes Maxwell has been accused of is part of a larger pattern. “The president has nothing to say about a gun-toting madman who just murdered the son of a federal judge. But he takes time out of his press conference to send well wishes to a woman accused of trafficking teenager girls for sex,” the federal prosectuor told POLITICO. The fact that we’re still shocked by his seeming lack of sense or humanity is what’s perhaps the most surprising outcome of this.