Donald Trump stirred controversy at a press event on Tuesday when he was asked about the arrest of Jeffrey Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell on charges that she helped him to sexually abuse underage women, saying that he wished her well.
She has pleaded not guilty to the charges that she helped to recruit and sexually abuse young girls, and Axios noted that there is speculation she has information that could implicate other powerful figures in the sex trafficking ring. A reporter raised this issue to Trump, noting that the president had previously talked about Prince Andrew and criticized Bill Clinton’s connection to Epstein.
Trump responded by saying that he had known her from when he lived in Florida, saying twice that he wished her well.
“I don’t know, I haven’t really been following it too much. I just wish her well, frankly,” he said. “I’ve met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach and I guess they lived in Palm Beach. But I wish her well, whatever it is. I don’t know the situation with Prince Andrew, I just don’t know. Not aware of it.”
While Trump was seen on a number of times with Epstein and Maxwell — and reportedly had the deceased financier fly on his private jet — he has been sharply critical of the connections others had to them, including Clinton.
REPORTER: Do you feel Ghislaine Maxwell is going to turn in powerful men?— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 21, 2020
A POWERFUL MAN WHO HAS BEEN PHOTOGRAPHED WITH HER: I just wish her well pic.twitter.com/bmNLGEczdn
The answer drew some immediate criticism, with many questioning why Trump would express well wishes for a woman standing accused of sexually abusing young women, especially given the president’s past connections to her. Trump had not only been photographed with her at a number of social outings during his time in Palm Beach, but he also had been seen partying with Epstein and even praised the now-deceased financier and convicted sex abuser as a “terrific guy” and noted his penchant for younger women.
Others pointed out that Trump has declined opportunities to offer condolences for the thousands of Americans who have died during the coronavirus outbreak but did not seem to hesitate in offering warmer feelings toward the arrested socialite.
Trump shows more concern and care for Ghislane Maxwell, Epstein’s child sex trafficking ringleader, than he does for any of the 150,000+ families that have lost loved ones to COVID-19.— Matt Deitsch (@MattxRed) July 21, 2020
It’s mind numbing to think any person would openly align themselves with that kind of monster.
Maxwell maintains her innocence. As the Independent reported, she remains behind bars after a federal judge denied her bond, saying that she has “extraordinary financial resources” that could allow her to flee the country, despite restrictions in her jail due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Her trial is expected to start in July 2021.