The Epstein list: Vanity Fair ex-staffers deny claim Clinton tried to kill Epstein story

Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump were among more than 200 people whose names appeared in documents unsealed this week.

Jeffrey Epstein, wearing a gray T-shirt and looking at the camera, in 2017.
Jeffrey Epstein in 2017. (New York State Sex Offender Registry via AP)
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Court documents related to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and unsealed this week include the names of several prominent figures. Among them: former President Bill Clinton and former President Donald Trump.

Neither Clinton nor Trump was accused of any wrongdoing in the new material, the first batch of which was released by a federal court on Wednesday evening.

Where did the documents come from?

The acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York points to a photo of Jeffrey Epstein and girlfriend and accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell during a news conference in 2020.
A photo of Epstein and girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell at a news conference in 2020. (John Minchillo/AP)

The documents — which total nearly 1,000 pages — were part of a 2015 defamation lawsuit brought against Epstein and his former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell by Virginia Giuffre, one of their accusers. (Maxwell was convicted of child sex trafficking in 2021.)

In the documents, Giuffre alleged that many of the sexual encounters occurred under the guise of massages that Maxwell, a British socialite, procured for Epstein and others.

Giuffre claimed that while she was a teenager, Epstein and Maxwell pressured her into sexual encounters with powerful men, including Prince Andrew. Giuffre reached an out-of-court settlement with Andrew, who denied her allegations.

U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska ordered the unsealing of the documents in mid-December, saying that most of the information and names in them were already public.

What do they say about Clinton and Trump?

The newly unsealed documents include the transcript of a 2016 deposition in which a second accuser, identified as Johanna Sjoberg, testified that Epstein "said one time that Clinton likes them young, referring to girls." She did not elaborate.

Sjoberg testified that Epstein told her he would take her to Trump's Atlantic City casino but did not allege any wrongdoing. She also said in a deposition that Prince Andrew had touched her inappropriately at Epstein's mansion in New York.

In all, Clinton's name appears 73 times in the documents unsealed Wednesday; Trump's name appears four times.

Vanity Fair staffers deny claim Clinton tried to squash Epstein story

Side-by-side close-up photos of former President Bill Clinton and Epstein.
Former President Bill Clinton and Epstein. (Lev Radin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images, Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images)

A second trove of unsealed documents released Thursday contained an email in which Giuffre claimed that Clinton tried to stop Vanity Fair from publishing a story about Epstein's sex trafficking of girls. In the email, dated May 30, 2011, Giuffre said she was considering speaking to the magazine for a story it planned to publish on Prince Andrew, but that she was concerned because "B.Clinton walked into VF and threatened them not to write sex-trafficing articles about his good friend J.E."

Graydon Carter, Vanity Fair's editor in chief at the time, denied the claim, telling the Telegraph that "this categorically did not happen."

And Vicky Ward, a former Vanity Fair contributing editor who profiled Epstein in 2003, told CNN she wonders if Giuffre was conflating the incident with one that did happen, when Epstein appeared at the magazine's offices after he learned two sisters had spoken to Ward about their alleged abuse.

"The fact checker who was fact-checking my piece at the time sent me an email saying, 'Oh my god he's standing here in the office,'" Ward said, adding that the allegations were subsequently cut from the piece that was ultimately published.

What was Clinton's relationship with Epstein?

The former president has acknowledged that he had flown on Epstein's plane and had met with the jet-setting financier on several occasions.

In previously released court documents, Giuffre said that she met Clinton on Epstein's private Caribbean island, but did not accuse him of any wrongdoing. Clinton denied ever visiting the island, and Giuffre later retracted the claim.

In 2019, after Epstein was arraigned on federal sex-trafficking charges, Clinton's office released a statement saying the former president knew "nothing about the terrible crimes" Epstein was accused of.

Epstein hanged himself at the Metropolitan Correctional Center a month later.

What was Trump's relationship with Epstein and Maxwell?

Donald Trump, Melania Trump, Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell pose together at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., in 2000.
Donald and Melania Trump, Epstein and Maxwell at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., in 2000. (Davidoff Studios/Getty Images)

Trump and Epstein were longtime friends well before Trump became president.

"I've known Jeff for 15 years,” Trump told New York magazine in 2002. "Terrific guy. He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side."

In 2005, Epstein was arrested in Palm Beach, Fla., on charges he paid a 14-year-old girl for sex.

In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty in Florida to state charges of soliciting and procuring a person under age 18 for prostitution. Under the terms of a secret agreement his attorneys cut with then-Miami U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta, Epstein was sentenced to 13 months in county jail, with daily work-release privileges, and a related federal probe into potential crimes was dropped.

He was required to reach financial settlements with dozens of his victims and register as a sex offender, but Epstein could have faced up to life in prison if he had been convicted on federal charges.

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After the plea agreement was revealed in a bombshell 2018 Miami Herald investigation, Trump defended Acosta, then his labor secretary, but distanced himself from Epstein, saying he "wasn't a big fan."

In 2020, while Maxwell was awaiting trial for helping Epstein sexually abuse underage girls, Trump was asked for his thoughts about the case.

"I don't know. I haven't really been following it too much. I just wish her well, frankly. I've met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach," Trump told reporters at the White House. "But I wish her well, whatever it is."

In 2021, Maxwell was convicted and later sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.

What other prominent names appear in the documents?

Attorney Alan Dershowitz leaves federal court in New York in 2019.
Lawyer Alan Dershowitz. (Richard Drew/AP)

Other boldfaced names that appear in the documents unsealed Wednesday include Alan Dershowitz, a lawyer and former Harvard Law professor; Bill Richardson, former New Mexico governor; Glenn Dubin, a billionaire hedge fund manager; Les Wexner, billionaire founder of Bath & Body Works; and Jean-Luc Brunel, a French modeling agent who killed himself in jail in 2022 while awaiting trial on charges he raped young girls.

Could the people named in the documents face any criminal or civil liability?

Not for merely being named.

"There is likely going to be a spectrum of involvement with respect to all the individuals identified," Tom Bosworth, founder of Bosworth Law and an attorney for catastrophic injury victims, told Yahoo News. "Whether there is criminal or civil liability for any one person will depend heavily on the particular facts of each case."

[Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that Giuffre later retracted the claim that she met Clinton on Epstein's private island.]