'He said not to tell anyone': Here’s why Trump kept a close eye on Jeffrey Epstein in 2015
Republican National Convention delegates yell and scream as the Republican National Committee Rules Committee announces that it will not hold a recorded vote on the Rules Committee's Report and rejects the efforts of anti-Trump forces to hold a roll-call vote, at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

This week, billionaire financier and registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein pleaded “not guilty” to new sex trafficking and conspiracy charges involved under-age girls. Journalist Emily Jane Fox, in an article published in Vanity Fair on Tuesday, takes a look at President Donald Trump’s connection to Epstein — and explains why, in 2015, he was “very much top of mind for” for the man who would be elected president the following year.

During the 2016 presidential election, Fox reports, Trump’s campaign had a major ally in National Enquirer Publisher David Pecker — who published a series of articles on Epstein. And the Enquirer, Fox notes, alleged that former President Bill Clinton had visited Epstein’s private island in the Caribbean, Little St. James Island. Clinton, however, has denied ever visiting Little St. James Island, although he has acknowledged traveling to Africa with Epstein in the early 2000s in connection with the Clinton Foundation.

Fox recalls that when Bill Clinton’s name came up during a February 2015 “softball” interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Trump commented, “Nice guy. Got a lot of problems coming up, in my opinion, with the famous island with Jeffrey Epstein. Lot of problems.”

Trump and Pecker, Fox reports, discussed Epstein in 2015 — and Trump wanted to know all about Epstein-related articles that the Enquirer was publishing.

According to Sam Nunberg (a former employee of the Trump Organization), Pecker claimed to have photos of Prince Andrew as well as Bill Clinton visiting Epstein’s island — and that the ones of Clinton “were worse.” Fox quotes Nunberg as saying that he saw Pecker leaving Trump’s office in Trump Tower in New York City in 2015 and that Michael Cohen (Trump’s former personal attorney) was in Trump’s office when he arrived.

“Michael was sitting in there when I came in, and the issue of the National Enquirer with the pictures of Prince Andrew was on his desk,” Fox quotes Nunberg as saying. “He said not to tell anyone, but that Pecker had just been there and had brought the issue with him. Trump said that Pecker had told him that the pictures of Clinton that Epstein had from his island were worse.”

Cohen is presently serving three years in federal prison after pleading guilty to multiple crimes ranging from tax and bank fraud to campaign finance violations. Fox reports that Cohen spoke to Vanity Fair by phone from prison and “corroborated Nunberg’s version of the events, though he declined to add any additional information about the meeting.”

On Tuesday, Trump discussed Epstein’s legal problems with reporters and downplayed his relationship with the disgraced billionaire, saying that Epstein was a “fixture in Palm Beach” in the 2000s and that he “had a falling out with him a long time ago. I don’t think I’ve spoken to him for 15 years.”

Although Epstein visited Trump’s Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, in 1997 and 2000, Fox reports, there is no evidence of Trump ever traveling with Epstein — and that doing so would be “out of character” for the president. Fox quotes Nunberg as saying, “I don’t think Trump would go to someone else’s property or someone else’s island or villa. He doesn’t even play golf at anyone else’s clubs.”

Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew have also been distancing themselves from Epstein. Fox quotes a Clinton spokesperson as saying, “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.”