Trump questions whether Jeffrey Epstein was killed in federal custody
President Donald Trump suggested in an interview aired Monday that multimillionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein might have been killed while in federal custody - putting him at odds with his own attorney general and the New York City medical examiner, who have both said Epstein died of suicide.
In an interview with Axios on HBO, reporter Jonathan Swan asked Trump why he had recently offered well wishes to Ghislaine Maxwell, a former girlfriend of Epstein who was charged by federal prosecutors with recruiting and grooming underage girls for Epstein to abuse.
"Her friend or boyfriend was either killed or committed suicide in jail," Trump responded. "She's now in jail. Yeah, I wish her well. I'd wish you well. I'd wish a lot of people well. Good luck. Let them prove somebody was guilty."
"So you're saying you hope she doesn't die in jail?" Swan sought to clarify. "Is that what you mean by 'wish her well'?"
"Her boyfriend died in jail. And people are still trying to figure out how did it happen," Trump said. "Was it suicide? Was he killed? And I do wish her well. I'm not looking for anything bad for her."
Epstein, who was taken into custody in July 2019 on charges that he sexually abused young girls, was found unresponsive and hanging in his cell the following month, and the New York City Medical Examiner concluded that he had died of suicide by hanging. But the circumstances of his death, coupled with his wealth and connections to powerful people, have long fueled conspiracy theories about the case.
A medical examiner hired by Epstein's family has raised questions about government authorities' conclusion about Epstein's death, pointing in particular to what he saw as unusual fractures in Epstein's neck that he told "60 Minutes" are not common in a suicide by hanging. In the wake of the death, Attorney General William Barr asked the Justice Department's inspector general to investigate the matter as the FBI probed for possible criminal wrongdoing.
Barr, though, soon told reporters that he had "seen nothing that undercuts the finding of the medical examiner that this was a suicide," and in November 2019, he revealed to the Associated Press that he had personally reviewed security footage to confirm that no one entered the area where Epstein was housed on the night he died.
However, Barr said he could "understand people who immediately, whose minds went to sort of the worst-case scenario because it was a perfect storm of screw-ups." Among them were that Epstein did not have a cellmate as he should have.
Federal prosecutors have charged two jail staffers who they alleged failed to check on Epstein on the night of his death, and the indictment seemed to take aim at conspiracy theories surrounding Epstein while casting the staffers as acutely negligent.
The indictment alleged that for "substantial portions of their shifts," the pair browsed the internet and that they repeatedly signed false "count slips" after failing to conduct the required checks. The indictment asserted that video surveillance confirmed that no one aside from those two staffers entered the special unit where Epstein was housed, and it said they did not notice anything amiss until they began serving breakfast around 6:30 a.m.
In an interview with ABC News last month, Barr reiterated that Epstein had "committed suicide," adding that he was "livid" about what happened and was taking steps to make sure Maxwell would not meet the same fate.
"We have asked them to tell us specifically the protocols they're following. And we have a number of systems to monitor the situation," Barr said.
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on Trump's questioning of whether Epstein was killed, and the New York City Medical Examiner's Office did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
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