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The full details of Jeffrey Epstein’s apparent suicide have yet to materialize, but one pro-labor Facebook group wasted no time linking the disgraced financier’s death to President Donald Trump.
The group, Union Thugs, strongly suggested that Trump, through his cabinet, had a hand in coordinating Epstein’s death.
"DOJ under Barr had jurisdiction over the prison Epstein was in. It's been reported that the security cameras failed at the moment of the alleged suicide," the post reads. "Trump cabinet member Acosta gets Epstein a pass in court previously. Trump is a frequent flyer on Epstein airlines...yeah sure he killed himself."
To be clear: There is no evidence that Trump or his administration had any role in Epstein’s death. And as we’ve previously reported, criminal justice experts say that suicide is endemic in American jails.
This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
The New York City chief medical examiner has yet to release a final ruling on how the 66-year-old died. But here we’ll analyze the individual claims contained in the post based on what we now know.
Yes. The Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York — where Epstein was housed — is administered by the federal Bureau of Prisons, a division of the Justice Department.
After reports of Epstein’s death, Attorney General William Barr expressed anger that the disgraced financier was allowed to die in federal custody. The FBI and Justice Department Inspector General have launched investigations to probe what Barr described as "serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning."
That’s unconfirmed. There’s conflicting reporting about video surveillance at the federal lockup. The Justice Department did not respond to PolitiFact’s request for comment.
The New York Post, citing anonymous "law enforcement officials," reported that there is no surveillance tape of Epstein’s apparent suicide.
The newspaper said the reason no footage exists is because cameras positioned near Epstein’s location are pointed at areas outside the cells, not inside the cells, according to unnamed sources familiar with the prison’s layout.
However, NBC News cited a former longtime federal Bureau of Prisons case manager who said some cells in the Metropolitan Correctional Center do have security cameras.
The website Heavy.com traced the unsubstantiated rumor of a "camera malfunction" to a tweet by Michael Coudrey, a self-described specialist in "digital information warfare" who claims the Republican Party as one of his clients. Our efforts to contact Coundrey were unsuccessful.
Many would agree with this characterization.
Before he was appointed Trump’s Labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida from 2005-09. In that role, Acosta signed a non-prosecution agreement that "essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe" into Epstein’s alleged sex crimes, according to a Miami Herald investigation.
Instead of facing life imprisonment, the 2008 deal Acosta signed led to Epstein serving 13 months in county jail.
In July, under withering criticism for his role in Epstein’s case, Acosta resigned as Labor Secretary.
The phrase "Epstein airlines" is a reference to the late billionaire’s fleet of private planes that he is alleged to have used to shuttle underage women and for sex parties, according to Newsweek.
In a 2009 deposition, Epstein’s brother Mark said Trump accompanied him and Epstein on a flight from Florida to New York, sometime in the late 1990s. Mark Epstein told the Washington Post he was only present on one such flight, but that Trump traveled on his brother’s planes "numerous times."
We were unable to independently confirm the extent to which Trump traveled on Epstein’s planes.
Based on Trump’s own words, he and Epstein first became acquainted in the late 1980s.
"I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy," Trump told New York magazine in 2002. "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. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life."
The two men cut ties at some point, though according to the New York Times, "the full nature of their eventual falling out is not clear."
Facebook post by Union Thugs, Aug. 10, 2019
Speech by Attorney General William P. Barr, Aug. 12, 2019
New York Post, "There’s no video of Jeffrey Epstein’s apparent suicide: sources," Aug. 11, 2019
NBC News, "Prison experts are stunned and angry that Jeffrey Epstein was taken off suicide watch," Aug. 10, 2019
Miami Herald, "How a future Trump Cabinet member gave a serial sex abuser the deal of a lifetime," Nov. 28, 2018
Newsweek, "What is the Lolita Express? Epstein's infamous sex plane included VIPs like Bill Clinton," July 9, 2019
Washington Post, "Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein partied together. Then an oceanfront Palm Beach mansion came between them," July 31, 2019
New York, "Jeffrey Epstein: International moneyman of mystery," Oct. 28, 2002
The New York Times, "Jeffrey Epstein was a ‘terrific guy,’ Donald Trump once said. Now he’s ‘not a fan.’" July 9, 2019