President Donald Trump on Saturday retweeted an account espousing the evidence-free conspiracy theory that the Clinton family had a hand in the death of Jeffrey Epstein.
A day later, Marco Rubio warned against such wild theorizing, arguing it helps Russian President Vladimir Putin sow American discord.
“#Putin bots and trolls are aggressively pushing hashtags on social media promoting Trump & Clinton conspiracies about #Epstein death," Rubio tweeted Sunday morning. “It’s sad (and frightening) to see so many Americans on both sides...unwittingly helping them."
Rubio also admonished the theories in a tweet Saturday, just before Trump appears to have retweeted one.
The president’s retweet included both the hashtag “#TrumpBodyCount” and “#ClintonBodyCount.” Trump is one of the most influential voices on Twitter — to say nothing of the free world — with over 63 million followers.
By retweeting the conspiracy, Trump appeared to have engaged in the exact behavior Rubio was denouncing. The Times has reached out to Rubio’s office to ask whether the senator meant to direct his later tweet at President Trump. If and when his office responds, this post will be updated.
Epstein had been accused by a litany of underage girls of rape and sexual assault over the years. In 2008, the billionaire was sentenced, under a “non-prosecution agreement” deal with federal prosecutors, to serve just 13 months in jail — despite substantial evidence that Epstein preyed on dozens of victims. During that sentence, Epstein was allowed to leave his prison for 12 hours per day, six days a week. The victims were not notified of the lenient deal.
Details of that arrangement were first re-examined by reporters at the Miami Herald last November. Read that full investigation here.
Months after the Herald’s work was first published, a key figure in Epstein’s deal, Alexander Acosta, resigned his post as the U.S. Secretary of Labor. At the time of the deal, Acosta was a U.S. attorney in Miami.
Also since that story was published, Epstein was arrested on new federal charges of sex trafficking underage girls. Just weeks after his July arrest, Epstein killed himself in his cell, officials said.
Since then, political partisans on both sides of the aisle have seized on the apparent suicide of Epstein to accuse politicians they dislike of having a hand in his death.
There is evidence that Epstein socialized with both President Clinton and President Trump years ago. There is no evidence that either was involved in Epstein’s death inside a jail cell.
The federal government is investigating the circumstances of Epstein’s death.
Attorney General William Barr, who oversees the federal prison system, said he was “appalled” by Epstein’s death, and that “there are serious questions that must be answered.”
This story was updated after its initial publication to include a tweet from Sen. Rubio that came before Trump’s retweet.