Stand up for the facts!

Our only agenda is to publish the truth so you can be an informed participant in democracy.
We need your help.

More Info

I would like to contribute

A New York prosecutor points to a photo of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell at a 2020 news conference. (AP) A New York prosecutor points to a photo of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell at a 2020 news conference. (AP)

A New York prosecutor points to a photo of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell at a 2020 news conference. (AP)

Jeff Cercone
By Jeff Cercone January 11, 2024

If Your Time is short

  • Legal experts said the documents related to a case involving disgraced financier and registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein neither incriminate nor exonerate former President Donald Trump.

  • Trump is mentioned in six documents among the more than 200 released in January.

  • In one instance, a woman accused Trump and others of sexual wrongdoing, but the released records show she later retracted her accusations.

Soon after a federal court unsealed documents stemming from a lawsuit related to financier and registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, some Donald Trump supporters trumpeted what they said was great news for the former president.

"#BREAKING: Epstein documents confirm that Donald Trump did not visit Jeffrey Epstein’s home or island," one viral Instagram post said Jan. 3. "Clears Trump of all wrongdoing," read another.

Former Trump security adviser Michael Flynn and conservative commentators Charlie Kirk and Benny Johnson each said Trump had been "exonerated" by the case files.

But experts said the case files neither incriminate nor exonerate Trump, who is running to be the Republican presidential nominee in 2024. Trump currently faces four indictments and 91 felony charges in cases across several states, but none of them involve Epstein, who died by suicide in 2019 in a Manhattan jail cell while awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges.

Trump and Epstein — both powerful and affluent, with homes in South Florida and New York — had a social relationship at one time, according to photos and news articles.

Flight logs released as evidence in the 2021 sex trafficking trial of convicted Epstein companion Ghislaine Maxwell show that Trump flew seven times in the 1990s on Epstein’s private jet, the Miami Herald reported

In 2002, Trump told New York magazine that  Epstein was a "terrific guy." But the men later fell out. In 2019, after Epstein was charged with sex trafficking minors, Trump told reporters: "I was not a fan of his, that I can tell you."

The documents released in January stem from Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre’s 2015 lawsuit against Maxwell, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison on sex trafficking and other charges. 

Giuffre’s case was settled in 2017, but the Miami Herald went to court to gain access to the previously sealed records. U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Preska of the Southern District of New York on Dec. 18 ordered the release of 150 names that had previously been named in court documents as Jane or John Does. The newly released documents include 250 records

Although Trump is mentioned in some of these documents, the records provide neither a smoking gun that he was involved in wrongdoing nor that he was, as his supporters have claimed, "cleared."

"I think it would be premature to suggest that the information ‘exonerates’ him," said Daniel Medwed, a Northeastern University law professor. The documents establish Trump as being in Epstein’s orbit but don’t in themselves implicate him in wrongdoing, Medwed said.

Here’s what we know.

Who is mentioned in the documents?

The documents mention many high-profile figures besides Trump, including former President Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew, lawyer Alan Dershowitz, magician David Copperfield and the late singer Michael Jackson.

They also name victims, actual and potential witnesses and Epstein employees. 

Being mentioned in the documents does not mean a person is accused of any wrongdoing. No list of Epstein clients has been released, contrary to some social media posts.

What do the documents say about Trump?

Trump is mentioned six times in the documents. One of those mentions shows him being accused of sexual wrongdoing, but the documents also call that accusation’s credibility into question. Here is a summary of the six mentions:

  • In a May 18, 2016, deposition, on Page 19 of 179, one of Epstein’s alleged victims, Johanna Sjoberg, told attorneys she traveled with Epstein, Maxwell and Giuffre on Epstein’s plane and stopped in Atlantic City, (New Jersey,) where they "went to one of Trump’s casinos." 

The flight was headed to New York, but Sjoberg said the pilots told her they had to land      in Atlantic City because of a storm, Page 79 shows. She said when she relayed this to Epstein, "Jeffrey said, ‘Great, we’ll call up Trump and we’ll go to’ —  I don't recall the name of the casino but — ‘We’ll go to the casino.’" 

Later in the deposition, on Page 113, an attorney asked Sjoberg whether she gave a massage to Trump. She replied no.

  •  In a 2009 video deposition, on Page 3 of 5, Epstein employee Juan Alessi testified that he once drove Maxwell to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, where Maxwell got a "facial or massage." 

He also said he saw Trump at Epstein’s home, but that Trump didn’t stay there, unlike other celebrities.

"He would come, have dinner. He never sat at the table," Alessi said on Page 5. "He eat with me in the kitchen." When asked if Trump ever had received massages at Epstein’s home, Alessi said, "No, because he’s got his own spa." 

  • In a 2016 filing by Dershowitz, on Pages 19 and 20 of 27, the former Harvard Law School professor said Epstein's "little black book" of contacts and phone numbers included many celebrities, including Trump.

Dershowitz also referred to testimony from an Epstein employee who said Trump visited Epstein's residence frequently, but that he had little information about him. An attorney asked the employee, Alfredo Rodriguez, this question:

"Assuming he’s a frequent visitor to Mr. Epstein’s home, and that he’s a friend of Mr. Epstein’s, and that his name is circled in this book, do you infer that he was engaged in criminal sexual abuse of minors?"

"No," Rodriguez replied. 

  • A footnote on Page 7 in a March 2017 filing from Epstein’s attorneys referred to several news articles and read: "Mr. Epstein’s name has been widely linked in the press with prominent individuals such as Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew. His personal appearance at the trial of this case would predictably be the focus of massive media attention, of both the mainstream and gutter variety."

  • In a June 21, 2017 letter, an attorney for Dershowitz asked then-U.S. District Court Judge Robert Sweet to make public emails and attachments concerning Epstein accuser Sarah Ransome.

Ransome’s allegations included that she had been forced to have sex with Dershowitz, a claim that Dershowitz denied. 

"The Emails," Dershowitz’s attorney wrote on Page 2 of 16, "will demonstrate that Ms. Ransome’s inflammatory, salacious, and defamatory testimony concerning the Intervenor and others is false and that the deponent is not credible." 

The unredacted emails showed that Ramsome corresponded with New York Post writer Maureen Callahan and called Trump a pedophile. She also said Trump had sexual relations with many of Epstein’s girls, including a friend of hers who had sex with Trump at Epstein’s New York mansion on "regular occasions." But on Oct. 23, 2016, Ransome emailed Callahan again to retract all her claims about Trump and others. The relevant passages are found on Pages 4, 10 and 16 of the document.

  • In a Jan. 16, 2016, videotaped deposition released Jan. 9, Giuffre said Dershowitz had to have known what was going on at Epstein's home because he visited frequently and saw all the young girls around. The relevant passages are found on Pages 153 and 154 of the 223-page document.

"If you walked foot into Jeffrey Epstein's house and you went in there and you continued to be an acquaintance of his, then you would have to know what was going on there," Giuffre said.

"So, Donald Trump was — in your mind, you believe — a witness to the sexual abuse of minors?" an attorney asked Giuffre.

"I don't think Donald Trump participated in anything," she responded. "That would have to be another assumption. I never saw or witnessed Donald Trump participate in those acts, but was he in the house of Jeffrey Epstein. I've heard he has been, but I haven't seen him myself, so I don't know." Lawyers also asked Giuffre the same question about other public figures seen at Epstein’s home. 

Do the documents mean Trump has been exonerated?

Nothing in the new documents implicates Trump in a crime involving Epstein, but to say he’s been "exonerated" is a mischaracterization, legal experts told PolitiFact.

"There is a difference between the failure of evidence to implicate a person as opposed to evidence that fully exonerates that individual," Medwed said. 

Dave Aronberg, a Democratic state attorney in West Palm Beach, Florida, said the documents neither incriminate nor exonerate Trump.

"The documents provide bits and pieces of information without much context or corroboration," he said. "Prosecutors aren’t moved by guilt by association, unless it’s backed by solid evidence." 

Some of the posts claiming Trump was exonerated shared a screenshot of a transcript in which a witness, Giuffre, testified to not seeing Trump at Epstein’s home or private island. 

But that transcript was not among court documents released in January. It came from a 2,000-record batch  that was made public in 2019.

Trump has been accused of sexual misconduct with women before. At least 19 women have alleged misconduct in recent years. Trump has not been criminally charged in any of those cases.

In May, a civil court jury found Trump liable of sexually abusing E. Jean Carroll, an advice columnist and journalist, in 1996, and for defaming her. It awarded Carroll $5 million in a verdict Trump is appealing. Trump faces a second defamation lawsuit involving Carroll over comments he made in 2018.

PolitiFact Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter

Our Sources

Instagram post, Jan. 3, 2024 (archived)

Instagram post, Jan. 3, 2024 (archived)

Instagram post, Jan. 3, 2024 (archived)

Michael Flynn, Instagram post, Jan. 3, 2024 (archived)

USA Today, Epstein documents, released Jan. 3, 2024

USA Today, Epstein documents, released Jan. 4, 2024

USA Today, Epstein documents, released Jan. 5, 2024

USA Today, Epstein documents, released Jan. 8, 2024

USA Today, Epstein documents, released Jan. 9, 2024

Deposition of Johanna Sjoberg, May 28, 2016

Deposition of Juan Alessi, Sept. 8, 2009

Court filing in Giuffre case, Aug. 29, 2016

Reply declaration from Alan Dershowitz, Sept. 14, 2016 

Jeffrey Epstein motion to quash trial subpoena, 2017

Deposition of Virginia Giuffre, Jan. 16, 2016

Court filing, letter to Judge Robert Sweet from Andrew Celli, attorney for Alan Dershowitz, June 21, 2017

CNBC, Trump had meals at Jeffrey Epstein home, not massages, housekeeper testified, Jan. 5, 2024

USA Today, 19 women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. Carroll verdict bolsters their claims. May 9, 2023 

The Associated Press, Jury finds Trump liable for sexual abuse, awards accuser $5M, May 9, 2023

The Associated Press, Rape lawsuit trial puts spotlight back on Trump and women, April 2, 2023

McClatchy Washington Bureau, Epstein flight logs released in USA vs. Maxwell, accessed Jan. 5, 2024

Miami Herald, Maxwell case logs show how frequently Trump flew on Epstein jets; Bill Clinton, too , Dec. 21, 2021

The New York Times, Jeffrey Epstein Was a ‘Terrific Guy,’ Donald Trump Once Said. Now He’s ‘Not a Fan.’, July 9, 2019

The New York Times, Unsealed Documents Shed Light on Epstein’s Misdeeds, and Little Else," Jan. 3, 2024

New York Magazine, Jeffrey Epstein: International moneyman of mystery, Oct. 28, 2002

New York Magazine, What the Jeffrey Epstein Documents Reveal About Donald Trump, Jan. 4, 2024

The Washington Post, Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein partied together. Then an oceanfront Palm Beach mansion came between them., July 31, 2019

U.S. Department of Justice, Jeffrey Epstein Charged In Manhattan Federal Court With Sex Trafficking Of Minors, July 8, 2019

ABC News, Trump says he had 'falling out' with Jeffery Epstein 'a long time ago', July 9, 2019

ABC News, Discredited claims about Clinton, Trump mentioned in latest batch of Epstein docs, Jan. 9, 2024

The Associated Press, Epstein order, Dec. 18, 2023

Law and Crime, Epstein Accuser’s Deposition Accuses Reporter of Embellishing Trump Sleaziness, Aug. 9, 2019

CNBC, Court releases documents about Jeffrey Epstein, accused in sex traffic case, and his alleged procurer Ghislaine Maxwell, Aug. 9, 2019

Politico, Woman suing Trump over alleged teen rape drops suit, again, Nov. 4, 2016

The Palm Beach Post, Woman says Donald Trump had sex with 'many women' in Jeffrey Epstein's New York mansion, Jan. 8, 2024

The New Yorker, Alan Dershowitz, devil's advocate, July 29, 2019 

CNN, Federal appeals court denies Trump’s effort to delay E. Jean Carroll civil trial, Jan. 2, 2024

Above the Law, Settlement Reached In Litigation Between Alan Dershowitz, Paul Cassell, And Bradley Edwards, April 8, 2016

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Jeff Cercone

Trump ‘exonerated’ by Epstein docs? Here’s what they do (and don’t) say about the former president