Top Clinton aide’s bombshell revelation
Bill Clinton's former right-hand man says the former American president did indeed visit Jeffrey Epstein's private island in the Caribbean, contradicting Mr Clinton's repeated denials.
Vanity Fair has conducted a series of interviews with Doug Band, who started his career as an intern in Mr Clinton's White House before becoming his personal aide and, eventually, his closest adviser after leaving office.
The magazine credits him with "virtually inventing Clinton's post-presidential life". Mr Band helped the former president set up his family charity, the Clinton Foundation, an annual conference called the Clinton Global Initiative, and several other lucrative ventures.
For about a decade, journalist Gabriel Sherman writes, Mr Band spent as much time as anyone else with Mr Clinton, including the former president's family.
Because his boss didn't use email or carry a mobile phone, anyone wishing to reach Mr Clinton had to go through Mr Band first.
Their tight relationship started to deteriorate in 2011, as Mr Clinton's daughter Chelsea took up a senior role in the foundation.
She and Mr Band clashed repeatedly - he felt she was unqualified, she thought he was growing wealthy off her father's name, and all kinds of other resentments were reportedly part of the mix as well.
We already knew about that feud, largely because of emails that leaked during the 2016 election campaign. They revealed, among other things, that Mr Band had labelled Ms Clinton a "spoiled brat".
Vanity Fair goes into more depth about Mr Band's "seismic falling out" with the family, but the most newsworthy part of its article is his retelling of the friendship between Mr Clinton and Epstein, the billionaire sex trafficker.
Mr Band told Sherman he had tried to convince Mr Clinton to cut Epstein out of his orbit as early as 2002, when the former president travelled to Africa for humanitarian purposes aboard Epstein's private plane.
"Band recalled that Epstein had made a bunch of ridiculous claims on the trip, like boasting that he invented the derivatives market," Sherman writes.
"He said he had no idea about Epstein's sex crimes back then, but got enough bad vibes that he advised Clinton to end the relationship."
If that advice was indeed given, Mr Clinton did not take it. He continued to socialise with Epstein and accepted tens of thousands of dollars in donations from him.
Mr Band said Mr Clinton went on to visit Little St James, colloquially known as "Paedophile Island" among the locals, in January of 2003.
One of Epstein's highest profile victims, Virginia Guiffre, has previously claimed she saw Mr Clinton on the island.
"I remember asking Jeffrey, 'What's Bill Clinton doing here?' kind of thing, and he laughed it off and said, 'Well, he owes me a favour,'" she said during an interview with her lawyers in 2011. "He never told me what favours they were. I never knew. I didn't know if he was serious. It was just a joke."
A lawyer asked where "here" was. Ms Guiffre replied that it was "on the island". She said Epstein, his alleged co-conspirator Ghislaine Maxwell and a few young girls were there as well. She did not accuse Mr Clinton of any misconduct.
The Netflix documentary Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich included an interview with one of the island's tech workers, who also claimed to have seen Mr Clinton there.
Despite these accounts, Mr Clinton has long maintained he never set foot on the island.
"In 2002 and 2003, President Clinton took a total of four trips on Jeffrey Epstein's plane - one to Europe, one to Asia and two to Africa - which included stops in connection with the work of the Clinton Foundation," a spokesperson for the former president said last year.
"He had one meeting with Epstein in his Harlem office in 2002, and around the same time he made one brief visit to Epstein's New York apartment with a staff member and his security detail.
"He's not spoken to Epstein in well over a decade, and has never been to Little St James Island, Epstein's ranch in New Mexico, or his residence in Florida."
The flight records for Epstein's plane contradict Mr Clinton's claim that he was only a passenger on four occasions.
Mr Band said Chelsea Clinton maintained a friendship with Maxwell for years, even after Epstein pleaded guilty to procuring sex from a minor in 2008, and after media reporting had revealed her alleged role in his orbit.
Maxwell was even a guest at Ms Clinton's wedding in 2010.
"Ghislaine had access to yachts and nice homes. Chelsea needed that," Mr Band claimed.
A spokesperson for the family told Vanity Fair Ms Clinton was only on good terms with Maxwell because of a mutual friend, and didn't become aware of the "horrific allegations" against her until 2015.
"Chelsea was friendly with her because of Maxwell's relationship with a dear friend. When that relationship ended, Chelsea's relationship with her ended as well."
They said Ms Clinton hoped Epstein's victims "find justice".
The Clintons also issued a broader response to Mr Band, saying "no staffer has ever used their role to serve their interests" as much as him.
"For many years he was a valuable member of President Clinton's team and supportive of Clinton Foundation programs. Until he wasn't," the spokesperson said.
"He put the foundation at risk by leveraging a world class philanthropy for his own financial gain. It's as disappointing a story as it is a sad one, and ultimately why Doug Band and the Clintons parted ways."
Originally published as Top Clinton aide's bombshell revelation