A controversial new book from the journalist Michael Wolff claims that the pedophile Jeffrey Epstein bragged that Bill Barr was the man in charge during Trump’s time in office and that the president “lets someone else be in charge, until other people realize that someone, other than him, is in charge. When that happens, you’re no longer in charge.”
The tome, Too Famous: The Rich, the Powerful, the Wishful, the Notorious and the Damned, also claims that Steve Bannon and former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak tried to help Epstein rehabilitate his image, even suggesting that he try to get favorable coverage on Rachel Maddow or 60 Minutes.
According to Wolff—who reportedly tried to buy New York Magazine with Epstein and disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein—Barak asked Epstein the million-dollar question of who was in charge at the White House. “‘What I want to know from you all-knowing people is: Who is in charge, who is,’ [Barak] said, putting on an American accent over his own often impenetrable Israeli one, ‘calling the shots?’ This was a resumption of the reliable conversation around Epstein: the ludicrousness and vagaries of Donald Trump—once among Epstein’s closest friends. ‘Here is the question every government is asking. Trump is obviously not in charge because he is—’”
Wolff claims that Epstein interrupted the former politico and called Trump—his former playboy party pal—a “moron,” then confided, “At the moment, Bill Barr is in charge.” The pedophile financier continued: “It’s Donald’s pattern...he lets someone else be in charge, until other people realize that someone, other than him, is in charge. When that happens, you’re no longer in charge.”
Barak allegedly pressed, “But let me ask you, why do you think this Barr took this job, knowing all this?”
“The motivation was simple: money,” Epstein replied. “Barr believes he’ll get a big payday out of this ... If he keeps Donald in office, manages to hold the Justice Department together, and help the Republican Party survive Donald, he thinks this is worth big money to him. I speak from direct knowledge. Extremely direct. Trust me.”
The book also claims that Epstein and Barak, along with Epstein’s lawyer Reid Weingarten, called Steve Bannon—“a new friend [who] had been introduced in December 2017”—and talked over a PR strategy with him to rehabilitate Epstein’s image after the damaging expose by The Miami Herald dredged up allegations that Epstein had molested and raped dozens of underage girls at his properties in Palm Beach, New York, and on his private island in the Caribbean. (Bannon told The New York Times that he disputed Wolff’s account of the conversation and that he “never media-trained anyone.”)
Wolff claims that Bannon laughed to Epstein, “You were the only person I was afraid of during the campaign,” and that Epstein replied, “As well you should have been.”
The pair had “deeply bonded,” the book says, “partly out of a shared incredulity about Donald Trump ... Bannon was often astonished by what Epstein knew.”
Wolff paints Bannon as a man who was eager to advise Epstein on rehabbing his image, despite the many serious accusations against him that he’d serially preyed on very young and very vulnerable girls. “‘So where is the comms piece in this?’” the book quotes Bannon as asking. “‘Who is handling it? Who’s on point? Are these your people, Reid?’”
The book says Bannon pressed Weingarten, Epstein and Barak about why there was “no communications team” and asked “What was the response from Jeffrey’s side to the Florida story? Who engaged? ... He probably can’t be hated any more. We’ve flatlined on this. He can’t get deader. While the chances of reviving him are remote, what’s the alternative?”
Wolff says Weingarten then suggested trying to arrange an appearance on 60 Minutes or Gayle King—to which Bannon dryly pointed out how well that had worked for the singer R. Kelly. (King’s interview with Kelly was widely regarded as a disaster; Kelly later was convicted of sexual exploitation of children.)
Weingarten fumbled about, suggesting maybe an advocate or a surrogate could go on 60 Minutes to plead Epstein’s case. “Dude, come on,” Bannon allegedly replied in exasperation. “Well, Rachel Maddow, then,” Weingarten replied.
“You’re the Jeffrey surrogate sitting with Rachel Maddow and she’s going to say how many girls were there, were there ten, were there a hundred, a thousand,” Bannon continued, according to the book. “Now you’re on national television, what do you say? ‘I’m confident it’s less than a thousand.’ Was it?” he asked Epstein.
“Yes, less,” the multi-millionaire said.
The book then recounts a horrifying exchange between Bannon and Epstein:
‘Actually, here is the first question,’ said Bannon. ‘What’s the age of the youngest girl?’
‘That would be good,’ said Epstein, ‘because the answer to that question is that there was one girl who was fourteen years old and she told the police she lied about her age. She told everyone she was eighteen because she was afraid she would never be allowed into the house and never be invited back. That’s the only one.’
‘That’s the only one who is under the age of eighteen?’
‘No, the youngest one . . .’
Wolff’s book portrays Epstein and his circle of confidants as men who “saw the outside world as a place increaisngly hostile not just to Epstein, the easy fall guy, but to themselves as well.” Weingarten allegedly moaned that “we are on the absolute other side of every cultural issue that has currency right now.”
“In absolute juxtaposition to the view in the outside world, the view among Epstein’s wide circle of loyal, devoted, and largely unquestioning friends was that Epstein was guilty only of venial sins, that he had more than paid for them with his plea to a prostitution charge in 2008, serving thirteen months in a Palm Beach jail, and that ever since, and with increasing zeal, he was being pursued by plaintiffs and their lawyers, all with a clear financial interest, and a media that, feeding off unchallenged and self-serving allegations, had found a handy personification of evil,” Wolff writes.
Barak—whom Wolff calls “a frequent guest, almost a fixture” at Epstein’s mansion, where he suspected there were hidden cameras—allegedly complained, “prostitution it seems is no longer called prostitution ... It is something else. Much worse.” (Underage prostitution is an oxymoron under American law; it is considered rape.)
Wolff says Barak was part of “a revolving door of friends, acquaintances, experts, visiting international dignitaries and despots, petitioners for contributions and investments, lawyers, and other holders of vast fortunes—a network of worldly influence and interest arguably as great as any in New York—who sat at Epstein’s dining-conference table, engaged in something that was part seminar, part gossip fest, part coffee klatch, part elite conspiracy.”
Elsewhere, Wolff claims Barak joked that, “We have nothing to worry about. The secrets are safe.”
Epstein—whom Wolff characterizes as a germaphobe who would not even shake hands with close friends, touching their elbows instead–refused to take his predicament seriously, and responded flippantly when talk of his crimes came up. When Weingarten allegedly whined, “every time I turn on the television and look for the Celtics score I see that my boy is a monster. Everybody’s favorite monster. The devil. Pedophile. Sex trafficker. Keeping little girls in the basement. Trump friend...” Epstein then joked, “That would be the worst.”
Later, the pedophile asked “what kind of cover do we get from [Bob] Kraft,” the New England Patriots owner who had been arrested for allegedly patronizing a Palm Beach massage shop.
“‘Bob gets dinner out, I get take-in,’ said Epstein with the flippancy that often exasperated the people trying to help defend him.”
“Epstein’s powerful circle saw him, an astute student of power and a collector of powerful friends, as, somehow, particularly unsuited to this power game,” Wolff writes. “Too much the free spirit, too much the helpless bad boy, too heedless to properly protect himself.”
Epstein characterized his troubles as “a chronic illness—it can’t be cured, but it won’t kill me.”
Months later, he was dead in a jail cell.