BERKELEY HEIGHTS, N.J. — President Trump used Twitter on Saturday to promote unfounded conspiracy theories about how Jeffrey Epstein, the financier accused of sex trafficking, died in a federal prison, even as the administration faced questions about why Mr. Epstein had not been more closely monitored.
For years Mr. Trump has brashly — and baselessly — promoted suspicion as fact and peddled secret plots by powerful interests as a way to broadcast his own version of reality. Those include the lie that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States and that millions of votes were illegally cast for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
Hours after Mr. Epstein was found to have hanged himself in his Manhattan jail cell, Mr. Trump retweeted a post from the comedian Terrence Williams linking the Clintons to the death. Mr. Epstein “had information on Bill Clinton & now he’s dead,” wrote Mr. Williams, a Trump supporter. In an accompanying two-minute video, Mr. Williams noted that “for some odd reason, people that have information on the Clintons end up dead.”
There is no evidence to substantiate the claim, which derives from groundless speculation on the far right, dating to Mr. Clinton’s early days as president, that multiple deaths can be traced to the Clintons and explained by their supposed efforts to cover up wrongdoing.
[How Mr. Trump uses conspiracy theories to erode trust.]
Responding to Mr. Trump’s retweets, a spokesman for Mr. Clinton mockingly wrote, “Ridiculous, and of course not true — and Donald Trump knows it.” The spokesman, Angel Ureña, added, “Has he triggered the 25th Amendment yet?” The 25th Amendment contains a provision allowing for the removal of a president if he is unable to perform his duties, potentially in the event of mental instability.
Posting from his luxury golf club in Bedminster, N.J., Mr. Trump also shared another tweet, from an unverified account, which claimed that recently unsealed documents involving accusations of Mr. Epstein’s abuse had revealed that Mr. Clinton “took private trips to Jeffrey Epstein’s ‘pedophilia island.’”
A spokesman for Mr. Clinton has denied that Mr. Clinton traveled to Mr. Epstein’s private island in the Virgin Islands. The documents unsealed yesterday also include an acknowledgment from one of Mr. Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Giuffre, that an earlier claim she made about Mr. Clinton visiting Mr. Epstein in the Caribbean was untrue.
Mr. Epstein’s death, 12 days after being taken off suicide watch, prompted questions about the safeguards prison officials took to keep him alive and ensure he answer for yearslong allegations of sexual abuse. The Justice Department immediately faced criticism, drawing outrage from accusers seeking justice and from legal experts questioning why prison officials deemed Mr. Epstein was no longer at risk of taking his own life.
The attorney general, William P. Barr, said on Saturday that the Justice Department’s independent watchdog would conduct an inquiry into the circumstances of Mr. Epstein’s death in a federal prison cell. The F.B.I. also said it would investigate.
The pair of retweets come on a day when Mr. Trump expressed outrage on Twitter over what he called “dishonest” and “inaccurate” coverage of his presidency by the news media, including The New York Times. Mr. Trump insisted that reports that several survivors of the mass shooting in El Paso last weekend had refused to see him when he visited their hospital on Wednesday were false, but provided no evidence.
Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Clinton had been friendly with Mr. Epstein but broke ties with him many years ago. In a July statement, Mr. Ureña, Mr. Clinton’s spokesman, said that the former president had taken several trips with Mr. Epstein on his private plane in 2002 and 2003 but that the men had not spoken in more than a decade. Mr. Clinton “knows nothing about the terrible crimes” of which Mr. Epstein has been accused and, in one case, had been sentenced, the statement said.
Even before Mr. Trump weighed in on the subject, Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said on Twitter that while scrutiny of Mr. Epstein’s death was warranted, “the immediate rush to spread conspiracy theories about someone on the ‘other side’ of partisan divide having him killed illustrates why our society is so vulnerable to foreign disinformation & influence efforts.”
Earlier Saturday, one of the president’s senior appointees at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Lynne Patton, posted a headline about Mr. Epstein’s death on Instagram, perpetuating a debunked right-wing narrative. Including the comment, “Hillary’d!!” she also referred to Vincent Foster, the Clinton White House counsel who died by suicide in 1994 — a crucial episode in the unfounded theory tying the Clintons to allegedly suspicious deaths.
Adding to the extraordinary nature of Mr. Trump’s retweets was the fact that Mr. Clinton is a former president. American presidents have traditionally treated their predecessors and successors with pronounced respect, even when they are from different parties or ran bitter campaigns against one another. But after defeating Mrs. Clinton in a 2016 campaign during which he suggested he might imprison her, Mr. Trump has repeatedly ridiculed and taunted both Clintons.
Tweeting on another subject earlier in the day, Mr. Trump seemed to criticize joint United States military exercises with South Korea that have enraged North Korea, calling them “ridiculous and expensive.” The president said that the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, had offered him “a small apology” for that country’s recent short-range missile tests, which violate United Nations resolutions but which Mr. Trump has brushed off. “I look forward to seeing Kim Jong Un in the not too distant future!” he wrote.
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