Ghislaine Maxwell docs released: Did FBI stall pursuit of Epstein?

Or did they just give up after Alex Acosta’s sweetheart deal with Jeffrey Epstein? The release of depositions from prior civil cases in Ghislaine Maxwell’s prosecution for sex trafficking raises a number of questions about the FBI, but even more about the men connected to Epstein, as various media outlets report today.

Most acutely, though, it raises the potential for a perjury charge against Maxwell. Remember when Maxwell tried to secure bail and claimed that she hadn’t been in contact with Epstein for over a decadeLie:

In one email between Epstein and Maxwell in 2015, Epstein appears to be composing a draft statement for Maxwell to release publicly. The date in January 2015 is a few weeks after one of Epstein’s alleged victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, first shared her story with a British newspaper.

In another typo-filled email a few days later, dated Jan. 25, 2015, “jeffrey E.” writes: “You have done nothing wrong and i woudl urge you to start acting like it. go outside, head high, not as an esacping convict. go to parties. deal with it.”

The emails refer to “Gmax” either in the recipient section or the email address.

That’s the name the FBI and federal prosecutors say Maxwell used when trying to set up a cell phone this past year in another person’s name. Prosecutors have contended this was one of the ways Maxwell sought to avoid detection and possible arrest.

“Gmax”? That’s hardly the world’s most clever cover name if your true identity is Ghislaine Maxwell. If Maxwell intended to fool people with that pseudonym, it’s a wonder she remained free for as long as she did. In fact, as Techno Fog points out in his lengthy Twitter thread on the release, it looks like Maxwell and Epstein stayed free not out of cleverness, but out of a curious lack of action from the FBI (via Matt Vespa):

This paints the FBI as disinterested to the point of obstinacy, but there is some important context to consider as well. The FBI actually did produce significant evidence, as did local law enforcement in Florida, of more serious crimes in the 2007 investigation. Then-US Attorney Alex Acosta is the one who surprisingly approved a plea deal which let Epstein off with a minor crime and an agreement never to prosecute anything else that had happened before, including against his associates. It wasn’t until the Miami Herald published its exposé of that plea deal in 2019 that the Department of Justice decided to test out that Acosta deal and prosecute Epstein in another jurisdiction. Until then, the FBI had probably thought that the plea deal precluded any further action.

Epstein and Maxwell clearly thought that, too. That’s almost certainly why Epstein was scolding Maxwell for acting like an “escaping convict” rather than mixing in public again, as he was already doing in a somewhat low-key manner. He thought the two of them had gotten away with it — and they had, until the Herald stoked outrage again a few years later.

Most of the documents released relate to the lawsuits involving Virginia Roberts Giuffre, Alan Dershowitz, and other figures. Maxwell’s defense team wanted those to remain under seal, arguing that the release of that testimony would taint Maxwell’s ability to get a fair jury. They tried so much to block the release that the judge ended up rebuking them for trying to “muddy the waters,” but it’s easy to see why they wanted the records to remain sealed:

In one document, the transcript of Giuffre’s deposition, she describes how Maxwell brought her and her father from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club — where they both worked — to the Epstein mansion, gaining their trust. Giuffre recounts that Maxwell even stripped naked with her the first time she was abused as a minor by Epstein.

“So then Ghislaine told me that she wanted me to undress and began to take off my shirt and skirt, my white uniform from Mar-a-Lago, she also took off her shirt and got undressed, and so I was there with just my undies on, and she was completely bare,” Giuffre recounted.

She detailed how Maxwell took nude photographs of her for Epstein, and described a secret room with the entire wall covered with photographs of nude underage girls who’d been through the Palm Beach mansion. And she alleged that within nine months Maxwell involved her in efforts to procure other underage girls for Epstein.

That same transcript also names people who traveled with Epstein. While many of the names have been publicly linked to Epstein before, seeing them in the context of the document was jarring. Giuffre tells of celebrities traveling with Epstein like magician David Copperfield, model Naomi Campbell, former Sony Records President Tommy Mottola and Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of the famed undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Maxwell had been claiming to have never participated in the sex crimes Epstein committed. This is a sworn deposition in a lawsuit contradicting that position, which still could be challenged when Giuffre testifies in court, but it’s devastating if it holds up. The counterclaims in the paperwork claim that Giuffre has changed her story on occasion, and Dershowitz argued in his defamation countersuit against her that she has no credibility as a witness. That might end up being a problem for the prosecution when it comes to Maxwell’s trial, but in the court of public opinion, it’s a huge problem for Maxwell and her team.

Interestingly, Donald Trump’s name comes up a few times in these depositions. It seems pretty clear that the lawyers involved in the lawsuit wanted to come up with something juicy but came up empty. Giuffre told the attorneys, “Donald Trump never flirted with me,” and that while he seemed to be friends with Epstein, she never heard him say, “You’ve got the life,” which someone else had alleged. That didn’t please the attorney attempting to drill down to Trump:

Bear in mind that much of this release consists of depositions and arguments from the lawsuits that had been sealed until recently, rather than FBI investigations into Epstein and Maxwell. This testimony will get tested vigorously in court when Maxwell’s trial begins. Will it stand up? We won’t know until the trial, assuming that the prosecution decides to use it all. They might have other evidence and testimony by now that will corroborate this or even overshadow it.

However, it does give us a very good idea about why the Department of Justice indicted Maxwell on multiple counts of lying to investigators. It’s also clear why Maxwell’s team wanted this to remain under seal for as long as possible. But other than Maxwell and her other potential co-defendants, the one person who should be most embarrassed by this release is Alex Acosta.