AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
The Miami Herald has also been digging into Jeffrey Epstein's finances and political ties. Earlier today we spoke with Casey Frank, the paper's investigations editor. And I asked him, how did Epstein make his millions?
CASEY FRANK: Well, that's a bit of a mystery. He is a hedge fund manager. But it's always been a little bit murky who his clients might be. And the one person who has been identified as a client of his is a man by the name of Les Wexler who runs The Limited and Victoria's Secret. But other than that, whose accounts he's serviced has been very tightly held information.
CORNISH: When you look back at his influence and look back at some of the political names that crossed paths with him, were these real relationships and friendships? Was this just part of being a political donor?
FRANK: Oh, I think these were real friendships. It is pretty clear that Mr. Epstein and Mr. Trump socialized in the same circles. And it is quite clear that Mr. Clinton spent a lot of time on Jeffrey Epstein's private jet, found his way to Epstein's private island. And that doesn't necessarily mean that anything illegal or improper took place.
But those were friendships. This was not people meeting each other in a greeting line. They spent a certain amount of time together as social acquaintances and friends, and so, for that matter, did many other people. His political contributions have been mostly on the Democratic side, but they tapered off or stopped completely when he found himself in hot water in South Florida.
CORNISH: How did Jeffrey Epstein's political profile influence his prosecution? Are these the questions that are being raised now?
FRANK: They are being raised now. And I think, rather than it being his political profile, I think it was mostly a case of him having money to burn and having all sorts of resources to throw at a dream team of lawyers who were able to essentially dictate the terms to the U.S. attorney's office when it appeared that he was going to be charged in a federal indictment. We have seen a number of emails which suggest that what Mr. Epstein wanted he was able to get from prosecutors.
And at first, what he wanted was not to be in state prison and not to be classified as a sex offender. In the end, he did not go to state prison, but he was classified as a sex offender both in the state of Florida and in the state of New York. Even Mr. Epstein could not get all that he wanted as a result of his riches and influence.
CORNISH: And today, what kind of backlash? Has there been political backlash these last few years?
FRANK: Well, I'll say this. Twitter has been having a field day at the expense of Mr. Epstein, President Trump and Bill Clinton. And it seems to be a free-for-all of people suggesting that one party or the other party is going to be exposed. I do believe this - that anybody who was friends with Mr. Epstein, spent time with Mr. Epstein is probably feeling a little bit uncomfortable right now because at the very least, they could be called as a witness in a very unpleasant setting.
CORNISH: Casey Frank of the Miami Herald. Thank you so much for speaking with us.
FRANK: Thank you Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.