Trump's smart take about Ghislaine Maxwell breeds conspiracy theories
The internet is awash with conspiracy theories about President Trump and Ghislaine Maxwell. These theories don't claim that Trump was somehow involved in the despicable sex-trafficking and other perversions of which Maxwell stands accused. Instead, they revolve around Trump's seemingly careless statement that he wishes Maxwell "well."
What could that mean? If you take the time to think it through, what it means is that Trump is a very smart man.
The core story is simple. During a White House coronavirus briefing on Tuesday, a reporter had a question for Trump:
Since Ghislaine Maxwell is in prison, and a lot of people want to know if she's going to turn in powerful people — I know you've talked in the past about Prince Andrew and you've criticized Bill Clinton's behavior — I'm wondering, do you feel she's going to turn in powerful men? How do you see that working out?
Trump's answer was minimalist. He acknowledged moving in some of the same circles as Maxwell and then wished her "well":
I don't know. I haven't really been following it too much. I just wish her well, frankly. I've met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach and I guess they lived in Palm Beach. But I wish her well. Whatever it is. I don't know the situation with Prince Andrew. Just don't know. Not aware of it.
The fever swamp instantly swung into action with the theory that Trump, because he wished her "well," was going to pardon Maxwell or cut a deal with her that would keep her silent. The assumption among the Trump haters is that Trump was obviously involved in some criminal way with Epstein and Maxwell or that he's simply a self-involved, amoral narcissist:
“I wish her well” could be code for keep quiet and I’ll pardon or commute your sentence! pic.twitter.com/wy83LC2UXt— Phyllis Silver (@PhyllisSilver) July 22, 2020
In case you weren’t aware, “I wish her well” is code for, “stay silent or else.”— Ricky Davila (@TheRickyDavila) July 22, 2020
Trump just said of Ghislaine Maxwell who is under arrest for sex trafficking of minors,” I wish her well.” What type of statement is that? No sympathy for the victims of Maxwell and his friend Jeffrey Epstein.— Barbra Streisand (@BarbraStreisand) July 21, 2020
"I just wish her well, frankly."— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) July 22, 2020
-- President Trump, on child sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell.
A terrible president. An even worse human being.
He didn’t just wish her well. He signaled her pardon. That’s what that was. It may be the main reason he was there. https://t.co/MHthePrb9A— Judd Apatow (@JuddApatow) July 22, 2020
Thankfully, Trump is smarter than the mindless Twitterati. First, if Trump had been speaking in "code" about anything, he was almost certainly saying he hopes that Maxwell, unlike Epstein, survives to go to trial, or at least to spill the beans to law enforcement.
Trump also never says bad things about people who haven't attacked him or those close to him. As long as Maxwell isn't slandering him or his sons, he's going to voice banal platitudes.
But there's something even more important going on here. Trump isn't going to risk being accused of tainting Maxwell's trial. Unlike his young attackers who know nothing or the older attackers who ought to know better, Trump hasn't forgotten how the defense in the Charles Manson murders attempted to use President Nixon's statements to make it impossible to try the defendants.
Just last August, the Washington Post told the story that's caused Trump to be careful when speaking about Maxwell. In August 1970, Richard Nixon scolded the media for its Manson coverage. He asserted that the media had made Manson appear as a "rather glamorous figure," even though Manson, in Nixon's opinion, was "guilty, directly or indirectly, of eight murders without reason."
Even in a pre-internet era, the media disseminated that throwaway line throughout America within moments. Worse, someone smuggled a copy of a newspaper to Manson, who promptly held the boldly headlined story up for the jurors to see. For the Manson crews' attorneys, Nixon was a possible lifeline:
Lawyers for Manson and his followers immediately demanded a mistrial, portraying their deranged clients as the peace-and-love good guys when compared to Nixon's misdeeds in Vietnam.
The judge polled the jurors separately, and all insisted that they could still be impartial. Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Leslie Van Houten still tried to take advantage of the situation by chanting, "Nixon says we are guilty, so why go on?" The judge denied the motion.
Trump was not going to pull a Nixon. Instead, he uttered the most anodyne phrase possible, one that alludes obliquely to Epstein's suicide but otherwise says nothing about Maxwell's guilt or innocence, or about any of the well known people who might get sucked into the limelight of Maxwell's trial.
(Trump was also burned by Bowe Bergdahl's military trial. That's when a military panel concluded that, when Trump said he believed Bergdahl was guilty, Trump had committed something that the military calls "unlawful command influence.")
As for Trump, I doubt he's worried about Maxwell. Trump never flew on Epstein's infamous jet to his private pedophile palace island. Instead, Trump long ago banned Epstein from Mar-a-Lago after Epstein hit on a teenage girl. Additionally, all the way back in 2009, when an attorney represented several of Epstein's victims in a lawsuit against him, Trump was the only person who would talk to the attorney to try to help the case.
Those who are trying to make a federal case out of Trump's remarks about Maxwell are barking up the wrong tree. All that happened was that Trump was too smart to risk the integrity of Maxwell's trial. (Indeed, thinking about it, he may have been engaging in an even deeper game. If he assumes that a New York jury will hate him, they may be more inclined to find against Maxwell if they believe that doing so will make Trump unhappy.)
Image: YouTube screen grab.