July 9, 2019

There are lots of gross and prurient aspects to the lurid case unfolding around Jeffrey Epstein, a mysterious, well-connected, and evidently very wealthy self-professed financier, convicted sex offender, and alleged sexual abuser and trafficker of young girls, but there are also lots of basic questions. For one: Where did Epstein get all his money?

Until Epstein flew former President Bill Clinton to Africa with Kevin Spacey and Chris Tucker in 2002, few people paid him any heed. Then a 2002 profile of Epstein in New York laid out his origin story: Born and raised in Coney Island, Brooklyn; attended but did not graduate from Cooper Union and NYU; was recruited to Bear Stearns while teaching high school calculus and physics at the tony Dalton School; worked his way up to partner; left Bear Stearns under mysterious circumstances in 1981; founded his own wealth management company in which he would take on only billionaire clients who agreed to hand him total control of their money; yada yada yada multiple mansions, a fleet of private jets, his own island, and powerful friends.

In 2003, a Vanity Fair profile by Vicky Ward tore a few holes in that story, and in 2015, Ward wrote in The Daily Beast that in her extensive reporting on Epstein "no one I spoke to believed" that "the hidden source of his wealth" was "managing the money of billionaires and taking a commission." Some of Epstein's friends "speculated that retailer Les Wexner was the real source of Epstein's wealth," Ward wrote, but while the billionaire founder of Victoria's Secret is Epstein's only known client — or former client — Wexner wouldn't comment on the idea.

A decade ago, Epstein's lawyers said his wealth was in the nine-figure range, but "today, so little is known about Epstein's current business or clients that the only things that can be valued with any certainty are his properties," including the $77 million Manhattan mansion federal agents raided over the weekend and his properties in New Mexico, Paris, Palm Beach, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where his "black box" of a company is now incorporated, Bloomberg News reports. There's even mystery about the Manhattan mansion: The only New York property record on the 1990s transfer of the mansion from Wexner to Epstein was filed in 2011, with a transfer price of $0, Bloomberg says. "Epstein signed for both sides of the transaction." Peter Weber

5:29 p.m.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has uh... something to say.

In a Thursday interview with the Campaign HQ podcast, Hillary Clinton suggested Russia was "grooming" a current 2020 candidate "to be the third party candidate," clearly implying that the outsider Democrat Gabbard is a "favorite of the Russians." So with a very absurd and slightly unhinged tweet storm, Gabbard fired back.

Reports have indicated Gabbard's campaign has become a target of foreign bots and Russian media — something Gabbard didn't address in her Friday tweets. She instead labeled Clinton "the queen of warmongers" and "embodiment of corruption," and taunted her by declaring "this primary is between you and me."

Clinton's spokesperson responded with a sly zinger...

... while Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) just tried to figure out exactly what went down.

And 2016 Green Party nominee Jill Stein, who Clinton also declared a Russian asset in her Thursday interview, challenged the former secretary of state to a debate. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:35 p.m.

Having spent much of his career living in Maine (and writing about scary stuff happening in it), Stephen King is moving to the second spookiest state in America: Flooooooridaaaaa.

In preparation for the move, the author has received approval to re-zone his famous home in Maine as a nonprofit, which will serve as both a museum for King's archive and a retreat for up to five writers. And if you're thinking "five writers staying at Stephen King's mansion" sounds like a great setup for a horror novel, you should probably apply for a residency. Read more at People. Scott Meslow

4:35 p.m.

The '90s teen movie Clueless became a breakout hit due, in large part, to Alicia Silverstone's star-making performance as the fashion-obsessed Cher Horowitz. So what is Hollywood, in its infinite wisdom, planning next? A Clueless reboot without Cher Horowitz.

The proposed Clueless TV series would follow Cher's best friend Dionne as she does her best to solve the mystery of Cher's disappearance — so let's hope they won't be taking the title Clueless too literally this time. Read more at The Hollywood Reporter. Scott Meslow

4:13 p.m.

The President Trump x Mick Mulvaney collaboration is here.

In a Thursday press conference, the acting White House chief of staff unexpectedly admitted that yes, Trump had engaged in a quid pro quo with Ukraine, that it "happens all the time in foreign policy," and that reporters should "get over it." Mulvaney eventually walked back the entire statement, but for some reason, the latter phrase still became the subject of a Trump campaign T-shirt less than 24 hours later.

This shirt is best worn while sipping a Coke through a Trump disposable straw, preferably kept cold in a Witch Hunt tweet coozie. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:33 p.m.

Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich has officially backed President Trump's impeachment.

Kasich, who ran against Trump in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, announced his support for the president's impeachment Friday in a CNN interview after White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney admitted Trump withheld aid to Ukraine partly to secure an investigation into the 2016 Democratic National Committee email hack. Mulvaney backtracked on this hours later.

"When I heard what Mulvaney said ... it pushed me really across the Rubicon," Kasich told CNN, going on to say that Trump withholding aid so that "a political operation can't take place" is "totally inappropriate" and an "abuse of power." This does "rise to the level of impeachment," Kasich concluded.

"I say it with great sadness," Kasich said. "This is not something I really wanted to do ... But this behavior, in my opinion, cannot be tolerated, and action is going to have to be taken."

Kasich was hesitant last month to back impeachment, saying after the release of the rough transcript of Trump's conversation with Ukraine showing he pushed for investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and the DNC hack, "Does this process move to a place where Republicans can grudgingly say this is a problem. And right now, I don't see it."

The former Ohio governor has often been critical of Trump throughout his presidency, and his name was floated as a possible 2020 primary contender. In August, Kasich said he doesn't see a path to victory against Trump "right now" while adding, "that doesn't mean there wouldn't be a path down the road." Brendan Morrow

3:26 p.m.

Joe Biden's ice cream problem is costing his campaign — $3,800, to be exact.

That's how much Biden spent in one go at Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream in Columbus, Ohio, during the 2020 campaign to purchase "donor gifts," Politico reports via public campaign finance reports. But it's far from a surprising purchase for the ice cream-loving former vice president. Well, at least not as surprising as how much Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) spent on shoelaces.

Campaign finance reports are often used to scrutinize how much candidates spend on private flights and other luxury-adjacent services. The charter flight crown has so far gone to Biden, who spent $924,000 on the service and also carbon offsets for the flights, his campaign says. But Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) tops the Uber pool, racking up nearly $23,000 on ride-hailing services of a combined $136,000 among candidates, Politico reports.

In more unusual purchases, candidates have so far spent more than $7,000 on flowers, with South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg spending the most at $3,100. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang meanwhile bought $3,100 worth of "campaign attire," which is a Federal Election Commission violation Yang's campaign said it'd rectify.

Perhaps the most absurd purchase comes from Swalwell, who was one of the first candidates to drop out of the race. He later transferred his 2020 funds to his congressional re-election campaign, and used $7,000 of it to buy shoelaces printed with "#Swalwelling." Find more campaign spending highlights at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:29 p.m.

Peggy Noonan, who served as a speechwriter for former President Ronald Reagan, is forecasting possible trouble ahead in President Trump's impeachment trial.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer in a new Wall Street Journal op-ed observes that Trump's acquittal in the Senate "is likely but not fated," seeing a "mood shift" on impeachment and writing that there are reasons to believe "the situation is more fluid than we realize."

She cites as one reason Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recently saying the Senate's probable impeachment trial could be fairly lengthy at between six and eight weeks; for comparison, the impeachment trial of former President Bill Clinton was five weeks.

"His decision also gives room for the unexpected — big and serious charges that sweep public opinion and change senators' votes," Noonan says. "...Serious and dramatic hearings would move the needle on public opinion, tripping it into seriously negative territory for the president. And if the needle moves, the Senate will move in the same direction."

Noonan does think that Trump pushing for Ukraine to conduct investigations that might benefit him politically "probably isn't enough," but what may be is "serious and sincere professionals who testify believably that the administration is corrupt and its corruption has harmed the country." And, she notes, it doesn't help that Trump continues to "let his inner crazy flourish daily and dramatically." Read the full op-ed at The Wall Street Journal. Brendan Morrow

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