“He would say things like ‘Trump’s people were here this morning. Hillary’s people were here for lunch,’” the magazine quotes the associate as saying. Epstein “would claim he was impacting the campaign dramatically” but he wouldn’t identify who he was supposedly speaking to and the alleged meetings always took place in private.
Neither Mr Clinton nor Mr Trump appears to have stayed in touch with Mr Epstein after he became a convicted sex offender in 2008. But Steve Bannon, the former chairman of the Trump campaign and White House chief strategist often visited Epstein’s mansion on Manhattan, Rolling Stone reported.
“He was the main person that [Epstein] would brag about to literally everyone. It wasn’t a secret,” the former associate told the magazine while speaking on the condition of anonymity. The disgraced financier “loved having this ‘one famous person’ around that he would talk about and introduce to everyone. Almost like [he was] using Bannon to get more people to accept him. That’s my sense”.
The Independent has reached out to Mr Bannon for comment concerning the allegation that he befriended Epstein in the belief he was a spy.
Journalist Michael Wolff writes in his book Too Famous that Mr Bannon and Epstein first met in December 2017. Mr Wolff writes that they bonded “out of a shared incredulity about Donald Trump” and Mr Bannon “was often astonished by what Epstein knew”.
Two Republican strategists who worked for Mr Bannon said that he took the risk of being associated with a sex offender because he was interested in Epstein’s alleged role as a middleman between intelligence services in the US and around the world.
One of the Republican operatives told Rolling Stone that they asked Mr Bannon in 2018 about reports that he had been seen entering Epstein’s home. Mr Bannon reportedly acknowledged that they had met and then said: “Have you seen the Turkish currency?” The operative interpreted this question as Epstein having had something to do with the collapse of the lira.
“He [Bannon] always insinuated that he was still working with the CIA, even when he was outside the White House, which is [complete] bull****,” the operative said.
“What I was told about that meeting by people close to Bannon was that he was trying to replace Epstein as a source for information from various intelligence networks,” Mr Johnson told Rolling Stone. “He saw Epstein as a rival or a partner but he wanted what Epstein had.”
There have been reports for years that Epstein has had connections in the intelligence world. Journalist Vicky Ward reported for Rolling Stone earlier this year that Epstein was active in dealing arms, leading him to work for several governments and to start collecting compromising material on powerful people.
Mr Bannon told The New York Times in September that he had recorded 15 hours of worth of interviews with Epstein to create a documentary to show that Epstein’s “perversions and depravity toward young women were part of a life that was systematically supported, encouraged, and rewarded by a global establishment that dined off his money and his influence”. Media reports suggest that Epstein thought the meetings were in preparation for an interview with 60 Minutes that never took place.
An associate of Epstein’s said they never knew of a film being recorded. “I am surprised how quiet they kept it. Usually, he would brag about it,” they said. “That was just his nature to boast.”
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies