In the heat of the 2016 Republican primary, Mr. Trump elevated an unsubstantiated rumor, published by the Trump-friendly National Enquirer, insinuating that the father of one of his rivals, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, had been involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Earlier that year, he fed into the ideathat Antonin Scalia, a Supreme Court justice who died in his sleep in 2016, could have actually been murdered in his bed.
On Saturday, two and a half years into his presidency and hours after Jeffrey Epstein, the financier accused of sex trafficking, was found dead in a federal jail cell in Manhattan, Mr. Trump once again weighed in by elevating an online conspiracy theory that the Clintons were linked to his death.
Mr. Epstein “had information on Bill Clinton & now he’s dead,” Terrence Williams, a comedian and Trump supporter, wrote on Twitter on Saturday. Mr. Williams also noted that “for some odd reason, people that have information on the Clintons end up dead.” Mr. Trump promptly shared the baseless insinuation online by retweeting it to his 63 million followers.
Mr. Trump, who is entering the thick of election season, has yet to find any candidate in the crowded Democratic field whom he delights in invoking as much as his forever foils, Bill and Hillary Clinton, the onetime reigning couple of Democratic politics who have been the subject of conspiracy mongering on the right for decades.
Even though the Clintons have retreated from politics, “it’s one of those things that continue to live on,” said Douglas Brinkley, the historian.
Mr. Trump’s decision to weigh in on the case of Mr. Epstein’s apparent suicide, even while his own Justice Department is investigating, also had a political imperative behind it, Mr. Brinkley said. “The first thing Trump wanted to do was put Bill Clinton into the mix,” he added. “Make it about Bubba, not about the Donald.”
Here he is this morning:
REPORTER: Do you really think the Clintons are involved in Epstein’s death?
TRUMP: “I have no idea. I know he was on his plane 27 times…the question you have to ask is, did Bill Clinton go to the island?…I was never there…if you find that out, you’re going to know a lot.” pic.twitter.com/2okvjaFv2w
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 13, 2019
Note that the press corps tees that up for him so nicely. Maybe they could have at least followed up by asking him about the fact that the main Epstein accuser was recruited from Mar-a-lago. Or that Epstein introduced him to Melania. Or anything that might have put him back on his heels about spreading this conspiracy theory as if he isn’t right in the middle of all that Epstein mess himself.
He knows that Bill Barr will protect him from any unpleasantness with the Epstein investigation. But the media shouldn’t help him to smear others with innuendo from the right-wing fever swamp.