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“It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side," Trump said about the registered sex offender.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s longtime friend financier Jeffrey Epstein, who is also known for being close to the Clinton family, was arrested late Saturday for sex trafficking of underage girls and will appear in federal court in Manhattan Monday.
Epstein, 66, was being held in New York City's Metropolitan Correctional Center, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons website.
Saturday's arrest was first reported by the Daily Beast, which cited three unidentified law enforcement sources, and later by other media including the Miami Herald, also citing anonymous sources.
The new charges stem from purported trafficking of dozens of minors in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005, the Daily Beast said.
Brad Edwards, a lawyer who represents some of Epstein's accusers, said, "I got many calls between last night and today from multiple victims crying tears of joy. One just kept repeating that she was so happy he was finally off the streets."
Epstein was arrested at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, the Miami Herald reported, citing one of its sources. Flight records show he had just flown to Teterboro from Paris Saturday, the Herald said.
About a dozen federal agents broke down the door to Epstein's Manhattan townhouse Saturday afternoon to execute search warrants, the Herald said, citing sources a witness who described FBI agents banging on his door.
Asked if Epstein planned to plead not guilty to any charges, a lawyer for Epstein, Jack Goldberger, replied, "Yes."
The billionaire has been friends with Trump for over two decades and also of former President Bill Clinton. In 2002, Trump said Epstein "enjoys his social life."
"I've known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side," said the president who himself had been accused by multiple women of harassment.
Meanwhile, Epstein's private plane took President Bill Clinton, actor Kevin Spacey, and comedian Chris Tucker to Africa to tour HIV/AIDS project sites, according to local media reports from 2002.
Flight logs obtained by Gawker in 2015 also showed that the former president would take several flights on Epstein's private plane in 2002 and 2003.
"Jeffrey is both a highly successful financier and a committed philanthropist with a keen sense of global markets and an in-depth knowledge of twenty-first-century science," Clinton had said through a spokesman in a report by the New York Magazine in 2002. "I especially appreciated his insights and generosity during the recent trip to Africa to work on democratization, empowering the poor, citizen service, and combating HIV/AIDS."
The former hedge fund manager has been investigated in the past. Epstein pleaded guilty in 2007 to a reduced felony prostitution charge in Florida and is registered as a sex offender.
His 13-month sentence enabled him to get out of the Palm Beach County Stockade six days a week to work from his office, according to the New York Times.
In February of this year, a U.S. district judge in Florida ruled that prosecutors violated the federal Crime Victims' Rights Act by not letting more than 30 identified victims know of the deal so they would have a chance to oppose it.
Even so, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a court filing last month there was no reason to cancel that agreement.
Among the prosecutors who made that 2007 deal was Alex Acosta, then the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and now U.S. Secretary of Labor for President Donald Trump.
A U.S. Justice Department office is investigating whether government attorneys committed professional misconduct in the Epstein case.
Before reaching the non-prosecution agreement with Acosta's office, Epstein was facing potential federal indictment for sexually abusing dozens of girls as young as 14 between 1999 and 2007, directing others to abuse them and paying employees to bring victims to him, according to court filings.
Epstein has said his encounters with those women were consensual and that he believed they were 18 when they occurred.