WASHINGTON — President Trump has been playing down his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the wealthy financier under federal indictment on charges of sexually trafficking and abusing girls, but at least one night they shared together in the company of dozens of N.F.L. cheerleaders was documented on camera.
A newly unearthed video from 1992 shows Mr. Trump and Mr. Epstein watching and commenting on women together at an event at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s Palm Beach, Fla., club. The video was broadcast on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday morning.
Dressed in a suit and a pink tie, Mr. Trump, then 46, appears to be in jovial spirits as he plays host, laughing and warmly welcoming guests, including Mr. Epstein — the man he now claims he was “never a fan of.”
The video provides a glimpse of Mr. Trump in his element: moving back and forth between the dance floor, filled with cheerleaders for the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins, and watching from the sidelines, where at one point he points out a woman to Mr. Epstein and leans in to tell him, “She’s hot.” At another point, Mr. Epstein doubles over laughing at something Mr. Trump whispers into his ear.
Mr. Trump is aware he is being filmed, as he smiles and embraces a blond woman on the dance floor. At one point, he gestures to the camera and tells Mr. Epstein that it belongs to NBC.
The party took place the same year that Mr. Trump hosted a more private affair with Mr. Epstein at Mar-a-Lago, without cameras rolling. At that get-together, Mr. Trump and Mr. Epstein were the only male guests, and had more than two dozen “calendar girls” flown in to provide them with entertainment, according to George Houraney, a Florida-based businessman who ran American Dream Enterprise and organized the women to attend at Mr. Trump’s request.
Speaking to reporters last week in the Oval Office, the president distanced himself from Mr. Epstein, noting that he “knew him like everybody in Palm Beach knew him.” But Mr. Trump added: “I had a falling out with him. I haven’t spoken to him in 15 years. I was not a fan of his, that I can tell you.”
During the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump’s allies also worked to minimize Mr. Trump’s association with Mr. Epstein, while noting that former President Bill Clinton, whose wife was Mr. Trump’s rival, had also been friends with the self-professed billionaire.
The nature of why Mr. Trump and Mr. Epstein stopped talking remains unclear. Mr. Trump has told associates that he banned Mr. Epstein from Mar-a-Lago after a worker at Mr. Trump’s club was recruited to be a masseuse for Mr. Epstein. Others close to Mr. Epstein claim there was a business transaction related to a Florida property that apparently ended their friendship.
But in 2002 Mr. Trump described a much different relationship. “I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy,” Mr. Trump told New York magazine in 2002. “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.”
The video is the latest evidence of that onetime friendship, and it renewed questions about whether Mr. Trump was aware that Mr. Epstein was sexually involved with women who were too young to consent.
Six years after the New York magazine interview, Mr. Epstein pleaded guilty to state charges in Florida in 2008 in what has been widely criticized as a sweetheart deal that shielded him from more serious charges at the federal level. The federal prosecutor in the case at the time was R. Alexander Acosta, who will leave his post as Mr. Trump’s secretary of labor at the end of this week amid extensive news media focus on his role in the 2008 agreement.
In a deposition in a 2010 lawsuit accusing him of the trafficking of children for sex, Mr. Epstein declined to answer a question about his relationship with Mr. Trump and whether they had ever socialized together “in the presence of females under the age of 18.”
“Though I’d like to answer that question, at least today I’m going to have to assert my Fifth, Sixth, 23rd and 14th Amendment rights, sir,” Mr. Epstein replied.
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