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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Donald Trump says 'Wish her well' of alleged pimp Maxwell, not 'Lock her up'

Ghislaine Maxwell in 2013.

Ghislaine Maxwell in 2013. Credit: UN via EPA / Rick Bajornas

Normally you'd expect a president whose longtime acquaintance was arrested on sex-trafficking charges to express hope and faith that the American court system will justly and fairly resolve the case. But we're talking here about Donald Trump.

"I don’t know,” the president shrugged Tuesday, when asked if he thought Ghislaine Maxwell would reveal which powerful men were involved in her late ex-boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein’s sex-trafficking ring. “I haven’t really been following it too much. I just wish her well, frankly. I’ve met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach, and I guess they lived in Palm Beach.

"But," he said again, "I wish her well, whatever it is.”

Even without guessing what signal Trump may be sending to someone accused of pimping minors, his sympathetic remarks seem to reflect a circumstantial view of law enforcement and personal liberties. That is, he demands law and order or hails personal freedoms, depending on what fits the immediate agenda.

Trump didn't choose to turn reporters' attention to Maxwell's alleged victims. The government is holding Maxwell without bail awaiting trial on charges of helping transport underage girls for sexual activity. Prosecutors said she "played a critical role" in helping Epstein "befriend and groom minor victims for abuse." She denies it.

Photos of Trump schmoozing in the 1990s and the 2000s with financier Epstein and socialite Maxwell have made the rounds for years. They got a new airing when Trump's Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta quit the post last year amid questions about his soft handling of Epstein's previous cases, also involving minors, when Acosta was a federal prosecutor.

“This was him, not me,” Trump said of the resignation, adding that Acosta has been a “great, great secretary” and a “tremendous talent,” noting “he went to Harvard, a great student.” Trump, Epstein and Maxwell traveled in the same circles, all members of the same privileged class. Maxwell is the daughter of the late Robert Maxwell, a British-based publisher who secretly siphoned more than $1 billion from two of his companies and from employee pension funds.

Over the July 4 weekend, the president's son Eric Trump tweeted a photo of former President Bill Clinton walking his daughter down the aisle in 2010 with Epstein, by then a convicted sex offender, and Maxwell peering out from the audience. “Birds of a feather … ” Eric jeered. After a flood of online images of Donald Trump with Maxwell and Epstein, the younger Trump deleted it.

Someone could have made the same sort of mischievous point by posting a photo of the famous snapshot of Donald and Melania Trump at their 2005 wedding socializing with Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Don't bet on the Trump camp taunting Maxwell with "Lock her up!" chants as they did with Hillary Clinton — unless circumstances change.

Of course, Trump's "wish her well" might not reflect the perspective of FBI agents and other Justice Department officials working the case. Trump's support for law enforcement tends to be fickle depending on whether allies and associates are defendants. Would the president nullify their work in this case with a pardon?

Maxwell had been hiding in New Hampshire in a posh estate she bought discreetly in December, authorities said. Agents said they had to bust into the residence after she evaded them. “Through a window, the agents saw the defendant ignore the direction to open the door and, instead, try to flee to another room in the house, quickly shutting a door behind her,” court records said. Prosecutors also said Maxwell was guarded by a security company that hires ex-members of the British military.

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