President Joe Biden's CIA director William Burns met multiple times with Jeffrey Epstein, years after the late financier was publicly accused of grooming underage girls for sex.
Burns met Epstein in Washington, D.C., and at Epstein's New York City townhouse in 2014, when the spymaster served as deputy secretary of state, according to the Wall Street Journal. A CIA spokeswoman said Burns met with Epstein for "general advice" on the financial services industry and for career advice on his transition out of government.
Epstein’s sordid past was widely known at the time of those interactions. He registered as a sex offender in 2008 after pleading guilty to attempting to trafficking underage girls. Epstein was publicly accused in 2006 of molesting girls as young as 14. He was indicted on federal charges in 2019 with trafficking multiple underage girls for sex at his homes in New York and Florida. He killed himself in jail while awaiting trial.
Burns is certain to face scrutiny in Washington over his ties to Epstein, as well as his failure to disclose the relationship. Links to Epstein have proved a liability for government officials and business leaders in the past. In 2021, Senate Democrats delayed a vote for Eric Lander, Biden's first director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, because of his affiliation with Epstein years earlier at Harvard.
According to CIA spokeswoman Tammy Kupperman Thorp, Burns was introduced to Epstein through a mutual friend and met with him regarding the financial services sector and his transition out of government service. The spy chief did not look into Epstein's background before arranging to meet, the spokeswoman said.
"The director did not know anything about him, other than that he was introduced as an expert in the financial services sector and offered general advice on transition to the private sector," Kupperman Thorp said. "They had no relationship."
According to the Journal, Epstein met dozens of times with Kathryn Ruemmler, who served in the Obama White House and is now the general counsel for Goldman Sachs. Epstein in 2015 and 2016 also arranged meetings with activist Noam Chomsky, then a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to discuss politics and academic research.
The disclosures add to a growing list of business leaders, Beltway insiders, and celebrities who embraced Epstein even after his criminal sex convictions became widely known. Microsoft founder Bill Gates visited Epstein's home numerous times and took frequent trips on Epstein's jet. Democratic donor Reid Hoffman organized a dinner with Epstein in 2015. He apologized in 2019 for hosting the event, which he said had helped Epstein rehabilitate his public image.
Before he was ever accused of sex crimes, Epstein forged close ties to former presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. Clinton flew dozens of times on Epstein's private jet, nicknamed the "Lolita Express."