Vanity Fair interview with Nick Bryant
“A LOT OF POWERFUL PEOPLE...COULD GO DOWN”: THE JOURNALIST WHO PUBLISHED JEFFREY EPSTEIN’S BLACK BOOK AND JET PASSENGER LOGS COMES IN FROM THE FRINGE
Jeffrey Epstein denied bail and prosecutors building their case in his sex trafficking indictment, one of the next shoes to drop—possibly many shoes—will invariably be: Who within Epstein’s social orbit might be implicated in the scandal one way or another? As someone involved in litigation against Epstein told my colleague Gabriel Sherman earlier this week, “It’s going to be staggering, the amount of names. It’s going to be contagion numbers.”
Ever since Epstein’s arrest on July 6, there’s been growing scrutiny of his vast network of rich and/or famous and/or powerful friends and acquaintances—or former friends and acquaintances, as it were. There’s a road map to that network in Epstein’s now-infamous black book, filled with many bold-faced names, phone numbers, and addresses, from Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, and Ehud Barak to Alec Baldwin, Ralph Fiennes, Mick Jagger, and even Courtney Love. “It is a mosaic of Epstein’s social contacts,” the investigative journalist Nick Bryant told me.
Bryant first got his hands on a copy of the black book in 2012, after the feds caught Epstein’s former house manager trying to peddle it for $50,000. At the time, Bryant was shopping a feature on Epstein, without success. “My Epstein article would focus on the government malfeasance that enabled Epstein to skate on scores of child abuse charges,” Bryant wrote in a pitch he submitted to various editors, “and I would also look into covert ties that the government may have had with Epstein. Moreover, the little black book opens up multiple vistas of investigation, and I would attempt to amass sufficient corroboration on some of the power broker perps who molested these girls.”
Three years later, when Epstein was back in the news due to fresh allegations that his pal Prince Andrew had slept with one of the girls who’d alleged she’d been trafficked by Epstein (Buckingham Palace denies this), Bryant finally published the black book in full (phone numbers redacted) in a Gawker article. In particular, the article called attention to a bunch of names that Epstein’s former house manager (who passed in late 2014) had circled, supposedly to identify them as potential “material witnesses.” (Trump, Barak, Alan Dershowitz, Les Wexner, Bill Richardson, and others.) “Some of its contents had been reported, but when you just put it out there and showed these names, and these markings circling the names, that was the power of it,” recalled John Cook, Gawker’s investigations editor at the time. (In a separate Gawker post, Bryant published the similarly star-studded passenger logs to Epstein’s private plane, otherwise known as the “Lolita Express.”)
As a reporter, Bryant has spent the past two decades researching and writing about child trafficking, a beat that has put him outside of the journalistic mainstream (and one that inevitably intersects, at times, with the conspiracy realm). In 2009, before he turned his attention to Epstein, Bryant published a small-press book called The Franklin Scandal, about an alleged power broker pedophile ring in Nebraska that garnered national media attention in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Bryant’s pal David Carr, the late Times media columnist, was a fan, and the book was optioned by Magnolia Pictures in 2016. Three years later, the project still hasn’t found a home, but Magnolia boss Eamonn Bowles thinks that may very well change given all of the renewed exposure on the Epstein case. “There are some stories that are just too wild to be reckoned with while they’re happening,” he said. “You kind of need a historical perspective.”
After a mutual acquaintance pointed me in Bryant’s direction, I gave him a call to talk about Epstein, the black book, and where he thinks all of this might be headed.
Vanity Fair: You started digging into Jeffrey Epstein after writing The Franklin Scandal. What are some of the similarities you found?
Nick Bryant: That book is a template for what’s happening now and how high up it goes. A major parallel between the two stories is that Lawrence King, who was one of the primary pimps of this pedophile network I wrote about, and Jeffrey Epstein, they were both flying children interstate, and they had both done it with impunity for a number of years. In both instances you have officials who were unwilling to back down. In Epstein, you had the Palm Beach Police Department that was unwilling to back down, and in Lawrence King, you had the Nebraska Senate that was unwilling to back down. Epstein had an island, and I’m sure he had these parties also at his place in Manhattan and elsewhere, and there were hidden cameras. In this particular venue in Washington, DC, where the Nebraska victims were trafficked, there were also hidden cameras. The individual who owned the house in Washington, DC, he had intelligence affiliations. We’re seeing with Epstein that he also had alleged intelligence connections. King and Epstein collected children in the same type of fashion. King would have kids conscript other kids, just like Epstein would have kids conscript other kids. In both cases the victims were threatened and hassled. Both Jeffrey Epstein and Lawrence King had lavish lifestyles, but there wasn’t an obvious explanation for their wealth, and both were prominently associated with power brokers of the highest order. [Editor’s note: A grand jury concluded there was no evidence to charge King with any sex crimes.]
When did you first start digging around on Epstein?
Probably eight years ago.
You had a hard time getting The Franklin Scandal published because of the subject matter, and Epstein was probably looking like a similar uphill battle. Why pursue it?
A guy like Epstein doesn’t stop. That’s the thing. That’s why I wanted to bring this to light.
What did your early reporting consist of?
I was talking to lawyers. And the Palm Beach police chief. Because of the settlements, I knew there was something there.
And then you managed to get your hands on his black book. How did that materialize?
The FBI had confiscated the black book form Epstein’s house manager, and I was fortunate enough to acquire it after the FBI had.
When was that?
It was around 2012.
That was before the Daily Mail first reported on the black book in 2015. Was its existence publicly known at that point?
I believe it might have been used as discovery in one of the civil lawsuits.
What was your first impression when you read through it and saw all the names?
I’d seen this exact same thing before with The Franklin Scandal. It was like déjà vu. I felt like, well, here’s another power broker pedophile network. Definitely.
What stood out to you the most?
His lofty social connections were pretty mind-boggling. There were approximately 22 contact numbers for Bill Clinton. And the names of the people the house manager had circled were pretty stunning.
Did you just start calling everyone?
I started calling victims. And they were very, very hard to talk to at that point.
How many did you call?
I called as many as I could call. A lot of the numbers were disconnected, but I was able to talk to some of them, and they essentially corroborated what I thought, that Epstein was the pimp of a very large network.
You started shopping around an Epstein story in 2012, and the pitch sounded similar to the groundbreaking series that the Miami Herald did last year, but at the time, no one would bite. Did you get the sense that there was hesitance because you had been painted as a sort of conspiracy reporter, or that editors just thought the story was too much of a minefield, or that they felt like the Epstein scandal had already run its course by then?
Child abuse is the most horrific of crimes, and editors, I would think, had some cognitive dissonance over what I was pitching them. To assuage their cognitive dissonance, they would much rather decide that I was crazy, or a conspiracy theorist, than to actually address the allegations. But I had the black book, and a lot of the police reports, and some of the FBI reports.
But no victims on the record.
No, but I certainly could have had victims on the record.
You finally did a story on the black book in 2015.
Epstein was in the news again, and I’d shown the black book to John Cook. Gawker, which had a less-than-stellar reputation, was willing to actually publish my articles on Jeffrey Epstein. They were able to show some moral fortitude.
Did it get any traction at that point?
Gawker got a lot of hits. They published his flight manifest too. But ultimately I was stunned that no one in the mainstream media was willing to touch the subject matter.
Now, this is arguably the biggest story in the mainstream media, and the narrative is starting to turn to, who else in Epstein’s network might this touch? How important is the black book as a piece of evidence, and what does it actually tell us? It’s not a crime to be in someone’s Rolodex even if that someone is an accused serial pedophile.
Well, the black book shows that Epstein had connections to Mount Olympus. He was hanging out with the gods. Why would he have 20-something contact numbers for Bill Clinton? Why did the house manager circle Donald Trump’s name? Why did he circle Ehud Barak’s name? Alan Dershowitz’s name?
The house manager’s credibility is questionable, no? He got busted for trying to turn a profit on the book.
In these types of investigations, you’re gonna deal with some very sordid people. Even the victims, their credibility can be problematic, because they can come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, repeatedly molested at a very young age, some turn to drugs to assuage their pain. That’s what makes this type of thing perfect for the perpetrators. The victims’ credibility is easy to compromise.
To your mind, which are the most interesting names that appear in the book, or that might prove to be relevant to the current legal proceedings?
There are people in that book whose names aren’t circled who I’ve been told are perpetrators. One of them is a former U.S. senator.
Who told you that?
One of the lawyers. The black book provides the scaffolding so people can start digging into Epstein’s life. His life is contained in that black book, and a lot of those people have nothing to do with molesting children, but it just shows the diversity of Epstein’s life and the power brokers he hung out with.
What’s your sense of the extent to which the black book might be used as an investigative road map?
I haven’t talked to law enforcement about it, but I’d say the book would be hugely helpful. Although the majority of the individuals in the book aren’t perps, some will invariably be privy to inconvenient truths about Epstein. Plus, the black book also contains perps who law enforcement can compel to disclose the particulars of Epstein’s network.
Do you have any reporting about Epstein that hasn’t yet been made public?
Most of it has been corroborated and confirmed at this point. I was one guy against a machine, and now there’s all kinds of news entities with all kinds of reporters digging into it.
Where does this whole thing go from here? What are your predictions?
I don’t know. In The Franklin Scandal, there were two primary pimps. One committed suicide, the other did 10 years in prison for embezzlement, and he’s had a pretty comfortable life since. It all depends on whether Epstein’s gonna talk or not. If Epstein talks, there’s gonna be a lot of powerful people who could go down. It’s really contingent upon how far the Department of Justice wants to take this. But like I said earlier, the Epstein scandal will also go all the way up to Mount Olympus.https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2019/07 ... ick-bryant
Nick Bryant covered another elite sex trafficking blackmail ring in his book Confessions of a D.C. Madam: The Politics of Sex, Lies, and Blackmail:
A firsthand account of how public officials and other well-connected individuals have been compromised or blackmailed by their sexual improprieties, Confessions of a D.C. Madame relates the author’s time running the largest gay escort service in Washington, DC, and his interactions with VIPs from government, business, and the media who solicited the escorts he employed. The book details the federal government’s pernicious campaign waged against the author to ensure his silence and how he withstood relentless, fabricated attacks by the government, which included incarceration rooted in trumped up charges and outright lies. This fascinating and shocking facet of government malfeasance reveals the integral role blackmail plays in American politics and the unbelievable lengths the government perpetrates to silence those in the know.
WaPo ran a story on the DC Madam Henry Vinson:FROM SMALL-TOWN ROOTS, A BIG-CITY SCANDALhttps://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/ ... 5144d73b9a
Nick Bryant: Confessions of a DC Madam / Franklin Scandal/ Jeffrey Epstein
Inside The Franklin Scandal w/Nick Bryant