MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
So suspicions are swirling around several people in Jeffrey Epstein's orbit, one of them - Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite. She has been photographed with Donald Trump and then-girlfriend Melania. She's been photographed at Chelsea Clinton's wedding, with Britain's Prince Andrew. Well, more than a thousand pages of court documents that were unsealed on Friday reveal details about the role she may have played in Epstein's alleged sex crimes and trafficking.
Matthew Schneier of New York Magazine has reported on Ghislaine Maxwell. He joins us now to tell us more about her. And I want to warn people listening that these next five minutes may include some graphic details.
Matthew Schneier, welcome.
MATTHEW SCHNEIER: Thanks so much.
KELLY: What more do we know about who she is?
SCHNEIER: Well, historically, her relationship to Epstein has been one that sort of blurs the line between friend, girlfriend, employee and sort of all-purpose helpmate. You know, what we do know, thanks to the unsealing of previously sealed court documents on Friday, is just the level to which she was allegedly involved in his predation.
KELLY: She has admitted hiring massage therapists and other people. She has claimed that everyone was an adult and was a professional. Is that right?
SCHNEIER: You know, she has claimed in a sworn deposition several years ago that, as far as she knew, as far as she understood, everyone was an adult professional. You know, the way that she's phrased it is that she had oversight over Epstein's six homes - everywhere from New York to Paris to New Mexico to his own private island - and that one of her tasks was to oversee hiring for all of these homes. In her words, that included gardeners and decorators, and she says, you know, from time to time, massage therapists.
KELLY: So having spent your weekend poring over these court documents, is there a particular incident or moment that stands out to you as something that prosecutors may be interested in looking at?
SCHNEIER: You know, I hate to say it, but there are so many. In reading, you know, a thousand-plus pages of documents over the weekend and on Friday, some of the stories are absolutely chilling. I mean, you have testimony. And we should really underscore that this is - these are allegations that haven't been proved with any evidence, but allegations that Ghislaine Maxwell had removed the passport and phone from one young victim so that she wasn't able to leave, that she was involved in group sex - consensually - or not with Epstein and underage girls, you know, that she referred to one particular girl as her slave, though, you know, another witness said that she had a kind of more maternal role in these girls' lives. It was very...
KELLY: A more maternal role, meaning what?
SCHNEIER: Yes, that she was sort of the den mother of the house, however twisted that may seem.
KELLY: Den mother - that's such a chilling phrase, but the documents actually point to that kind of role for her?
SCHNEIER: I think they do. I mean, the allegations made by some of the women that were in this orbit, some of the young women who had been recruited personally by Ghislaine from, you know, their college campus or elsewhere, you know, really say that she saw these girls as her children.
And the biological mother of one of the primary accusers, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who sued Maxwell for defamation - these are the court filings that were unsealed. Her mother said in a sworn deposition that she felt that when her daughter moved in with Ms. Maxwell, that Maxwell became, quote, "her new mama." So that's obviously a very chilling turn of phrase.
KELLY: Where is she now? What's she saying?
SCHNEIER: That's a great question, and it's one that I would very much like to know the answer to, and I think many others would as well. You know, she dropped off the radar, at least in New York, in 2016 after she sold the townhouse that she'd been living in, a townhouse that had some fairly significant ties to Epstein.
She has a company that's incorporated in the U.K., so it's possible that she's there. It's possible that she's elsewhere in the U.S. at this point. I imagine if the federal prosecutors are not already in touch with her, they are looking to be in touch with her.
But neither she nor her lawyers have given any sort of comment whatsoever since Epstein was first arrested at Teterboro on July 6, nor since he was found dead in his jail cell over the weekend. So I think it's fair to say that all of the focus - or much of the focus is going to shift to her in the coming days.
KELLY: Matthew Schneier. He is a writer for New York Magazine.
Thanks for joining us.
SCHNEIER: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.