Donald Trump has awkwardly defended a past association with paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, saying he was a "fixture in Palm Beach".
A day after the 66-year-old financier was charged in a New York court with sex trafficking and accused of luring dozens of girls to his luxury homes and coercing them into performing sex acts, the president was asked about his relationship with him.
Epstein had once been a regular at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, but the president claimed he long ago had a falling out with him.
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“I knew him like everybody in Palm Beach knew him. The people in Palm Beach knew him. He was a fixture in Palm Beach,” Mr Trump told reporters, in a seemingly awkward exchange at the White House, where the president was meeting with Qatar's Sheikh Tamim Bin-Hamad Al-Thani.
“I had a falling out with him a long time ago. I don’t think I have spoken with him for 15 years. I was not a fan. A long time ago. I’d say maybe 15 years. I was not a fan of his, that I can tell you.”
The Trump administration has been on the defensive following the new charges against Epstein and the revelation that a 2008 plea deal - since ruled illegal by a court - that provided him immunity from federal prosecution, was overseen by Alexander Acosta.
Mr Acosta now serves as Mr Trump’s labour secretary, and Democrats have called for him to resign.
“I do hear that there were a lot of people involved in that decision, not just him,” he said.
“The rest of it, we'll have to look at. We’ll have to look at it very carefully. But you're talking about a long time ago.”
In 2002, Mr Trump told New York magazine of Mr Epstein: “I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. 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. No doubt about it - Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”