President Donald Trump retweeted a conspiracy theory Saturday evening alleging without evidence that former President Bill Clinton was connected to the death of wealthy financier and accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, hours after Epstein was found dead by apparent suicide in his federal prison cell.
"Died of SUICIDE on 24/7 SUICIDE WATCH ? Yeah right! How does that happen," Terrence K. Williams, a conservative commentator and comedian, wrote in the message retweeted by Trump. In a two-minute-long selfie video recording, Williams alleged that the Clintons were responsible for Epstein's death.
Epstein was not on suicide watch at the time of his death, multiple people familiar with the investigation have told NBC News.
The stoking of conspiracy theories about his political rivals is nothing new for the president: he made a political name for himself championing false claims that President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States, and also suggested that Clinton White House aide Vince Foster’s suicide in 1993 was “very fishy.” But the tweets also notably cast suspicions on his own Justice Department.
In the video, Williams alleged that for Epstein to die by suicide, "somebody not doing their job, or somebody got paid not to do — not to do their job, so somebody can get knocked off, so information don’t come out.”
Epstein died in a federal prison, and the FBI is investigating the death. Attorney General William Barr said he was "appalled" by the news and called for an internal probe as well.
In the tweet, which falsely claims that Epstein was on suicide watch in the prison at the time of his death, Williams includes a two-minute selfie video apparently claiming vindication in predicting Epstein's death. He also tied it to Foster's suicide that conspiracy theorists have long blamed on the Clintons, seeming to suggest Epstein and Foster were both murdered by the Clintons.
There is no evidence Foster's death was anything other than a suicide. The Washington Post reported in 2016, when Trump pushed the conspiracy theory during the campaign, that there were five official investigations into Foster's death, conducted by professional investigators, forensic experts, psychologists, doctors and independent prosecutors with unlimited resources; none found evidence of foul play.
Williams is a headliner on the Deplorables Comedy Tour, which promises to "unleash the conservative mindset, transcending politics and unabashedly mocking liberals."
With the president's retweet, his Saturday tweet is likely the highest profile tweet to use the #ClintonBodyCount hashtag, which alleges a long-held conspiracy theory that scores of people close to the Clintons have ended up dead under suspicious circumstances.
"Word on the street is the Clintons did it," Williams concludes in the video. "But I don’t know nothing. I'm just another Black man on Twitter."
Epstein was arrested July 6 at an airport in Teterboro, New Jersey, and charged with one count of sex trafficking conspiracy and one count of sex trafficking, and faced up to 45 years in prison if found guilty. His death came the day after a trove of court documents was unsealed, providing new details about Epstein's alleged crimes.
The indictment in his case showed that he sought out minors, some as young as 14, from at least 2002 through 2005 and paid them hundreds of dollars in cash for sex at either his Manhattan townhouse or his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, federal prosecutors revealed last month. He pleaded not guilty and was denied bail.
Epstein’s circle of powerful friends and acquaintances at one time included Trump, as they were both fixtures on the glitzy Palm Beach social scene. More than a decade before Epstein pleaded guilty to felony prostitution charges in Florida, they both appeared in footage filmed by NBC at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, now a private club. The two wealthy men are laughing and pointing as they appear to discuss young women dancing at a party.
Trump said last month that he had not spoken to Epstein since his 2008 guilty plea, and that his relationship with Epstein was no different than that of anyone else in their elite circle.
CORRECTION (Aug. 10, 2019, 9:50 p.m. ET) An earlier version of this story misstated the year Clinton aide Vince Foster died by suicide. It was 1993, not 1994.Jane C. Timm
Jane C. Timm is a political reporter and fact checker for NBC News.Liz Johnstone
Liz Johnstone is a politics editor for NBC News.