Jeffrey Epstein had connections to powerful people, including Bill Clinton and Donald Trump.
Mr. Epstein was also a convicted sex offender, facing a new round of prosecution that could have put him in jail for the rest of his life.
But he killed himself in jail this past weekend, according to jail officials, so we’ll never know how that case would have proceeded or what he would have said.
In the toxic culture of American politics today, the combination of those facts immediately led people on both sides of the partisan divide to conclude that there had been a conspiracy: Somebody killed him to protect the Clintons. Or somebody killed him to protect President Trump.
It’s enough to make you queasy. People jump to conclusions — actually, calling them “conclusions” is doing a great disservice to the word — because they simply want more ammunition for their side of an argument. People don’t actually look for or really even consider facts. They have opinions that they go around trying to bolster by stumbling across factish-type strands of information.
It happens on both sides, which is why the case of Mr. Epstein’s death is the perfect storm. Mr. Clinton rode around on Mr. Epstein’s plane. Mr. Trump attended his parties, and hired the guy who cut a deal with Mr. Epstein to keep him out of jail in an earlier round of prosecution. Those things are true, but they certainly don’t mean either man conspired to have him killed.
Truth is, there are serious questions to be answered about how Mr. Epstein managed to hang himself in his jail cell. He had evidently attempted it once before, but was taken off of suicide watch just a few days later, just prior to his successful attempt. It’s clear that the jail system made a serious mistake. Why?
Authorities and newspapers will have to dig into that question, accumulating facts as they go. There are, after all, serious people who still do serious work in this country. In fact, we might note that the reason Mr. Epstein was being prosecuted at all this year is because of the investigative reporting by the Miami Herald.
We’ll withhold any judgment. We’ll put our faith in the deliberate accumulation of real facts by journalists and prosecutors. At this point, all we really know is that Mr. Epstein is dead, and that the authorities say he killed himself in a New York jail cell. Authorities are also saying that they’ll continue the investigation, and that co-conspirators will still be held to account.
We’re well aware that the conspiracy theorists will continue yammering on, too. We’re going to do our best to ignore that, and we hope you will, too.