Donald Trump was coming off a bruising few years: His casino and real estate business had teetered on the edge of collapse, awash in debt. His marriage to Ivana Trump had disintegrated, and his relationship with model Marla Maples had fallen apart.
In November 1992, eager for a comeback, Trump threw a raucous party with NFL cheerleaders at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and invited NBC to tape the event.
Footage of that party, unearthed and aired by NBC News on Wednesday, shows Trump grabbing dancing cheerleaders and socializing with financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was arrested last week and charged with sex trafficking.
Trump has repeatedly said he is “not a fan” of Epstein’s and that the two had a falling out about 15 years ago. Epstein, who owns a home in Palm Beach near Mar-a-Lago, pleaded guilty in 2008 to soliciting a minor for prostitution.
“I knew him like everybody in Palm Beach knew him,” the president said of Epstein this month. “He was a fixture in Palm Beach.”
In the video from the 1992 party, the two men appear chummy, chuckling as Trump appears to point out women on the dance floor. At one point, Trump can be seen whispering in Epstein’s ear, causing the financier to double over in laughter.
Trump at the Mar-a-Lago party in November 1992. (NBC) The footage was taken for a feature on Trump that aired on the NBC talk show “A Closer Look” that month. On the segment, host Faith Daniels described Trump’s agreeing to come on the show after he kissed the news anchor on the lips in front of photographers at a charity dinner in New York while her husband’s back was turned.
Trump’s interactions with women at the Mar-a-Lago party — welcome or not — provide visual evidence of the kind of behavior he would later brag about on a 2005 “Access Hollywood” recording that surfaced at the end of the presidential campaign: that he could grab and kiss women because he was a celebrity.
Sixteen women have publicly accused Trump of sexual misconduct over the past several decades, including a former magazine columnist who went public last month with her claim that Trump assaulted her in a department store dressing room around 1995. He has denied all the allegations and said the women are lying.
[ Magazine columnist accuses Trump of sexual assault more than two decades ago, an allegation he denies ]
In the footage of the November 1992 party, Trump can be seen putting his arm around the waist of one of the women, yanking her toward him and patting her on the backside as she laughs.
Trump kisses Marla Maples at the Palace Theater in New York on Aug. 3, 1992. (Mark Lennihan/AP) The White House declined to comment. An attorney for the Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment. Martin Weinberg, a lawyer for Epstein, declined to comment.
The party was part of about 36 hours of footage taken of Trump for a half-hour piece about him that aired on “A Closer Look” in late November 1992, according to the then-NBC producer for the shoot, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect her privacy.
During the wide-ranging interview, Trump told Daniels that he didn’t think he would ever run for president, saying his relationship with women was a likely obstacle.
“I mean, I’m so controversial, I love beautiful women, I love going out with beautiful women, and I love women in general, and people would say, ‘Oh, that’s a horrible thing,’ ” Trump told Daniels, according to a transcript of the show that Daniels provided to The Washington Post.
People who attended the Mar-a-Lago party recalled that the cheerleaders were from the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills, which were playing that weekend in Miami. Trump has long been interested in the NFL and, in 2014, made a failed bid to buy the Bills.
The former NBC producer said the 1992 party was “odd” — strange enough that she recalled telling her husband about it.
“Who says, ‘This is going to be good for my rehabilitation,’ and then invites a bunch of NFL cheerleaders over?” she said. “It was classic Donald Trump.”
One former Bills cheerleader who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect her privacy recalled that Trump invited the cheerleaders to spend the night at Mar-a-Lago and that about 15 or 20 did so, sharing bedrooms all over the house.
“By the end of the night, Donald Trump was throwing people in the pool, but I think it was all in good fun,” said the former cheerleader, who said she steered clear of the host. “It looks crazier in the video than it was. We were young, we were in our 20s, we were having fun. We didn’t know he was going to be president of the United States.”
Other women pictured in the video could not be reached or declined to comment.
In 1991, Trump had finalized his divorce from his first wife, Ivana, amid a tumultuous, highly public dalliance with Maples, who appeared on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” in October 1992 to discuss their relationship.
Maples and Trump would later reconcile and were married in 1993, but Trump was single at the time of the party.
Tom McMillen, a former NBA player who served as a Democratic member of Congress from Maryland from 1987 to 1993 and attended the gathering, said the cheerleaders were present because the party was “NFL-themed,” but he added that it was a large and diverse crowd.
In the footage of the party, McMillen can be seen entering the gathering just behind Epstein.
McMillen recalled that Trump greeted all of the guests on a receiving line. “He was being a very social host, that’s all,” McMillen said. “I recall it being a very mixed crowd — lots of couples, lots of dates.”
In the television segment on NBC, Daniels and Trump discussed his agreeing to appear on her show after he publicly kissed Daniels at a New York charity event.
“And what a kiss,” Trump said.
“You kissed me on the lips in front of the paparazzi, and I said, ‘That’ll cost you. I’m booking you on the show,’ ” Daniels said to Trump.
“Uh-huh. I know. That’s great,” Trump responded, adding: “It was so open and nice.”
“So open and nice?” interjected Daniels. “Wait a minute.”
“Her husband is a handsome devil, I’ll tell you. He’s a good guy. But I think he had his back turned at the time,” Trump continued.
“Yes,” she said.
Daniels declined to comment on the encounter, which was first reported by NBC before the 2016 election.
During the “Closer Look” segment, Trump also disparaged the appearance of the singers Madonna (“Physically unattractive and I just don’t know how she sells”) and LaToya Jackson (“Grotesque, I have to tell you”) and praised Bill Clinton, who had been elected president a few weeks before the party (“He’s got energy”).
Daniels asked Trump what kind of women he did like.
“I think my choice might be you,” he responded. “Look at the legs on her. Boy, oh, boy. Could be you.”
Daniels also pushed Trump about the Mar-a-Lago party, asking him how he would explain to his son that he was partying with NFL cheerleaders.
“That my son could really understand,” said Trump, in an apparent reference to his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. “He’s 14, and, uh, he could really understand that one.”
“No,” Trump continued, “that one’s alright.”
Trump told Daniels that he thought he would eventually get married again.
“I mean, this is good for a while, and, you know, everything’s fine for a while, but you get tired of it,” he said.
“Yeah, but you’re gonna have another party just next week and make sure, right?” Daniels responded.
“Keep going,” Trump said. “Keep it going.”
John Wagner, Alice Crites and Ashley Parker contributed to this report.
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LINK ORIGINAL: Washington Post