President Trump said on Friday that he was “surprised” to learn New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a longtime friend of the president, had been charged with soliciting prostitution, and emphasized that Kraft had denied he was involved in a crime.
“It’s very sad,” Trump said when asked about the charges by Yahoo News’ Hunter Walker inside the Oval Office. “I was very surprised to see it. He’s proclaimed his innocence totally. But I was very surprised to see it.”
Kraft, 77, was one of dozens of men named by police as suspects in an investigation of suspected prostitution in Jupiter, Fla. According to authorities, Kraft had twice visited the Orchids of Asia Day Spa, one of several massage parlors that were shut down following a monthslong investigation into sexual slavery and human trafficking in the Palm Beach area.
Kraft was charged Friday on two counts of soliciting prostitutes, police said. A law enforcement source told Yahoo Sports that video evidence prompted the charges against Kraft.
NEW: Pres. Trump on charges against Patriots owner Robert Kraft: "Well, it's very sad. I was very surprised to see it. He's proclaimed his innocence totally, but I'm very surprised to see it." https://t.co/bHHgDtBTng pic.twitter.com/ZUqrwLMHXj
— ABC News (@ABC) February 22, 2019
A spokesperson for Kraft released a brief statement denying any wrongdoing: “We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further.”
Earlier this month, Trump touted his administration’s efforts to combat human trafficking. “My administration has made the fight against human trafficking one of our highest priorities,” Trump said in an Oval Office meeting on Feb. 1. “We’re watching closer than ever before. We’re studying people that are doing it. We’re following them. We’re capturing them.”
Trump said the administration’s focus is on human trafficking from Mexico, by smugglers who he said bind women with “duct tape” and drive them across the border. The White House had not provided any evidence this is actually occurring.
According to police documents, the women involved in the Jupiter investigation “came from China on temporary work visas.”
Police say some of the women were coerced into becoming sex workers.
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