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Bill Gates. Photo: Nicolas Liponne/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Jeffrey Epstein was a master of maximizing and leveraging proximity to wealth and power. While some of his associates certainly inherited their social status (like Robert Maxwell's daughter Ghislaine and Queen Elizabeth II's son PrinceAndrew), most of the time he went straight to the top of the family tree.

The big picture: After Epstein was convicted of sex crimes in 2008, his friendships with the rich and powerful continued unabated. In fact, his relationship with Bill Gates started in 2011.

  • A blockbuster New York Times investigation reveals that Gates and his associates regularly visited Epstein at his mansion in New York. That's in line with what we already knew about Gates flying on Epstein's jet and donating $2 million to MIT at Epstein's behest.
  • The NYT obtained a photograph from 2011, showing Gates and Epstein at the latter's mansion, alongside Jes Staley, who was at the time the chief executive of JPMorgan's investment bank. (He's now CEO of Barclays.)
  • Gates is accompanied by his then-science adviser, Boris Nikolic (on the far right of the photo), who was so close to Epstein that he was named as a fallback executor of Epstein's estate in his will — a position he has legally resigned.
  • Also in the photo is former Treasury Secretary and National Economic Council director Larry Summers, who at the time was expected to become the next Fed chair.

What we know: Epstein prided himself on collecting rich and powerful men like Staley, Summers and Gates. (Also on that list: Apollo CEO Leon Black.) Being well connected helped Epstein maintain his gilded and depraved lifestyle even after his conviction and imprisonment.

What we don't know: Why did the likes of Gates, Summers and Staley willingly consort with Epstein? They must have known they were risking serious reputational damage for themselves and for their institutions. Just imagine the firestorm that would have surrounded the Fed had Summers been chairman when Epstein was arrested earlier this year.

The bottom line: The children of politicians do need jobs in order to navigate life's waters, but people like Summers, Gates and Black do not. They're very big fish who have spent decades avoiding the unwanted attention of unsavory would-be remora.

  • When they're discovered swimming with the likes of Epstein, it's entirely reasonable to ask what exactly they were doing — and to keep on asking, repeatedly, even when they decide that their best response is simply stonewalling.

Go deeper

Golfer Bryson DeChambeau will miss Olympics after testing positive for COVID

Bryson DeChambeau of the United States on the 18th tee during Day Two of the 149th Open at Royal St George’s Golf Club on July 16 in Sandwich, England. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Golfer Bryson DeChambeau has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the Tokyo Olympic Games, USA Golf announced late Saturday.

What's happening: "Patrick Reed will replace DeChambeau and is undergoing the requisite testing protocol" Sunday and Monday before his expected departure for Japan, per a USA Golf statement.

In photos: Scenes from some of the worst fires raging in the U.S.

A home explodes into flames as the Dixie Fire rips through the Indian Falls neighborhood of unincorporated Plumas County, California, on July 24. The blaze started near the origin of the deadly 2018 Camp Fire and has churned burned over 185,000 acres. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Out-of-state crews went to Montana to tackle a wildfire that wounded five firefighters as Australia sent a large air tanker to help Californian firefighting efforts, as 88 large blazes raged in the U.S. Saturday.

The big picture: Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) tweeted his thanks to Utah and California for sending crews over the weekend, as the two states battle their own blazes. The Australian tanker arrived in Calif., this week, where Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) proclaimed a state of emergency for four northern counties Friday.

Updated 3 hours ago - Sports

Swimmer Chase Kalisz first American to win Tokyo Olympics gold medal

Chase Kalisz of Team United States celebrates after winning the Men's 400m Individual Medley Final on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Swimmer Chase Kalisz has become the first Team United States Olympian to win gold at the Tokyo Games.

The big picture: The Rio 2016 silver medalist's winning time in the men's 400 meters Individual Medley Final was 4 minutes 9.42 seconds. His teammate Jay Litherland took silver, .86 seconds behind him. Moments later, Kieran Smith grabbed a third medal for the U.S. when he won bronze in the 400-meter freestyle.

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.