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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.

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Netflix tops 200 million global subscribers

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Netflix said that it added another 8.5 million global subscribers last quarter, bringing its total number of paid subscribers globally to more than 200 million.

The big picture: Positive fourth quarter results show Netflix's resiliency, despite increased competition and pandemic-related production headwinds.

Janet Yellen plays down debt, tax hike concerns in confirmation hearing

Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen at an event in December. (Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images)

Janet Yellen, Biden's pick to lead the Treasury Department, pushed back against two key concerns from Republican senators at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday: the country's debt and the incoming administration's plans to eventually raise taxes.

Driving the news: Yellen — who's expected to win confirmation — said spending big now will prevent the U.S. from having to dig out of a deeper hole later. She also said the Biden administration's priority right now is coronavirus relief, not raising taxes.

Trump gives farewell address: "We did what we came here to do"

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump gave a farewell video address on Tuesday, saying that his administration "did what we came here to do — and so much more."

Why it matters, via Axios' Alayna Treene: The address is very different from the Trump we've seen in his final weeks as president — one who has refused to accept his loss, who peddled conspiracy theories that fueled the attack on the Capitol, and who is boycotting his successor's inauguration.