"[Kraft] proclaimed his innocence totally, but I’m very surprised to see it," Trump said after his longtime friend was charged with soliciting prostitution in Florida

By Adam Carlson and Jeff Truesdell
February 22, 2019 05:01 PM
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Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty; Gregg DeGuire/Getty

President Donald Trump said Friday he was shocked and dismayed at the charges against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a longtime friend, over allegations Kraft solicited sex from prostitutes in Florida (which he denies).

Trump was asked about the case while at the White House to meet with Chinese leaders, including President Xi Jinping.

According to pool reports, Trump said, “Well it’s very sad, I was very surprised to see it.”

“[Kraft] proclaimed his innocence totally, but I’m very surprised to see it,” Trump said.

The two men have been “friends for years,” Kraft’s son Josh told the Boston Globe in 2017. (Trump has been similarly close to Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady.)

Josh explained then: “The worst time in my dad’s life” — the death of Kraft’s wife Myra in 2011 — “this guy was there for him.” According to the Globe, Trump frequently called Kraft and traveled to Massachusetts to visit.

“Friendship trumps politics, for lack of a better term,” Josh said. “You might not agree with what your friend believes, but why let that ruin a friendship?”

Kraft, 77, has continued to be a visible Trump supporter, even joining the president at the White House. Per the Globe, his team also had a special Super Bowl ring made for Trump with Trump’s name on it.

The Trumps and Krafts in February 2011

On Friday, Florida police said Kraft is being charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution in connection with a human trafficking sting tied to a chain of local massage parlors.

The allegations stem from two separate visits by Kraft, 77, to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa, which has been identified as part of an alleged human trafficking and prostitution network, according to the Palm Beach Post. Police said the visits by Kraft to the spa occurred last month.

Investigators said they allegedly had evidence Kraft had been driven to a storefront spa in Jupiter and employees performed sex acts on him on at least two occasions.

The spa came under law enforcement scrutiny last October, with police conducting visual surveillance that found a solely male clientele entering and exiting with most customers inside for less than an hour, reports WCVB.

Following confirmation of his charges, a spokesman for Kraft told PEOPLE: “We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further.”

The National Football League said in its own statement that the league “is aware of the ongoing law enforcement matter and will continue to monitor developments.”

Jupiter Police Chief Daniel Kerr said there is video evidence of Kraft and 24 other men who are being charged with solicitation, reports West Palm Beach news station WPTV.

Asked to comment on Kraft’s suspected involvement, he said, “We are as deeply stunned as anyone else.”