The Washington Post reported this morning that Republicans close to Donald Trump are increasingly uneasy about his ability to withstand a revived spotlight on his behavior toward women amid the dramatic attitude shift happening nationwide in response to accusations of sexual misconduct against men from Hollywood to Capitol Hill.”
The piece added that the president’s allies are “also wary of the potential political costs if the president goes on a sustained attack against his accusers.”
It’s against this backdrop Trump decided to publish a new tweet this morning.
“Despite thousands of hours wasted and many millions of dollars spent, the Democrats have been unable to show any collusion with Russia - so now they are moving on to the false accusations and fabricated stories of women who I don’t know and/or have never met. FAKE NEWS!”
Let’s start by getting the easy part out of the way: the evidence of collusion between Donald Trump’s political operation and Russian operatives is pretty obvious at this point. As House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) explained over the weekend, “The Russians offered help. The campaign accepted help. The Russians gave help. And the president made full use of that help. And that’s pretty damming.”
Yes, it is.
But then there’s the fascinating notion that the president never even met the many women who’ve accused him of sexual misconduct. I have a hunch he’s going to regret having published this.
First, it contradicts his own White House’s defense. Just yesterday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters she has “specific eyewitness accounts” that prove Trump’s interactions with these women were not improper. The president’s tweet suggests there are no “eyewitness accounts” because, according to the new version of events, Trump “never met” the women who’ve accused him of misconduct.
Second, taken at face value, the president’s claim isn’t just wrong; it’s demonstrably ridiculous. One of his accusers is Natasha Stoynoff, a reporter whom Trump has already said he met. Another accuser, Summer Zervos, was a contestant Trump met as part of his reality television show. Another accuser, Jill Harth, was a former business associate of Trump’s.
Among the other accusers are women who competed in beauty pageants that Trump owned.
It’s one thing for the president to deny engaging in sexual misconduct. Those denials deserve careful scrutiny, and they may be false, but they’re at least open to discussion.
But for Trump to argue, in writing, that he didn’t know and/or never met these women is plainly untrue, raising the related question of why the president would lie publicly about this. [Update: It’s possible that Trump, in his tweet this morning, was referring specifically to the women who spoke to NBC’s Megyn Kelly yesterday, and not all of his many accusers. I’ll leave it to the White House to clarify.]
As for the politics, it’s likely Trump World wants to talk about any subject except this one. The president, however, just put the story back in the spotlight.