During the 2016 presidential campaign, a recording emerged of Donald Trump bragging years earlier about committing sexual assaults. The Republican said, among other things, that he kisses women he considers attractive – “I don’t even wait,” Trump claimed at the time – which he said he can get away with because of his public profile.
“When you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump said on the recording. “You can do anything. Grab ‘em by the p—y.”
When the Republican denied ever having done what he’d bragged about doing, 19 women came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct. Trump dismissed his accusers as liars and vowed to sue them. While he never followed through, one of the women is now suing Trump.
Other members of “The Nineteen,” as they’re sometimes called, have responded in different ways. The Washington Post today profiled Rachel Crooks, who’s making an effort to make sure the allegations against the president don’t just fade away.
Crooks, 35, had been publicly reliving this story for much of the past two years, ever since she first described it in an email to the New York Times several months before the 2016 election. “I don’t know if people will really care about this or if this will matter at all,” she had written then, and after Donald Trump’s election she had repeated her story at the Women’s March, on the “Today” show and at a news conference organized by women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred. Crooks had spoken to people dressed in #MeToo sweatshirts and to her rural neighbors whose yards were decorated with Trump signs.
In early February, she launched a campaign to become a Democratic state representative in Ohio, in part so she could share her story more widely with voters across the state. And yet, after dozens of retellings, she still wasn’t sure: Did people really care? Did it matter at all?
“I know there are many worse forms of sexual harassment, but doesn’t this still speak to character?” Rachel Crooks told one audience. “I don’t want money. I don’t need a lawsuit. I just want people to listen. How many women have to come forward? What will it take to get a response?”
This morning, Trump responded.
“A woman I don’t know and, to the best of my knowledge, never met, is on the FRONT PAGE of the Fake News Washington Post saying I kissed her (for two minutes yet) in the lobby of Trump Tower 12 years ago. Never happened! Who would do this in a public space with live security cameras running. Another False Accusation.
“Why doesn’t @washingtonpost report the story of the women taking money to make up stories about me? One had her home mortgage paid off. Only @FoxNews so reported…doesn’t fit the Mainstream Media narrative.”
To the extent that reality matters, Rachel Crooks doesn’t claim Trump assaulted her in a first-floor lobby; she alleges the incident was on the 24th floor. It’s right there in the article the president is complaining about without having read.
What’s more, there’s literally no evidence of Crooks taking money to make up anything.
Nevertheless, now that Trump seems eager to relitigate this fight, perhaps the political world should oblige.
For example, perhaps we can start with White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who said in December she has “specific eyewitness accounts” that prove Trump’s interactions with these women were not improper. I’m not sure how that’s possible – if Trump never met some of these women, how can there be specific eyewitness accounts? – but I’m still eager to see Sanders’ evidence.
The press secretary will return to the briefing-room podium today for the first time in a few days. Perhaps someone can ask her.