Some claimed they could not comment about a president being accused of rape because they didn’t know enough about the incident yet, four days after it surfaced. Others simply said they believed Trump, who has denied it.
“The president has denied it. That’s the end of it for me unless she shows something new,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, told HuffPost on Tuesday.
E. Jean Carroll, a longtime advice columnist, came forward last weekend with an allegation that Trump raped her in a dressing room in the 1990s, when she was 52. She is the 16th woman to accuse Trump of sexual misconduct.
In an excerpt from her new book, “What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal,” Carroll described how Trump attacked her in a Manhattan department store:
I am astonished by what I’m about to write: I keep laughing. The next moment, still wearing correct business attire, shirt, tie, suit jacket, overcoat, he opens the overcoat, unzips his pants, and, forcing his fingers around my private area, thrusts his penis halfway — or completely, I’m not certain — inside me.
Carroll said she told two friends about the assault at the time. Both told New York magazine, which published the excerpt Friday, that they remember the incident.
“I’ll say it with great respect: No. 1, she’s not my type. No. 2, it never happened. It never happened, OK?” Trump said in an interview with The Hill.
On Capitol Hill, Republican senators reacted as they do with all questions involving some sort of Trump controversy: by dodging it or claiming they couldn’t yet comment.
“I don’t have anything to say about that,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) told HuffPost on Tuesday.
Added Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) of the story, which first broke on Friday: “I haven’t seen that.”
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) also claimed he hadn’t read about the allegation.
“I look forward to reading it,” he said.
Asked about the latest allegation, Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) responded, “Which one would that be?”
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), meanwhile, suggested that the author came forward with her allegation because of financial motivations.
“I don’t even want to get into believable or not believable. I know that she’s selling a book,” Lankford said.
But Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who is facing a GOP primary challenge next year, said he believed Trump and that he took the president’s denial at “face value.”
The only comments that gingerly broke from the party line came from familiar sources: Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). The two frequently speak out about Trump, though they’ve often voted for his agenda.
Romney called the allegation “very serious” and said it “deserves to be considered and evaluated.” Asked about Trump dismissing Carroll’s allegation by claiming she wasn’t his “type,” Romney said, “The president indicated that this did not occur, and that’s, I think, his strongest point to make.”
Collins said she found Trump’s “type” comment about Carroll “extremely bizarre.”
Carroll’s allegation went largely undiscussed by major TV talk shows on Sunday morning, which often include a mix of high-profile Republicans and Democrats. Several major newspapers didn’t find the story important enough to place it on their front pages, either, according to liberal watchdog Media Matters. New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet even acknowledged Monday that the newspaper underplayed the allegation.
The increasingly tense showdown between the U.S. and Iran ― which dominated headlines over the weekend after Trump nearly ordered strikes against the country for downing an American drone ― may have had something to do with why news of Carroll’s allegation didn’t seem to get a lot of oxygen. But it’s also likely a product of Trump fatigue, a sense of exhaustion many feel about the nonstop scandals and controversies emanating from his administration.
Democrats, including those running for president, reacted with shock, disgust and calls for investigations.
“We all know that the president is a sexual predator,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). “That doesn’t seem to bother Republicans or the religious right, so I’m saddened that all he can say is ‘She’s not my type.’”
She added: “He has a type for who he chooses to rape?”
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