As the Democratic presidential candidates descended on South Carolina to talk about the future, Donald Trump was attempting to defend himself against a ghost from his past. On Friday, New York published an essay by E. Jean Carroll in which she claims she was violently raped by the man who is now president in Bergdorf Goodman in the mid-1990s.
Carroll is the second woman to accuse Trump of rape; the first was his first wife, Ivana Trump, in a deposition related to their 1989 divorce proceedings. Four years later, before the publication of Lost Tycoon by Harry Hurt III, who had obtained the deposition, Ivana released a statement that said, “I referred to this as a ‘rape,’ but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.” When the allegation reemerged in 2015, she attacked the press.
And depending on how you are counting, Carroll is one of almost two dozen women to accuse the president of some kind of sexual misconduct. The allegations range from sexual harassment to assault and rape, from walking into dressing rooms to see unclothed Miss Teen USA contestants to sticking his hand up the skirt of a restaurant hostess to doing precisely what he admitted to doing in the infamous Access Hollywood video — to allegedly violently raping someone in a department-store dressing room.
But Carroll’s accusation of a serious sex crime is the first to emerge since Trump assumed the presidency. And so, as the Democrats vying to defeat him campaigned throughout Columbia over the weekend, they were asked about this latest rape allegation, and if there’s a role for Congress to investigate. Some of them deflected, while some answered more directly. Here’s what they said.
“This is a serious allegation of sexual assault. It should be investigated by law-enforcement authorities, and as Congress proceeds toward its impeachment inquiry, this should be taken into account.”
“Yes, Congress should investigate. A total of 24 women have now come forward accusing President Trump of sexual misconduct. What is it going to take for women’s stories to be heard and taken seriously here? These latest accusations fit into a larger pattern of alleged behavior by President Trump. As men, we must be allies, we must listen to women’s stories, we must stand with them, and we must believe them.”
“I believe that it merits investigation, so my hope is that will be taken up by the appropriate committee … The first thing is whether there are repercussions for the president for those actions today, and also this goes along with a number of different instances of women who have come forward and made sexual-harassment and sexual-assault allegations against the president that should be taken seriously, including this one.
“The president and this administration have committed so many misdeeds that there are some truly disgraceful actions that he’s been accused of that have not gotten enough attention and enough investigation. Of course it’s disheartening and we need to resist that temptation to let these kinds of things go, because that’s setting an unfortunate standard for the future.”
Bill de Blasio
“Now, this is the most serious of all the charges. The moment we, the New York City Police Department, have a complaint, we will investigate immediately. And we will find out the truth.”
“What is he at, a dozen of these allegations? I mean, I haven’t read the story, so it’s hard for me to comment … Obviously, I think the president should be held accountable. There’s been dozens of allegations against him and I think what he’s done to women is terrible and his comments about women are terrible and I think there’s a lot of congressional investigations we have to do.”
Kamala Harris (through her spokeswoman)
“Sen. Harris would support any investigations — law-enforcement or otherwise — into serious allegations like this one.”
“If this country is to work, then no person, no man, can be above the law, no matter what position of power of public trust he holds. I would support ensuring that there is accountability and justice.”
“I haven’t read the whole thing. I just heard about it. Obviously, very serious charges, but yeah, I would think if there’s any truth to it at all, yeah, Congress should act. We saw with Mueller that he can’t be indicted. So that leaves us with only a political option through the Congress.”
“We have a president who is a serial liar, grifter, and assaulter. To the extent we can, we should hold him accountable for all of this. I wouldn’t take anything off the table.”
“We know Donald Trump’s character. And it’s revealed every single day. There aren’t any real surprises. Just the details.”
“Wow, that’s a very interesting question. I hadn’t thought about that. You know, I’d have to investigate what the precedent is for like a sitting president to get accused of a crime. In this case, it’s years and years after the fact. Yeah, no, I’d have to investigate that. I’d have to investigate what the legal guidelines are for a congressional inquiry. Yeah, sorry, I’d just have to think about it a little bit more.”
(Yang was asked if he would think about it and get back to New York. He said he would, but didn’t respond to follow-ups.)