Three women who previously accused Donald Trump of decades-old sexual misconduct renewed their complaints Monday about the sitting president on live TV, prompting the White House to dismiss their allegations as a “publicity tour.” Democrats in Congress called on Mr. Trump to resign.
Rachel Crooks, Samantha Holvey and Jessica Leeds retold their stories about Mr. Trump on NBC’s “Megyn Kelly Today” and separately at a New York City news conference with a documentary producer.
“I wanted people to know what kind of person that Trump really is,” Ms. Leeds said, recalling an incident in which she says Mr. Trump groped and kissed her as they sat next to each other in the first-class cabin of a domestic flight in the early 1980s.
Within hours of the interview, congressional Democrats, such as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, began calling on Mr. Trump to resign.
“These allegations are credible; they are numerous,” Ms. Gillibrand said on CNN. “I’ve heard these women’s testimony, and many of them are heartbreaking.”
Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, said if the president won’t resign, “Congress must investigate allegations by many, many women that he sexually assaulted and harassed them. No one is above the law.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders noted that Mr. Trump had denied the allegations during the campaign last year, and said voters rejected the accusations at the ballot box.
“The American people knew this and voted for the president,” Mrs. Sanders said. “This took place long before he was elected to be president.”
Democrats are eager to reassert themselves as the party of women, and Ms. Gillibrand was at the forefront of efforts to force the resignation last week of Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, who also stood accused of sexual misconduct. With Mr. Trump endorsing Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who’s been accused of misconduct by multiple women, some party operatives say Democrats are trying to position themselves for next year’s mid-term elections with an electorate that often wonders what their party stands for.
“This is all about politics,” said Republican strategist John Feehery. “This was all litigated by the voters in November. Gillibrand didn’t support Trump in the election, wanted Trump to be impeached after he got elected and now wants him to resign.”
American University faculty member Anita McBride, a former aide in the George W. Bush White House, said the accusers and those accused both have a right to be heard. But she noted that the alleged incidents being raised by Mr. Trump’s accusers happened long before he reached the White House, while President Bill Clinton was impeached for lying under oath about sexual misconduct that took place while he was in office.
“These are not actions that are happening in the White House,” Ms. McBride said. “The best thing for the White House is to say the president denies the allegations, and he is entitled to his voice in this, too. He’s the one being accused.”
Sexual harassment has become a national conversation in recent months after an explosive New York Times report led to the termination of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Since then, women across entertainment, media and politics have come out with their own stories that have resulted in ousting numerous men from powerful positions.
But the White House says these claims against Mr. Trump have already been vetted and found to be “false.”
“These false claims, totally disputed in most cases by eyewitness accounts, were addressed as length during last year’s campaign, and the American people voiced their judgment by delivering a decisive victory,” the White House said in a statement.
“The timing and absurdity of these false claims speaks volumes, and the publicity tour that has begun only further confirms the political motives behind them.”
The main forum for their complaints Monday was provided by Ms. Kelly, who tangled with Mr. Trump during the campaign while she was at Fox News and moderated a presidential debate. She said later in the day on MSNBC that she suspects there are more women with stories to tell about Mr. Trump than the 16 to 20 who have made allegations publicly to date.
“Who knows how many more there are beyond that?” Ms. Kelly asked. “He’s dismissed them all as liars. The problem for Donald Trump is, some of the things they’re alleging, he himself admits to on tape.”
Ms. Kelly noted that Mr. Trump told radio host Howard Stern years ago that he had visited the dressing rooms of beauty pageants he owned. Ms. Holvey said that Mr. Trump eyed her like “a piece of meat” backstage at a beauty pageant.
“Donald Trump is on tape with Howard Stern admitting he liked to do that, even though he’s called this woman a liar,” Ms. Kelly said. “I used to practice law for 10 years. The consistency of the allegations and his own admissions on tape deliver a problematic case to him.”
Ms. Crooks, who said Mr. Trump kissed her on the lips near an elevator bank at Trump Tower in 2005, said she’s frustrated that their stories about him during the 2016 campaign seemed to be ignored.
“I do realize that in the grand scheme of things, there are far worse cases of sexual harassment, misconduct and assault,” she said of her alleged encounter with Mr. Trump. “But make no mistake, there is no acceptable level of such behavior. The only reason I’m here today is because this offender is now president of our country.”
Ms. McBride said the force of the Me Too movement has changed the national discourse about sexual harassment “dramatically” in just a few months.
“It’s been blasted out in the open,” she said. “Anybody who is raising a child in this country wants to know that there are systems and laws and procedures out there so any employer is going to protect them. This is playing out in the most public way possible, with members of Congress up to the president of the United States. No one is immune from being enveloped in this issue.”
⦁ Sally Persons contributed to this report.
© Copyright (c) 2017 News World Communications, Inc.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.