Editorial: New Defamation, Sexual Assault Lawsuit Against Trump Could Be Final Nail In Coffin For Supporters
Donald Trump Will be First Sitting President Sued For Defaming Alleged Victims Of Sexual Assault
Only William Jefferson Clinton, who was sued by Paula Jones for sexual harassment, came close to achieving the dubious watershed moment in the legal affairs of sitting presidents.
On Tuesday, attorney Gloria Allred reported that one of the women who accused President-elect Donald Trump of sexual assault intends to sue him. At a press conference, Allred and alleged Trump victim Summer Zervos stated their intention to sue Trump for defaming the women who accused him of sexual assault. The announcement marks a dubious watershed moment in the legal affairs of sitting presidents—the 45th of whom will be the first to weather a credible legal challenge centered around multiple acts of sexual violence and misconduct, with the added twist of publicly denigrating his alleged victims. In Allred’s words, Trump had “knowingly, intentionally, and maliciously threw each of these women under the bus”, causing significant emotional disturbance and distress.
This isn’t the first time a sitting president has been accused of sexual impropriety. William Jefferson Clinton, 42nd president of the United States, was sued by Paula Jones for harassment, but settled out of court in 1998 (David Brock, a former political foe who now works closely with the Clintons, published an account of the incident in the American Spectator, which alleges the former president exposed himself and propositioned Jones). Others, such as Juanita Broaddrick, accused Clinton of sexual assault. Unlike Trump, Clinton remained quiet about the allegations, and the only legal action taken against him by Broaddrick was a 1999 lawsuit to obtain documents she alleged the White House had been keeping on her.
Trump infamously used these accusations against Hillary Clinton during the second presidential debate, ironically charging that she denigrated her husband’s alleged victims—a claim which remains unproven:
“If you look at Bill Clinton … There’s never been anybody in the history of politics in this nation that’s been so abusive to women. So you can say any way you want to say it, but Bill Clinton was abusive to women … Hillary Clinton attacked those same women and attacked them viciously. Four of them here tonight.”
The incoming president has been accused of sexual impropriety by at least 13 women, with the majority of allegations following the highly-publicized release of an audio-tape wherein Trump confessed to grabbing women inappropriately.
At every turn, the media has underestimated Trump—and the apologia of his supporters. But the sexual assault suit has real potential to erode the fervency of the long-neglected base who installed him. That fervency, according to recent polling, has already declined sharply since his transition to power began. In what will no doubt be a highly publicized case, the Trump apologist narratives that he was only joking and that the liberal media is out to get him quickly fall apart when confronted with cold, prosecutorial reality—no matter the verdict, the case may reveal information about Trump he’d prefer to keep buried.
Though there is often no room for such subtleties in the broad liberal narrative of his ascent to power, there is ample evidence that the working class voters who picked Trump over Clinton did so for reasons other than his brash speech and unconventional political style. In fact, these characteristics may have largely been ignored or excused in favor of his promises to revitalize long declining sectors of the American workforce, such as coal and manufacturing. Hillary Clinton made similar campaign promises (often in the wrong states to the wrong crowds), though any outreach to Trump’s base seemed doomed to fail as conservative vitriol for the Clintonian brand of politics reached elephantine levels of absurdity.
And it is, unsurprisingly, Trump’s own strategy of reigniting the sex scandals of Bill Clinton that may cost him the support of all but his most Borg-like supporters. There is a critical mass which, counter to the increasingly desperate apologia encountered online and on television, turns the American public against a political figure regardless of their ideological cloak (Trump’s strength of ignoring more traditional left/right arguments may actually be a disadvantage here; those who merely voted along party lines will naturally be less loyal). In the 2020 election, Democrats will have plenty of ammunition (as they did in 2016). If releasing public evidence of Russia’s role in influencing the 2016 election threatens to expose national security interests beyond benefit, the most devastating oppositional intel may yet to be gleaned from the impending lawsuit. Regardless, the mere existence of the suit, which will codify legally words and decisions already made public by the incumbent president himself, will keep the uncouth scandal in the American conversation far longer than the commander-in-chief may prefer. Can Donald Trump, unconventional as he may be, withstand the water torture-like drip of PR attrition?
The differences between American conservatives and liberals are becoming irrelevant in the face of a Maduro-like democratic crisis. Those who voted for Trump may yet be convinced of their folly, and entirely too late. But at least the American public can (hopefully) agree: those who abuse their power for sexual gratification don’t belong in the White House. The evidence of defamation, much which may already be public, will speak for itself.
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images
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