Allegations of women who’ve accused Trump of non-consensual sexual contact share many details, from forced kisses to where it took place.
Jeanine Santucci, Jim Sergent, and George Petras, USA TODAY
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Today, writer E. Jean Carroll goes to court in a unique case: she accused the sitting president of defamation. But when she came forward in 2019 to say Trump had raped her in a department store dressing room in the mid-1990s, her story started with a familiar detail.
“The moment the dressing-room door is closed, he lunges at me, pushes me against the wall, hitting my head quite badly, and puts his mouth against my lips,” she wrote in June 2019.
Former model Amy Dorris, the latest to come forward just last month to allege that Trump had sexually assaulted her in 1997 at the US Open tennis tournament, said it began in a similar way.
“He just grabbed me. And he just shoved his tongue down my throat,” Dorris told the Guardian. “His grip was hard, you know, you couldn’t pull away.”
Trump campaign legal adviser Jenna Ellis said Dorris’ claim was “totally false” and an attempt to attack Trump before the election.
Thirteen of the 19 women who have accused Trump of sexual assault or non-consensual physical contact said he kissed them without consent, often out of the blue, sometimes holding them firmly in place.
Another reason the scene is familiar: It’s how Trump himself described his approach to women in a 2005 recording of what he thought was a private conversation, released in 2016.
“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them,” he said in the now-infamous Access Hollywood recording. “It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”
Carroll brought a defamation case against Trump after he allegedly slandered her in denying her claims. Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice attempted to intervene in the case by putting the federal government, rather than Trump himself, in the position of defendant.
Today, oral arguments begin between Carroll’s attorneys and the Justice Department to consider whether the DOJ can move forward.
In their own words, here is how Carroll and other women describe their encounters with Trump:
What can be learned from patterns
A USA TODAY review of 19 women’s allegations — the number who allege non-consensual physical contact — as well as more than 4,000 words that Trump has spoken, tweeted or released in written statements since 2016 addressing their allegations, show patterns in both the allegations and Trump’s reactions to them.
Patterns in the behavior of alleged sexual abusers may be used by prosecutors to try to lay out a modus operandi, or “something about the way a defendant operates that is akin to a signature,” said Deborah Tuerkheimer, professor at the Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law and a former assistant district attorney in New York, speaking generally.
“How do you show that a person has, let’s just say, a sense of entitlement that leads him to just take what he thinks he deserves? Is that something that can be reflected in multiple instances of misconduct?” she said. “Some sexual predators who engage in patterned behavior have certain things that they say repeatedly or often. Sometimes they do the same kinds of things, so there’s a particular interest in a body part or a preoccupation with doing something in a certain way.”
In the case of Trump, the Access Hollywood tape is unique in that it is “a shining example of the kind of words that could be used to help explain what’s going on in someone’s head,” Tuerkheimer said.
“It is really uncommon … to have the man accused provide a window into his thinking, where you actually get a statement that reflects a particular view of, be it women or be it an entitlement to women’s bodies,” she said.
However, Trump is not on trial for sexual assault, as Carroll’s case is for defamation.
Carroll is the only one of the 19 women to accuse Trump of rape, although his first wife, Ivana Trump, accused him of marital rape in a 1990 deposition. Trump denied it and she later said she did not mean it in a criminal sense. Jill Harth, a makeup artist who, along with a male associate, had a business relationship with Trump, accused Trump of attempted rape in a 1997 lawsuit which she withdrew from court, though she said in 2016 she stood by her claims.
From 2005 to early 2007, there were seven incidents when women alleged Trump sexually attacked or forcibly touched them. That’s at the very start of his marriage to model Melania Trump, and it’s in the early – and peak ratings years – of Trump’s hit television show, “The Apprentice.”
It’s also in the immediate wake of when the Access Hollywood tape was recorded.
Two of the allegations took place in July 2006 — the same month Trump had his affair with porn actress Stormy Daniels, who received a $130,000 payment just before the 2016 election by the president’s former lawyer and signed a nondisclosure agreement about the affair. It is now part of a larger investigation into Trump’s finances.
That same weekend, Jessica Drake said, Trump kissed her without permission and offered to pay her for sex. Ninni Laaksonen, the former Miss Finland, said that he grabbed her butt that same month before an appearance on the David Letterman show.
Though our analysis focused on 19 women who alleged physical contact, more women have alleged other inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature from Trump, including a number of participants in pageants he owned like former Miss North Carolina Samantha Holvey, who said he made her feel “like a piece of meat.” And former Miss Teen Vermont Mariah Billado and former Miss Arizona Tasha Dixon who both say Trump entered dressing rooms unannounced while young women were topless or naked.
Trump’s own comments about “inspecting” Miss USA contestants and claims he would touch them, Tuerkheimer said, are an example of entitlement that “can lead to an inference that a person is more willing to just touch, just grab, just grope, just kiss.”
More than half of the cases are alleged to have happened at Trump’s properties in New York and Florida, places where he had access to private spaces or more control over the environment.
Like Dorris, Karen Johnson said Trump caught her outside the restroom. However, Johnson was at a Mar-a-Lago party when Trump allegedly groped her, pulled her behind a tapestry and kissed her, she told journalists Barry Levine and Monique El-Faizy in their book “All the President’s Women.”
Cathy Heller said Trump grabbed and kissed her when she attended a Mother’s Day Brunch at Mar-a-Lago in 1997.
In Harth’s lawsuit she alleged one of the incidents of groping took place in Trump’s daughter Ivanka’s bedroom at Mar-a-Lago.
Natasha Stoynoff, a reporter for People magazine, published a story in the magazine alleging that Trump pushed her against the wall and forced his tongue into her mouth while giving her a tour of Mar-a-Lago in December 2005. She was visiting to interview Trump for an article.
In a 2016 Palm Beach Post article, Mindy McGillivray said she was groped by Trump during an event at Mar-a-Lago in 2003.
Ten of the 19 women were in their twenties when they say the incidents occurred. In many cases, they were decades younger than Trump.
Dorris was 24 and Trump 51 at the time the alleged assault took place.
Kristin Anderson, an aspiring model who said Trump groped her in the early 1990s, was in her early 20s at the time; Trump would have been in his mid- to late-40s. Then-Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks denied the incident with Anderson occurred and called it a “political attack designed to tear down Mr. Trump” in 2016.
Ten women say Trump kissed or groped them while they were meeting for a job interview or as part of a business deal.
Former “Apprentice” contestant Jennifer Murphy, who said she plans to vote for Trump, told Grazia magazine he unexpectedly kissed her on the lips while she was leaving a job interview in 2005.
Summer Zervos, another former contestant on “The Apprentice,” said her incident with Trump also happened as part of a job interview, which Trump had scheduled in his private hotel room.
Rachel Crooks was a receptionist at Bayrock Group, a Trump Tower client, in 2005 when she introduced herself to Trump outside an elevator where, she alleges, he kissed her on the mouth. Trump called it “Another False Accusation” in a 2018 tweet.
Juliet Huddy, a former Fox News host, said Trump kissed her after a lunch.
Trump’s denials contain false info
On at least four occasions, Trump has falsely stated he’d never met women who accused him of sexual assault, despite video or photo evidence to the contrary. There is photographic or video evidence of him interacting with at least 11 of the accusers.
“I have no idea who these women are, have no idea,” he said at a rally in Greensboro, North Carolina, on Oct. 14, 2016. “Never met this person, these people, I don’t know who they are,” he added later in the rally. We found that Trump had been photographed or appeared on national television interacting with Dorris, Murphy, Stoynoff, Zervos, Searles, McDowell, Laaksonen, Drake and Harth.
“I’ve never met this person in my life,” Trump said in a written statement responding to Carroll’s rape allegation, even though New York magazine had already published a photograph of Carroll and Trump together at a social event in 1987.
At least seven times, Trump has claimed, without evidence, that allegations against him have been discredited.
On Oct. 14, 2016 Trump said “eyewitnesses already debunked to a People Magazine story.” But there is no evidence eyewitnesses to the alleged assault debunked Stoynoff’s story. Stoynoff said Trump’s butler walked in, but he has never spoken publicly and would have been the sole eyewitness.
Two days later, Trump said “those stories have been largely debunked” and on Oct. 17 he tweeted twice, saying “these totally phoney stories, 100% made up by women (many already proven false)” and “media has deceived the public by putting women front and center with made-up stories and lies, and got caught.” There is no evidence any allegation of sexual assault against Trump at this point had been “largely debunked” or “proven false.”
On Sept. 27, 2018, Trump said: “I was accused by four or five women who got paid a lot of money to make up stories about me. We caught them, and the mainstream media refused to put it on television.”
But there is no evidence any women were paid “to make up stories” or were “caught” making up allegations.
What about Biden?
Democratic nominee former Vice President Joe Biden has also faced allegations of improper conduct with women. The majority of claims against him include unwanted touching or inappropriate displays of physical affection.
Eight women spoke up in 2019 to say they were on the receiving end of uncomfortable touching, such as Lucy Flores’ claim that Biden smelled her hair and kissed the back of her head. The claims forced Biden to publicly acknowledge that times have changed and say he would be “more mindful” going forward.
Megyn Kelly interviews Biden accuser Tara Reade
Tara Reade, the former aide who has accused Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden of sexual assault has been interviewed by Megyn Kelly. (May 8)
However, one of the women, Tara Reade, claims that Biden also sexually assaulted her. She says it took place in 1993 while she worked for his Senate office, a claim the former vice president denies.
Asked about Reade’s claim against Biden shortly after she came forward with it this year, voters were split on whether they believed her. Half of Republicans and only 20% of Democrats said it was probably true.
Just as numerous similar stories suggest the public should pay attention, the absence of a group of survivors sharing like accounts about a person in power does not mean that an individual is not credible, said Emily Martin, vice president for education and workplace justice at the National Women’s Law Center.
“It is important not to react to the Harvey Weinsteins and Charlie Roses, where so many women came forward, with the conclusion that if someone is making an allegation on her own… that that is false,” Martin said. “That simply isn’t the case in law or real life.”
Though Martin did not comment on the particular allegations against Trump or Biden, she said that it’s important to take any allegation seriously while still asking questions to get to the truth.
As the Me Too movement has gained traction since 2017, “it’s made a tremendous amount of difference for public perception when multiple women come forward telling similar stories,” Martin said.
Martin said when looking at incidents of alleged sexual harassment or abuse, when there are similarities in the accounts coming from multiple alleged victims about the same perpetrator, “it’s certainly hard to dismiss.”
In the case of disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, for example, Martin noted the many common threads in survivors’ accounts spanning decades, even when the women came forward many years after they were abused.
“Coming forward has a lot of cost, and so the willingness of multiple women to go on the record to share their story and to expose themselves both to the embarrassment of having to share these traumatic incidents and to the backlash and the attacks that you see when survivors of sexual violence come forward with allegations against powerful people… it seems more and more unlikely that anyone would do that for any other reason than telling the truth,” Martin said, though she was not referring to Trump’s accusers specifically.