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A sexual abuse ruling. 26 accusations. Yet Trump is still frontrunner to be the next President

At least 26 women have credibly accused Donald Trump of sexual assault, non-consensual touching and kissing, as Bevan Hurley reports

Wednesday 10 May 2023 12:29 BST
(Getty/CNN/Shutterstock/NBC News/Reuters/AP/EPA)

Donald Trump has been found liable by a civil court jury for the sexual abuse of writer E Jean Carroll in a luxury Manhattan department store.

Ms Carroll, 79, is among more than two dozen women who have accused the former president of sexual misconduct, and the first to secure a verdict against him in court.

The jury found Ms Carroll did not prove the allegation of rape against Mr Trump.

The civil rape and defamation trial has placed renewed attention on the former president’s decades-long history of allegedly forcing himself on women at his homes in New York and Florida, at beauty pageants, on planes, at restaurants, bars and during random encounters.

Mr Trump’s claims in the infamous 2005 Access Hollywood tape that “stars” could get away with sexual assault had amounted to a “confession”, Ms Carroll’s attorney Roberta Kaplan said during closing arguments.

“He is telling you, in his own words, his modus operandi, his M.O.,” Ms Kaplan said.

But even despite the verdict and publicity of the rape trial, Mr Trump is still on course to be the Republican nominee in 2024 and stands a good chance of becoming president again. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showed his Democratic rival Joe Biden falling behind. And history suggests that this verdict will not harm Mr Trump as a candidate.

After the Access Hollywood tape was published in October 2016, more than a dozen women came forward to accuse Mr Trump of sexual assault or misconduct.

Despite the deluge of allegations, 47 per cent of white women voted for Mr Trump, compared to 45 per cent for Hillary Clinton, according to a Pew Research Center study. Overall, 54 per cent of women supported Ms Clinton in 2016, compared to 39 per cent for Mr Trump.

In the 2020 election, Mr Trump’s support among women grew. He received 44 per cent, compared to Joe Biden’s 55 per cent.

Mr Trump has strongly denied any of the alleged assaults took place, claiming they were a “hoax” or politically motivated, and often using derogatory language to insist the accusers were “not his type”.

“She’s accusing me of rape, a woman that I have no idea who she is,” Mr Trump said in his video deposition of Ms Carroll’s accusation.

“It came out of the blue. She’s accusing me of rape – of raping her, the worst thing you can do, the worst charge. And you know it’s not true too. You’re a political operative also. You’re a disgrace. But she’s accusing me and so are you of rape, and it never took place,” Mr Trump added, addressing Ms Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan.

Here we examine claims by at least 26 women who have accused Mr Trump of sexual misconduct or assault.

E Jean Carroll

Ms Carroll testified during the civil trial in Manhattan that she had been leaving Bergdorf Goodman on 5th Avenue some time in the spring of 1996 when she met Mr Trump at a revolving door entrance.

E. Jean Carroll arrives at Manhattan federal court, Tuesday, May 9, 2023, in New York. (AP)

He told her that he wanted to find a gift for a female acquaintance and she agreed to help thinking it would be a funny story to tell her friends.

The pair took an escalator up to the deserted 6th floor, and joked about who should try on a pair of lingerie. Mr Trump took her by the arm to a dressing room, shoved Ms Carroll up against a wall and raped her, Ms Carroll testified.

“It was extremely painful,” Ms Carroll told the jury. “He put his hand inside me and curled his finger. As I sit here today, I can still feel it.”

She confided in two friends, Lisa Birnbach and Carol Martin, at the time, and revealed the rape claims publicly for the first time in a book excerpt published in New York magazine in 2019.

The then-president angrily denied the allegations in White House press statements, social media posts and interviews.

Ms Carroll sued Mr Trump for defamation, and added a charge of battery under a recently adopted New York law that allows survivors of sexual abuse to sue their alleged attackers despite the statute of limitations.

Mr Trump called the claims a “con job” orchestrated by Ms Carroll to increase sales of her 2019 memoir.

A jury ruled that Ms Carroll did not prove her claim of rape by a preponderance of evidence, but did prove sexual assault, and ordered Mr Trump to pay her damages.

Jessica Leeds

Jessica Leeds appeared at the civil trial as a witness for Ms Carroll, where she told how Mr Trump had sexually assaulted her on a flight in the late 1970s.

The retired businesswoman, 81, recalled she had been moved from the economy cabin to an aisle seat in first class on the flight to New York’s LaGuardia Airport in about 1979.

Mr Trump had introduced himself, and they engaged in small talk, before having a meal, she told the jury.

Jessica Leeds leaves the federal courthouse after testifying in writer E. Jean Carroll's lawsuit against Donald Trump in New York, Tuesday, May 2, 2023. (AP/Seth Wenig)

All of a sudden, Mr Trump began to grope and kiss her, she said.

“There was no conversation. It was like out of the blue. It was like a tussle. He was trying to kiss me, trying to pull me towards him,” she said.

“He was grabbing my breasts. It was like he had 40 zillion hands. It was like a tussling match between the two of us.”

Ms Leeds went public with her account in late 2016 after watching a presidential debate between Mr Trump and Hillary Clinton.

She wrote a letter to the New York Times describing what had taken place, and they published her story before the presidential election. She has since spoken publicly in support of other accusers.

Mr Trump denied the allegations.

After testifying, Ms Leeds told The Independent she hoped to never have to speak about the incident again.

Natasha Stoynoff

Journalist Natasha Stoynoff also took the stand at Ms Carroll’s trial, where she described how she was allegedly sexually assaulted by Donald Trump while on assignment to cover the former president’s first wedding anniversary at Mar-a-Lago in 2005.

The former People writer told the jury that Mr Trump asked to show her a room at his Palm Beach club in between conducting interviews for the magazine with him and his wife Melania, who was pregnant with their son Barron at the time.

“I hear the door shut behind me, by the time I turn around he has his hands on my shoulder, pushing me up against the wall and he starts kissing me,” she said.

Ms Stoynoff said that she was “flustered and in shock” as she tried to push Mr Trump away from her.

Natasha Stoynoff, a former People magazine staff writer, testified that former President Donald Trump pinned her against a wall and forcibly kissed her at his Florida mansion. (AP)

The alleged encounter lasted a few minutes, and only ended when a Mar-a-Lago butler entered the room, she said.

She told her former journalism professor and newsroom supervisor at People at the time, but didn’t mention it to anyone more senior as she hadn’t wanted to cause trouble for the magazine.

She said she had been “horrified” by the Access Hollywood tape in which Mr Trump had been caught on a hot mic bragging about sexually assaulting women.

Days later, Mr Trump appeared at a presidential debate with Hillary Clinton where he denied ever forcibly kissing a woman without their consent after a direct question from moderator Anderson Cooper.

Ms Stoynof told the court she became “sick to her stomach” watching his denials, and spoke to her editors at People about publishing her firsthand account.

In October 2016, Ms Stoynoff went public about the alleged incident for the first time in an article for People magazine.

Ivana Trump

In a 1990 divorce deposition, Mr Trump’s first wife Ivana accused her then-husband of raping her the previous year.

Ivana Trump alleged that he had violently attacked her after a doctor she recommended had given him a painful “scalp reduction” procedure to cover up a bald spot. 

Ivana Trump smiles at her belated birthday party at the Pangaea Soleil club during the 59th Cannes Film Festival in 2006. (Reuters)

Her husband yanked out a clump of her hair, and tore off her clothing before jamming “his penis inside her for the first time in more than 16 months”, Ms Trump said.

The deposition was revealed by author Harry Hurt III in his 1993 book Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump

Afterwards, Ms Trump released a statement saying she hadn’t intended to accuse her husband of rape in a “criminal sense”.

“As a woman, I felt violated, as the love and tenderness, which he normally exhibited towards me, was absent. I referred to this as a ‘rape,’ but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.”

Ms Trump, who passed away in July 2022 after suffering a fall at her Upper East Side apartment, is the mother of Don Jr, Eric and Ivanka Trump.

Kristin Anderson

Kristin Anderson says the alleged incident left her thinking Donald Trump was ‘gross’ (The Washington Post)

In 2016, former model Kristin Anderson told the Washington Post how Mr Trump had slid his hand up her skirt and touched her vagina at a crowded Manhattan nightspot in the early 1990s.

She said after pushing his hand away and fleeing the couch, she turned to see who had sexually assaulted her and recognised Mr Trump’s distinctive hair and eyebrows.

“There was zero conversation. We didn’t even really look at each other. It was very random, very nonchalant on his part,” she said.

Ms Anderson, a photographer, told the Post she and her companions “very grossed out and weirded out” by the experience.

She told friends about what had happened over the years, and went public with the allegations after the release of the Access Hollywood tape.

Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in a statement to the Post: “Mr. Trump strongly denies this phony allegation by someone looking to get some free publicity. It is totally ridiculous.”

Jill Harth

Jill Harth sued Mr Trump for sexual harassment in the 1990s

In 1997, Jill Harth alleged she had been groped and sexually harassed by Mr Trump in a lawsuit.

Ms Harth alleged she had been having dinner with Mr Trump and her then-boyfriend George Houraney in 1992 when the real estate tycoon tried to put his hands between her legs.

A month later, he tried to kiss her at his Mar-a-Lago club when the couple was trying to finalise a business deal, she said.

The said in a 2016 New York Times interview with she withdrew the lawsuit to settle a separate financial dispute with Mr Trump.

She acknowledged she had gone on to date Mr Trump in 1998 after making the sexual misconduct allegations.

Temple Taggart McDowell

Temple Taggart McDowell said Mr Trump kissed her directly on the lips at the Miss USA beauty pageant in 1997.

She was competing as Miss Utah in the contest which Mr Trump owned at the time.

Temple Taggart said Mr Trump kissed her on the lips at a Miss USA contest in 1997

She came forward with the claims in a May 2016 interview with the New York Times.

Karena Virginia

Karena Virginia came forward with sexual misconduct allegations against Mr Trump in 2016 (Don Emmert/Getty)

In October 2016, yoga instructor Karena Virginia alleged Mr Trump had grabbed her arm, groped her breast and made inappropriate remarks outside the US Tennis Open in 1998 when she was 27 years old.

She said she flinched, and then Mr Trump told her: “Don’t you know who I am.” Ms Virginia hired Gloria Allred as her attorney before making the claims in a press conference.

Tasha Dixon

In October 2016, former Miss Arizona Tasha Dixon told KCAL-TV that Mr Trump had walked into a Miss USA pageant dress rehearsal in 2001 while the contestants were “half-naked”.

Ms Dixon, who was 18 at the time, said and the women were introduced to Mr Trump while in a “very physically vulnerable position”, and had been to “fawn all over him”.

Former beauty pageant contestant Tasha Dixon accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct (CNN)

She said she decided to come forward after hearing Mr Trump brag in a resurfaced Howard Stern interview how he used to go backstage at beauty pageants to ogle the contestants.

Bridget Sullivan

Former Miss New Hampshire Bridget Sullivan told BuzzFeed News in May 2016 that Trump had walked into the contestants’ dressing room at the 2000 pageant and hugged her without her consent.

“The time that he walked through the dressing rooms was really shocking. We were all naked,” Ms Sullivan said. “He’d hug you just a little low on your back.”

Cathy Heller

In 2016, Cathy Heller told The Guardian that Mr Trump had forcibly kissed her on the mouth at Mar-a-Lago in about 1997.

Ms Heller had been seated at a table with her husband and three children when Mr Trump approached to greet her. He grabbed her unexpectedly and began kissing her on the lips, she said.

Ms Heller acknowledged in the interview she was a Hillary Clinton supporter, but was not a political activist.

Mindy McGillivray

In October 2016 Mindy McGillivray told The Palm Beach Post that she was a 23-year-old photographer’s assistant at a 24 January 2003, event at Mar-a-Lago when Mr Trump grabbed her buttocks.

She reiterated the claims in an interview with NBC News in December 2017, when she told how she had looked at Mr Trump to see if might have been an accident.

“He said nothing. He knew what he did. I could see it in his face, the look of guilt,” she said.

“I don’t want to be called a liar. I’m not a liar. I think he’s got to face the music.”

Ninni Laaksonen

Former Miss Finland Ninni Laaksonen accused Mr Trump of groping her in 2006 when she was representing her country in the Miss Universe beauty contest.

Former Miss Finland Ninni Laaksonen (EPA)

Ms Laaksonen told the Ilta-Sanomat newspaper in October 2016 that he had grabbed her behind before she appeared on a television show in New York with other contestants. “He really grabbed my butt. I don’t think anybody saw it but I flinched and thought: ‘What is happening?’”

Jessica Drake

Jessica Drake, an adult film actress, told a news conference in Los Angeles in October 2016 that Trump pressured her to have sex with him 11 years ago when they met at a golf tournament in 2006.

She said Mr Trump had kissed her and two other women without their consent.

In 2018, she signed a non-disclosure agreement with Mr Trump.

Rachel Crooks

Rachel Crooks, a former receptionist at a real estate firm in Trump Tower, told the New York Times in October 2016 that Mr Trump kissed her on the mouth withour consent in 2005 at Trump Tower in Manhattan when she was 22.

Samantha Holvey

Samantha Holvey, the 2006 Miss North Carolina and a former contestant in the Miss USA pageant, told CNN in 2016 that Mr Trump walked into the pageant dressing room in 2006 in New York while contestants were naked and in bathrobes.

She said that Mr Trump had personally inspected each woman prior to the contest, “eyeing us from head to toe like we were meat, we were sexual objects.”

She has since reiterated the claims in several interviews.

Summer Zervos

Summer Zervos, a contestant on Trump’s reality show The Apprentice in 2006, told an October 2016 news conference that Trump tried to get her to lie down on a bed with him when she met him in 2007 to discuss a possible job.

Ms Zervos said she complied with a request to sit next to him.

Former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos (Associated Press)

“He then grabbed my shoulder and began kissing me very aggressively and placed his hand on my breast.”

In 2017, Ms Zervos sued Mr Trump alleging that his denials of her accusations amounted to false and defamatory statements and that being “branded a liar” had harmed her and her business. She dropped the case in 2021.

Jennifer Murphy

Jennifer Murphy, a contestant on the fourth season of The Apprentice, told the UK magazine Grazia in 2016 how Mr Trump had invited her to lunch after she was fired from the show to offer her a job.

“He walked me to the elevator, and I said goodbye. I was thinking, ‘Oh, he’s going to hug me,’ but when he pulled my face in and gave me a smooch. I was like, ‘Oh kay.’ I didn’t know how to act. I was just a little taken aback and probably turned red. And I then I get into the elevator and thought, ‘Huh, Donald Trump just kissed me on the lips,”’ she told Grazia.

Cassandra Searles

Former Miss Washington Cassandra Searles claimed in a Facebook post in June 2016 that Mr Trump had “continually grabbed my ass” during a Miss USA contest in 2013.

Former Miss Washington Cassandra Searles (Getty)

She called Mr Trump a “misogynist” who had treated contestants “like cattle” and “lined up so he could get a closer look at his property” in the post, which is no longer public.

Amy Dorris 

Amy Dorris came forward in the lead up to the 2020 presidential election to accuse Mr Trump of groping and trying to kiss her at the 1997 US Open.

In an interview with the Guardian, the former model said she had been watching the tennis at Mr Trump’s private box when he accosted her outside a bathroom.

She said he shoved his tongue down her throat while grabbing her breasts, buttocks and back.

“It felt like an octopus was hugging onto me,” she told the Guardian.

“You just picture those suction cups on octopus. They’re stuck on you, and you’re trapped. That’s how I felt. I felt trapped.”

Alva Johnson

Former Trump campaign staff member Alva Johnson alleged in a 2019 lawsuit that he had kissed her without consent outside of a rally in Tampa, Florida in August 2016.

The moment, captured on video, when Alva Johnson claims then candidate Donald Trump forcibly kissed her (Harder LLP)

“I immediately felt violated because I wasn’t expecting it or wanting it,” she told the Washington Post. “I can still see his lips coming straight for my face.”

She later dropped the lawsuit, but maintained the allegations were accurate.

Lisa Boyne

In October 2016, entrepreneur Lisa Boyne told the HuffPost how at a dinner with Mr Trump in the mid-1990s, he had paraded women on their table while looking up their dresses and commenting on what they were wearing.

She said Mr Trump asked her which of the women he should sleep with.

She joined other accusers in calling for a congressional investigation into Mr Trump in 2017.

Victoria Hughes

In 2016, two former Miss Teen USA beauty pageant contestants told BuzzFeed News how Mr Trump walked into their dressing room during the 1997 contest.

“I remember putting on my dress really quick because I was like, ‘Oh my god, there’s a man in here,’” Mariah Billado, a former Miss Vermont Teen USA, told the news site.

She recalled Mr Trump said words to the effect of: “Don’t worry, ladies, I’ve seen it all before.”

Mariah Billado

Former Miss New Mexico Victoria Hughes backed up Victoria Hughes’ story, and told Buzzfeed News it was “certainly the most inappropriate time to meet us all for the first time”.

Karen Johnson

In 2019, Karen Johnson became at least the 23rd women to accuse Mr Trump of sexual impropriety in the book All the President’s Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator.

Ms Johnson told how she would regularly Mar-a-Lago parties in the 2000s, and while at a New Year’s Eve event Mr Trump pulled her behind a tapestry and forcibly kissed her.

“I’m a tall girl and I had six-inch heels on, and I still remember looking up at him. And he’s strong, and he just kissed me,” she told the authors.

“I was so scared because of who he was. ... I don’t even know where it came from. I didn’t have a say in the matter.”

Juliet Huddy

Former TV anchor says President Trump joked about the alleged incident later when he made an appearance on her show (Getty Images)

Former Fox News anchor Juliet Huddy revealed in 2017 that Mr Trump had kissed her without her consent after a Trump Tower meeting in the mid-2000s.

“He went to say goodbye and he, rather than kiss me on the cheek, he leaned in on the lips,” she told the Mornin!!! With Bill Schulz podcast.

“I wasn’t offended, I was kind of like, ‘Oh my god’.”

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