After a second staffer in the Trump administration stepped down following allegations of domestic violence, President Donald Trump—who provoked outrage Friday when he praised an alleged male abuser without mentioning the female victims—took to Twitter to question the right of survivors to speak out about their experiences:
Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused - life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 10, 2018
The backlash was swift:
The man running an institution that wouldn’t let a US citizen abroad access a lawyer, that wants to make it easier for schools to discipline kids of color, is not interested in due process. He is interested in preserving male violence without accountability.
— Alexandra Brodsky (@azbrodsky) February 10, 2018
19 women have accused Donald Trump of sexual harassment and unwanted touching. 2 women who were in relationships with Rob Porter came forward and one had photographic evidence. 9 women accused Roy Moore. These are not “mere allegations.” They are patterns of predatory behavior. https://t.co/wxvoMSkQro
— Evette Dionne (@freeblackgirl) February 10, 2018
Trump's tweet came after David Sorensen, a White House speechwriter who worked under senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, resigned in response to domestic violence allegations detailed in a Washington Post story published Friday.
The White House claimed to have learned about the allegations Thursday night, before being contacted by the newspaper. "We immediately confronted the staffer, he denied the allegations, and he resigned," said deputy press secretary Raj Shah.
Sorensen's ex-wife Jessica Corbett told the Post that during their marriage, he "ran a car over her foot, put out a cigarette on her hand, threw her into a wall, and grasped her menacingly by her hair while they were alone on their boat in remote waters off Maine's coast, an incident she said left her fearing for her life."
"Women stay silent because there is so much to lose. In speaking up I hope to encourage other women who suffer in silence to come forward ."
—Jessica Corbett, ex-wife of Trump staffer
The speechwriter said that he was "the victim of repeated physical violence during our marriage, not her," and that he is "considering legal options to address her defamation." (Corbett "acknowledged that she slapped Sorensen a number of times after he called her a vulgar term," but said the encounters "never escalated beyond" that.) Sorensen added that he resigned because he "didn't want the White House to have to deal with this distraction."
Earlier this week, White House staff secretary Rob Porter left his position after a series of reports revealed photos and detailed allegations that he abused two ex-wives. Trump and his chief of staff, John Kelly, have come under fire for praising Porter in their statements to the press. Critics began calling on the chief of staff to step down after reports revealed that Kelly had supposedly been made aware of the ex-wives' allegations following their interviews with FBI agents for Porter's security clearance.
Although Sorensen's position did not require security clearance, he was required to undergo a background check. Corbett said she told the FBI details of her ex-husband's alleged abuse.
Before accepting a job in the Trump administration, Sorensen served as a top policy adviser to Maine's Republican governor, Paul LePage, as a spokesman for Maine House Republicans as well as the state party, and as a spokesman for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.
"During their marriage, Corbett and Sorensen were a well-known couple in the small world of Maine Republican politics," the Post notes. Corbett also held numerous roles working for Republican politicians and the party.
"Sadly, I will pay a price for telling this story. To do so, I had to be willing to walk away from everything — potential clients and job offers included — in order to tell it," Corbett wrote on her blog about the Post's report. "Women stay silent because there is so much to lose. In speaking up I hope to encourage other women who suffer in silence to come forward ."