If rape isn’t a "high crime and misdemeanor," what is?
"You know I'm automatically attracted to beautiful--I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab 'em by the pussy. You can do anything."
We've heard this 2005 clip of then-reality TV star Donald Trump so many times, it's hard to remember just how shocking it was when we first heard it in October 2016.
Like the backdrop din of car alarms, we've become so used to the weekly revelations of deviant Trump behavior that we barely look up anymore--just another alarm we've trained ourselves to ignore.
For Trump, that's fortunate, because just last Friday, a highly respected journalist revealed that she had been raped by Donald Trump. He followed the same modus operandi he had described in the 2005 Access Hollywood tape. The unsolicited "like a magnet" kissing? Check. The sudden "grab 'em by the pussy"? Check.
Sadly, the assault described by writer E. Jean Carroll progressed beyond Trump's Access Hollywood tape to first-degree sexual assault. According to her account, published in New York magazine, Trump assaulted her in a dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman.
Here is her description of what happened:
"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. I am so shocked I shove him back and start laughing again. He seizes both my arms and pushes me up against the wall a second time, and, as I become aware of how large he is, he holds me against the wall with his shoulder and jams his hand under my coat dress and pulls down my tights.
He followed the same modus operandi: The unsolicited "like a magnet" kissing? Check. The sudden "grab 'em by the pussy"? Check.
"I am astonished by what I'm about to write: I keep laughing. The next moment, still wearing correct business attire, shirt, tie, suit jacket, overcoat, he opens the overcoat, unzips his pants, and, forcing his fingers around my private area, thrusts his penis halfway--or completely, I'm not certain--inside me. It turns into a colossal struggle. I am wearing a pair of sturdy black patent-leather four-inch Barneys high heels, which puts my height around six-one, and I try to stomp his foot. I try to push him off with my one free hand--for some reason, I keep holding my purse with the other--and I finally get a knee up high enough to push him out and off and I turn, open the door, and run out of the dressing room."
In case there's any question, here's how rape is defined by New York statute: "A person is guilty of rape in the first degree when he or she engages in sexual intercourse with another person by 'forcible compulsion'--compelling the victim through the use of physical force . . . "
This Class B felony, if successfully prosecuted, carries with it a prison term of up to twenty-five years.
The court of public opinion has appeared to give it a collective shrug. Why get worked up for the umpteenth time when nothing ever happens to this guy? The New York Times initially buried the story in their book section.
Other media covered the story more appropriately, but it appeared that Trump's uber-cynical strategy for bad press would prevail. As he said, it's a "one week phenomenon, usually a day, but usually by the end of the week, it's totally gone, you don't even remember the story."
To their credit, The New York Times publicly admitted to under-covering the story, saying "the fact that a well-known person was making a very public allegation against a sitting president should've compelled us to play it bigger." On June 27, the paper shared Megan Twohey's interviews with the two women E. Jean Carroll told after the rape occurred--putting Trump's one-week rule to the test.
The court of public opinion has appeared to give it a collective shrug. Why get worked up for the umpteenth time when nothing ever happens to this guy
The first woman, Lisa Birnbach, has written numerous books and hundreds of articles, including a glowing piece in New York magazine about Trump's Mar a Lago resort titled, "Mi Casa Es Su Casa." Birnbach remembers listening to Carroll's story and saying, "that is rape," urging her to report it to the police.
Carroll also told another prominent journalist, Carol Martin, who, sadly, told her not to take on the risks of making such an allegation against a powerful man, and to follow the conventional wisdom of the time: Move on, stay quiet, and don't tell anyone.
Carroll did stay quiet--for more than twenty years. But like many women coming forward after years of silence, she felt morally obliged to join the #MeToo reckoning.
It would be fitting if this--more than any of the felonies laid out in the Mueller report or the New York Times's revelations of his tax fraud--is what finally brings Trump down. Not only has Trump admitted his criminal sexual assault behavior profile on tape, there are scores of women beyond E. Jean Carroll with similar stories.
In fact, if the current media landscape is unable to deal with a calculating scandal-surfing scoundrel such as Trump, then Congress needs to act. It should immediately begin to hold hearings into the ample evidence of the President's sexual misconduct.
If rape isn't a "high crime and misdemeanor," what is?