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The Trump Allegations: The Latest Updates

A number of women have stepped forward to claim that they were assaulted by the Republican nominee, who denies their accusations. Republican leaders, meanwhile, are struggling to respond.

Richard Drew / AP

On Wednesday, The New York Times reported on two women who alleged that Donald Trump had assaulted them. Jessica Leeds recalled her encounter with the billionaire in the 1970s, as did Rachel Crooks, who met Trump in 2005. A number of allegations of sexual assault against Donald Trump have surfaced since. On Friday, two came to light: from Kristin Anderson, who accused Trump of sliding his fingers under her skirt at a New York City nightclub in the early 1990s; and from former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos, who gave a press conference with attorney Gloria Allred.

For his part, the Republican nominee has denied the accusations, taking to Twitter to vent his frustrations. Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz sent a letter to the Times demanding that the newspaper retract the story.

It’s been a turbulent few days for the Republican nominee. Just last week, The Washington Post obtained a 2005 video clip in which Trump is heard making lewd comments about women. The recording sparked backlash from Republicans, though some have since conceded that they’ll still vote for Trump in November. The latest developments will likely rock the GOP yet again.

We’ll be tracking the latest news and the fallout from the allegations below.

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Six Witnesses Claim to Support Natasha Stoynoff's Story

Six individuals willing to be identified by name have come forward to corroborate details of Natasha Stoynoff’s allegations that Donald Trump once sexually assaulted her.

Stoynoff penned a first-person account outlining her accusations against Trump that People published last week. She describes traveling to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in 2005 as a writer for that magazine to report a story on Donald and Melania Trump’s first wedding anniversary. While she was there, Stoynoff claims, Trump pushed her against a wall, “forcing his tongue down my throat.”

Now, six people described in a separate People story as “colleagues and close friends” of Stoynoff’s are backing up details of her account. One of the individuals, Liza Herz, claims that she was with Stoynoff when she ran into Melania Trump in New York City, an encounter Stoynoff wrote about last week, but which the mogul’s wife disputes. “They chatted in a friendly way,” Herz said. “What struck me most was that Melania was carrying a child and wearing heels.”

After People published the original allegations, a law firm representing Melania Trump sent the magazine a letter demanding a “retraction and apology,” claiming that the details about the two women seeing each other on the street were “completely fictionalized.” During an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday, Melania Trump again denied ever running into Stoynoff. “She wrote in the same story about me that she saw me on 5th Avenue, and I said to her, ‘Natasha, how come we don’t see you anymore?’ I was never friends with her. I would not recognize her,” she said.

Five other named witnesses have also come forward who say that Stoynoff confided in them about the alleged assault after it happened. Here are two of them, from People:

Marina Grasic, who has known Stoynoff for more than 25 years, says she got a call from her friend the day after the attack. Stoynoff detailed everything about the attack, from Trump pushing her against a wall to the business mogul showing up at her massage appointment the following day, she says.

[...] Stoynoff’s former journalism professor, Paul McLaughlin, says that the writer called him in tears looking for advice the very night of the harrowing encounter. However, he cautioned her to remain quiet in fear of how Trump may retaliate.

Trump Tangled Up in Accusation Against Former 'Apprentice' Contestant

Trump in 2004
Ric Francis / AP

Donald Trump once brushed aside allegations that actor Gary Busey sexually assaulted a woman who worked as an employee for the television show The Celebrity Apprentice, according to a new report from The Daily Beast. Busey was a cast member on two seasons of the NBC show.

The story cites five anonymous Apprentice staffers, and states that neither the Trump campaign, nor representatives for Busey or the show’s executive producer, immediately returned requests for comment.

Here’s more from the report:

Donald Trump knew about the incident, laughed it off, and kept Busey on his TV series, these staffers said.

Multiple Apprentice employees, including the alleged victim herself, told The Daily Beast that the Academy-Award-nominated actor “grabbed” one of their colleagues “firmly between [the] legs” during the 2011 season of Celebrity Apprentice. Busey also forcibly put the female staffer’s hand on the crotch of his pants. The alleged incident, which they say took place during a location shoot in SoHo in New York City, prompted a firestorm among members of the Apprentice crew.

[...] This alleged Apprentice incident shows that Trump was more than an accused groper—he allegedly condoned such ugly behavior in others, as well.

This is just the latest in an increasingly long list of sexual misconduct-related allegations against the Republican nominee. After the release of a 2005 recording of Trump bragging about using his celebrity status to grope women, a number of women have come forward to publicly accuse Trump of sexual assault.

Melania Trump: 'I Believe My Husband'

CNN via Reuters

More on CNN’s interview with Melania Trump, which just aired: In a conversation with Anderson Cooper, she suggested that her husband’s 2005 remarks bragging about groping women were merely “boys’ talk” and defended the Republican nominee against allegations that he sexually assaulted women.

“I believe my husband,” she said when Cooper asked her to weigh in on the allegations. Like Donald Trump himself has done, she cast doubt on the credibility of the many women who have now come forward to publicly accuse him of assault. “Did they ever check the background of these women? They don’t have any facts,” she said. “People come out saying lies and not true stuff.”

Instead, Melania Trump suggested that the media is working hard to viciously and unfairly attack her family. “It was left-wing media and you could see that, the way it comes out, everything was organized,” she said referring to publication of the 2005 Access Hollywood tape. “The opposition doesn’t want to talk about WikiLeaks and the emails and Benghazi, and all the rest of the stuff. They don’t want to talk about it, so they said, ‘Let’s do something so we will hurt his campaign.’”

“That’s not sexual assault,” she said, referring to his taped remarks to host Billy Bush. “He didn’t say he did it.” Then she suggested that women throw themselves at her husband all the time. “I see many women coming to him and giving the phone numbers, and want to work for him, or inappropriate stuff from women, and they know he’s married.” When asked to respond to Donald Trump’s suggestion that some of the women who have accused him of sexual assault are unattractive, she said: “He’s raw. He will say it as he feels it. I know he respects women.”

Though she admitted that she was “surprised” to hear what Donald Trump said on the tape, she dismissed it as nothing serious: “Sometimes I say I have two boys at home, I have my young son, and I have my husband,” she said laughing. “I know how some men talk, and that’s how I saw it.”  

Billy Bush Has Officially Lost His Job

Danny Moloshok / Reuters

Billy Bush, the former Access Hollywood anchor whose recent fall from grace has inspired widespread schadenfreude, was let go from the Today show Monday, after just two months working at the NBC News program.

On October 7, the Washington Post reported that Bush, a member of the famous political family, could be heard on a hot mic recording taken in 2005 discussing women and their bodies with Donald Trump during an Access Hollywood taping. In the days since the tape’s release, critics have called for Bush’s firing from Today, citing both comments he made—“The Donald has scored!”—and his perceived indifference to, or encouragement of, Trump’s boasts about groping women.

The Bush news broke shortly after Trump’s wife, Melania, publicly blamed him for her husband’s 2005 comments. On Monday night, the TV personality struck a positive tone while responding to his dismissal. Here’s CNN:

Bush, a brand new host of the "Today" show's 9 a.m. hour, never returned to the show after the tape came out on October 7. He apologized for his conduct in a statement that day.

Monday night's exit announcement included his first new comments in over a week.

"I am deeply grateful for the conversations I've had with my daughters, and for all of the support from family, friends and colleagues," he said. "I look forward to what lies ahead."

What's next for Bush is unknown. His spokesman declined to comment on whether the terms of his exit allow him to take a new job at another network right away.


CNN notes that Bush’s team had been in negotiations for several days regarding his departure; it seems he’ll take home “some of the remainder of [his] three-year, $3-million-a-year contract” as he leaves NBC.

Melania Trump Blames Billy Bush

Credit: Shannon Stapelton / Reuters

In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Donald Trump’s wife Melania Trump said that the Republican nominee’s remarks about groping women, caught on film during a 2005 taping of celebrity news show Access Hollywood, were the result of encouragement from host Billy Bush. From CNN:

“And as you can see from the tape, the cameras were not on—it was only a mic. And I wonder if they even knew that the mic was on,” she said, referring to Trump and NBC's Access Hollywood host Billy Bush.

    She said they were engaged in "boy talk, and he was led on—like, egged on—from the host to say dirty and bad stuff.”

    Trump has faced a slew of sexual assault allegations since the second debate, during which Cooper asked Trump whether the remarks on the tape were just talk or whether Trump had engaged in the behavior he had described.

    This latest defense of Trump’s remarks is perhaps the strangest yet, because it amounts to suggesting the presidential candidate could be goaded into a false admission of sexual assault just to impress a man decades younger than him.

    Someone Firebombed a GOP Headquarters in North Carolina

    Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

    A county GOP headquarters in North Carolina was targeted in an apparent firebombing, the Charlotte Observer reported Sunday.

    A bottle of flammable liquid was thrown through the front window of the building in the town of Hillsborough in Orange County, police said. Police said the words “Nazi Republicans get out of town or else” were spray-painted on the side of a nearby building. No injuries were reported, and police are investigating the incident.

    Dallas Woodhouse, the executive director of the state GOP, said the office is “a total loss,” according to the Observer. “The only thing important to us is that nobody was killed, and they very well could have been,” he said.

    Here’s a photo of the interior of the headquarters:

    North Carolina has been one of the most contested states in the 2016 elections. The latest polls show Hillary Clinton has a narrow lead over Donald Trump in the state, and Senate incumbent Republican Richard Burr leads Democrat Deborah Ross by a handful of points.

    'Saturday Night Live' Skewers Trump's Disastrous Debate

    NBC

    More than 66 million Americans watched last Sunday night’s debate—the cast of Saturday Night Live evidently among them.

    “Hello, and welcome to the second and worst-ever presidential debate,” said Cecily Strong as moderator Martha Raddatz in SNL’s opening skit about last Sunday’s face-off. How right she was.

    The 2016 election was already a miserable slog before last Friday. Then came the leaked decade-old tape in which Donald Trump, the GOP nominee, bragged about sexually assaulting women. By Wednesday, multiple women had come forward with descriptions of his behavior over the last week. As Trump angrily tried to denounce and humiliate his accusers, what was already been a dark season for American democracy became a moment of national shame.

    From this salted earth, SNL at first turned to its old tropes to find some comic ground. “I’d like to begin tonight by attempting a casual lean,” said Kate McKinnon in her artificial, snarky, and eager-to-please performance as Hillary Clinton. Alec Baldwin also returned with his purse-lipped, orange-tinged, scowling turn as Trump.

    “I’m going to huff, I’m going to puff, I’m going to blow this thing,” he intoned as introduction.

    Here’s the full skit:

    Sexual assault is treacherous ground for humor, to say the least. So the performers instead took aim at Trump’s absurd behavior, using Baldwin’s comedic chops to maximum effect. “Do you feel like you’re modeling appropriate behavior for the youth?” the Anderson Cooper stand-in asked him. “No, next,” he hastily replied.

    Baldwin’s earlier portrayals largely depicted Trump as crude and unhinged. But his performance on Saturday night instead cast the GOP nominee as an outright sexual predator. “Anderson, I love kids,” he pleaded with the moderator at one point. “I love them so much I want to marry them.” While McKinnon gave a lengthy answer about Obamacare’s impact, Baldwin loomed behind her as the Jaws theme played.

    On Trump’s actual behavior, SNL went for pure gallows humor. “They need to be respected and their voices need to be heard,” Baldwin-as-Trump said at one point in mock earnestness, referring to Bill Clinton’s accusers, whom the real Trump invited to last Sunday’s debate.

    “What about the women who have accused you?” a moderator asked.

    “They need to shut the hell up,” he instantly replied, his voice again malicious. Only Baldwin’s gift for comedic timing sold it as a joke.

    McKinnon, for her part, didn’t vary from her well-honed portrayal of the Democratic nominee. At one point, she briefly appeared rattled by the accusers’ presence before brushing off the distraction. “Get real, I’m made of steel, this is nothing,” she said coolly. “Hi girls!”

    Only when SNL veered towards Trump’s views on race did the show lose its touch. “Good evening, Mr. Trump,” said Michael Che, playing James Carter, an older black man at the actual debate. (“Oh no,” Baldwin immediately replied.)

    At first, the skewering stayed focused on Trump’s real-life foibles. They mocked his tendency to focus on inner-city crime whenever he’s asked about race. They lampooned his descriptions of Detroit and other black communities as violent, uncivilized locales. (“I think you were at your own rallies,” Che interjected.)

    But then the skit overplayed its hand as Baldwin-as-Trump offered yet another denunciation of his rival. “She’s committed so many crimes, she’s basically black,” Baldwin-as-Trump said. SNL’s audience gasped at the punchline and nervously laughed, but just barely.

    “Secretary Clinton, would you like to respond?” the moderators asked.

    “No, I’m cool,” McKinnon said, casually reclining back. There was nothing left to say.

    Another Woman Says Trump Forcibly Kissed Her in the 1990s

    Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in 1995. (Marc Serota / Reuters)

    A ninth woman accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct on Saturday, telling a newspaper the Republican nominee forcibly kissed her in 1997.

    In an interview with the Guardian, Cathy Heller described her alleged encounter with Trump during a Mother’s Day brunch at his Mar-a-Lago estate.

    Trump made the rounds greeting members of his club. When he stopped at their table, Heller recalled, and her mother-in-law introduced her, she stood and extended her hand.

    “He took my hand, and grabbed me, and went for the lips,” she claimed.

    Alarmed, she said she leaned backwards to avoid him and almost lost her balance. “And he said, ‘Oh, come on.’ He was strong. And he grabbed me and went for my mouth and went for my lips.” She turned her head, she claims, and Trump planted a kiss on the side of her mouth. “He kept me there for a little too long,” Heller said. “And then he just walked away.”

    “I was angry and shaken,” she continued. “He was pissed. He couldn’t believe a woman would pass up the opportunity.” She added that he seemed to feel “entitled” to kiss her.

    According to the Guardian, Heller’s encounter with Trump was well known among her family and friends prior to his presidential run, and that two people with her during the brunch saw her stunned reaction afterwards.

    Heller has previously donated to Clinton’s campaign and her husband’s family is currently trying to obtain refunds for initiation fees at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. But she says she came forward only after the release of a 2005 tape in which Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women. “He said this is just talk, but it’s not just talk,” she told the Guardian.

    As it did with the eight other women who leveled accusations against Trump in the past week, the Trump campaign responded by criticizing both Heller and the media. In a statement, communications advisor Jason Miller described her as a “politically motivated Democratic activist” and said journalists should be “embarrassed” for reporting on it.

    The media has gone too far in making this false accusation. There is no way that something like this would have happened in a public place on Mother’s Day at Mr. Trump’s resort. It would have been the talk of Palm Beach for the past two decades. The reality is this: for the media to wheel out a politically motivated Democratic activist with a legal dispute against this same resort owned by Mr. Trump does a disservice to the public, and anyone covering this story should be embarrassed for elevating this bogus claim.

    The Trump Campaign Attempts to Discredit Another Accuser

    The Trump campaign is trying to undermine the allegations of another one of the many women who have now publicly accused the Republican nominee of sexual misconduct.

    On Friday afternoon, Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice, alleged at a press conference with attorney Gloria Allred that Trump tried to force himself on her in 2007 when she met with him to discuss employment opportunities.

    The Trump campaign released a statement Friday evening attributed to a man identified as John Barry who the campaign says is a “first cousin of Summer Zervos” expressing disbelief over the accusation and calling Zervos’ motivations into question.

    Here’s the statement:

    "I am completely shocked and bewildered by my cousin, Summer Zervos, and her press conference today. Ever since she was on The Apprentice she has had nothing but glowing things to say about Mr. Trump. For almost a decade, my cousin would talk about how much she looked up to Mr. Trump and viewed him as an inspiration – a success story she wanted to copy. Summer would also talk about how kind and caring Mr. Trump was on the show, and how he would even visit children in hospitals without telling the press. She has praised the good things he's done for her life, and in fact she converted her friends and our family to become Trump supporters even though we’ve never been active in politics before.

    “That was until Summer invited Mr. Trump to her restaurant during the primary and he said no. I think Summer wishes she could still be on reality TV, and in an effort to get that back she’s saying all of these negative things about Mr. Trump. That’s not how she talked about him before. I can only imagine that Summer’s actions today are nothing more than an attempt to regain the spotlight at Mr. Trump’s expense, and I don’t think it reflects well.”

    The Trump campaign also released what appears to be an email sent by Summer Zervos in April 2016 asking to re-connect with Trump with the subject line “Summer Zervos Restaurant.”

    A few things to note: First, the man identified as her cousin is attempting to make the case that because Zervos once said “glowing things” about Trump, it’s hard to believe that she could now be telling the truth when she accuses him of something horrific. Yet Zervos herself asserted at her press conference that for a long time she had the “utmost admiration” for Trump and even viewed him as a mentor.

    It’s not uncommon for survivors of sexual abuse to maintain a relationship with their abuser. According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, “Though it may be difficult for the public to understand, it is common for survivors of sexual abuse to continue relationships with their abusers after the abuse has stopped … For example, it is common for victims to maintain contact with their abusers because they may still feel affection for them even though they hate the abuse. This is especially normal when the abuser is a member of the family or a close family friend. It is also common for some victims to maintain contact in an attempt to regain control over their assault. Others may maintain contact in an attempt to regain a feeling of normalcy.”

    Zervos herself has said that she had attempted to get in touch with Trump in April. Here’s what she said at her press conference:

    During Mr. Trump's fight for the Republican nomination, I saw and heard Mr. Trump nonstop on television and in the news. Customers at my restaurant asked about him, as they knew I was a contestant on The Apprentice. I always complimented and never said anything about what we had done at the Beverly Hills Hotel. However, this caused me a great deal of pain and anguish, and I felt the need to confront Mr. Trump and ask him to apologize for his behavior.

    I also thought he might have been embarrassed by his behavior, and this would provide him with the opportunity to clear the air. I had no idea about his behavior with other women at the time. Therefore, I contacted his secretary in April of 2016 and asked if I could reconnect with Mr. Trump. I did not tell her why I wanted to speak with him. she responded that, perhaps, his campaign team would follow up with me.

    I then wrote his assistant an email on April 21, 2016, asking her to send my email directly to Mr. Trump. In that email, I stated, "Your interest in me as a potential employee meant the world to me. Your interest in me as anything more blew my mind, and I lost my footing." I further said, "I have been incredibly hurt by our previous interaction." I ended by stating, "I hope to hear from you and wish you continued success." Mr. Trump did not reply.

    Allred responded to the Trump campaign’s attempt to discredit Zervos, per The Huffington Post’s Christina Wilkie, by saying that Barry’s employment at Summer’s family restaurant was recently terminated and that he is also a Trump supporter.

    At the press conference on Friday, Allred said that “at or near the time of what she [Zervos] alleges was Mr. Trump’s sexual misconduct towards her, she did share with two people close to her what she experienced with Mr. Trump, but she told nobody else.”

    Trump Accuser Reportedly Vows to Leave the Country

    Mindy McGillivray, one of the women who has stepped forward to accuse Donald Trump of groping her, told The Palm Beach Post that she plans to leave the country out of concern for her family’s safety.

    According to McGillivray, backlash has been intense ever since she went public with her allegations against the Republican nominee. A separate Palm Beach Post article published on Wednesday detailed her accusations: She claims Trump groped her more than a decade ago at Mar-a-Lago.

    “We feel the backlash of the Trump supporters. It scares us. It intimidates us. We are in fear of our lives,’’ she said on Friday. Here’s more from the report:

    McGillivray, 36, has been staying in a hotel in the three days since she told her story to The Palm Beach Post, one of at least four women across the United States who have accused Trump of inappropriately touching them. Trump has denied the accusations, calling them total fabrications.

    But she said got a scare Thursday night when she returned to the Palm Springs house she shares with her daughter and stepdad to pick up clothes.

    “I look out the window and there are cars just driving around the house and looking, slowing down right at the house,’’ she said.

    “I don’t live in a gated community. This is dangerous. There could be people out there who want to hurt us.’’

    As more women step forward with allegations against Trump, it’s important to keep in mind that most women who experience sexual harassment never report it. There are many reasons why women who have survived sexual assault might not immediately, or ever, come forward. One of those reasons is the fear of retaliation.

    Trump's Campaign Tries to Debunk Jessica Leeds's Allegation

    On Thursday, Trump said he would release evidence to refute his accusers’ claims at the “appropriate time.” That time is apparently late Friday afternoon on the East Coast, a period normally reserved for burying bad news while most reporters sign off for the weekend.

    The New York Post just published a story about Anthony Gilberthorpe, a 54-year-old British man who claims he sat across from Trump and Jessica Leeds on a flight. According to Leeds, who shared her story with the New York Times on Wednesday, Trump groped her breasts and tried to reach up her skirt during that flight.

    Gilberthorpe, whose interview with the Post was arranged by the Trump campaign, says he saw nothing amiss.

    Gilberthorpe, 54, said he was sitting across the first class aisle from the couple and saw nothing inappropriate. Leeds was wearing a white pantsuit, he said, while Trump was wearing a suit and cuff-links, which he gave to his British flight companion.

    Indeed, Gilberthorpe claimed, Leeds was “trying too hard” in her attempt to win Trump over.

    “She wanted to marry him,” Gilberthorpe said of Leeds, who apparently made the confession when Trump excused himself and went to the bathroom.

    There was no kissing, but the “shrill” Leeds was “very much in your face” with the real estate developer.

    Aside from the allegation itself, Gilberthorpe’s version of events differs in some details from Leeds’s account. He claims she was wearing pants at the time; she said she was wearing a skirt. He claims the flight was in “either 1980 or 1981,” according to the Post; she said it took place in 1979. Even the Post seems somewhat skeptical of his claims, noting at one point, “Gilberthorpe has no evidence to back up his claim — just his self-described excellent memory.”

    The article does not say why Gilberthorpe—a 18-year-old or 19-year-old British teenager at the time—was flying first-class from Dallas to New York City in 1979. It does note that a few years later, by his own account, Gilberthorpe says he helped procure underage boys for senior members of Margaret Thatcher’s government during an annual conference for Britain’s Conservative Party.

    Trump’s campaign wasted no time in touting Gilberthorpe’s version of events. Without comment, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tweeted a link to the article shortly after it went up.

    Trump’s Blueprint for Intimidation

    Mike Segar / Reuters

    Donald Trump has a message for the women who have accused him of sexual assault: You will regret this.

    Trump appears to be in all-out intimidation mode, attempting to discredit the women who have spoken out against him and the publications that have carried their stories. He has implied the women weren’t attractive enough for him in the first place, and threatened lawsuits against The New York Times, The Palm Beach Post, and People magazine.

    His tactics also carry an implicit warning for any other woman who might consider coming forward. You can read the full story here.

    A Scuffle at a Trump Rally Gets Captured on Video

    Mike Segar / Reuters

    A year ago, my colleague Molly Ball described the paradoxical feel of many Trump rallies—thousands gather to hear a candidate talk about impending doom, and readily confess their conviction that America is on the precipice, but the rally itself can seem oddly joyful.

    Of course, Trump’s rallies have also been punctuated by rituals of protest. One or more protestors will stand silently, or shout in defiance; face a chorus of abuse from all sides; and be escorted from the arena. Trump’s crowds have almost come to expect these interruptions, like fans of an aging rock band waiting for them to play their favorite single.

    And as the campaign has ground on, these confrontations have not infrequently turned violent. Trump’s rally today in Greensboro was mostly calm. My colleague David Graham reports that it was less dark and hostile than other rallies he’s recently attended. But a confrontation between one protestor and a Trump supporter turned violent:

    Stephen Poston, who witnessed the incident, shared the video with The Atlantic.

    Former 'Apprentice' Contestant Summer Zervos Accuses Donald Trump of Sexual Misconduct

    Kevork Djansezian / Reuters

    At a press conference with attorney Gloria Allred in California, another woman accused Donald Trump of making unwanted sexual advances toward her.

    On Friday, Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice, claimed that in 2007, Trump attempted to force himself on her when she met with him to talk about employment opportunities at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

    Zervos alleged that Trump met her at a bungalow where he “started kissing me open mouthed as he was pulling me toward him.” She said that he then “began kissing [her] again very aggressively, and placed his hand on my breast.” Zervos said that after she “pushed his chest to put space between us” he began “thrusting his genitals.”

    She added that she had met with Trump in New York City prior to seeing him at the bungalow, during which time, she claimed, he kissed her on the lips. She recalled feeling “surprised, but felt that perhaps that was just his form of greeting.”

    According to Allred, Zervos had not intended to come forward prior to The Washington Post’s publication of a 2005 recording wherein he brags about using his celebrity status to force himself on women without their consent. “Instead of a job,” Allred said, “Ms. Zervos claims she got the Donald all over her, kissing her, touching her breast, and leading her into his bedroom.”

    Allred has a reputation as a “crusading women’s-rights lawyer,” as The New Yorker put it. She has represented many of Bill Cosby's accusers, as well as the family of Nicole Simpson during the OJ Simpson trial. She’s also a Clinton supporter. At the press conference, Allred said “many more women” have contacted her, but she could “not answer the question at this time” of whether or not any other women would be coming forward.

    The list of allegations against Trump continues to grow. On Thursday, Trump lashed out at his accusers, suggesting that they should not be believed, and even saying of one woman: “look at her, look at her words, you tell me what you think, I don’t think so.”

    'Believe Me, She Would Not Be My First Choice'

    Mike Segar / Reuters

    Trump just dropped this insult at his rally in North Carolina, referring to Jessica Leeds, who told The New York Times this week that Trump groped her on an airplane in the late 1970s:

    Here’s the transcribed version, with a little extra after the clip ends:

    The only way they can figure they can slow [the Trump “movement”] down is to come up with people who are willing to say, “Oh, I was with Donald Trump in 1980. I was sitting with him on an airplane. And he went after me on the plane.” Yeah, I'm going to go after—believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you. Man, you don't know. That would not be my first choice.

    Leeds actually anticipated this line of attack. In her interview with Anderson Cooper last night, the 74-year-old said she released pictures of herself when she was in her 30s because she knew Trump would remark on her appearance:

    Leeds: For him to now look at me at this age—he would never even give me the time of day. But I wanted people to know what I looked like when I met him.

    Cooper: Because you thought he would comment on your looks?

    Leeds: Yes, I knew he would comment on my looks.

    Trump made a similar comment yesterday about a former People magazine reporter, who says he forcibly kissed a decade ago at his Mar-A-Lago resort. “Look at her, look at her words, you tell me what you think. I don't think so," he said at a rally in Florida. His argument seems to be that some people are too ugly for Trump to even consider approaching, let alone … assault? In a twisted way, that’s especially insulting, Leeds said—and she doesn’t believe it’s true. “If he can’t have a model, he’ll take whatever he can get,” she said last night.

    Another Woman Recalls Trump Groping Her in the Early 1990s

    Another woman has come forward with allegations of unwanted sexual advances by Donald Trump.

    Kristin Anderson told The Washington Post about an encounter in the early 1990s at a club in New York City. She was sitting on a couch talking with friends when the individual sitting to her right, now the Republican nominee, “put their hand up my skirt.” "He did touch my vagina through my underwear,” Anderson said. She recalls pushing the hand away and turning around to see the man. “He was so distinctive looking—with the hair and the eyebrows. I mean, nobody else has those eyebrows,” she said, describing how she recognized Trump.

    In an interview with the Post, Anderson recalled her reaction when she heard Trump’s comments in a 2005 video, released last week, that seem to reflect her own experience with the man. “I was just like wow. Wow. That explains it. That explains what happened to me.” The Post has more on how Anderson’s story came to light:

    Anderson, who said she doesn’t support Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton, did not initially approach The Post. A reporter contacted her after hearing her story from a person who knew of it, and she spent several days trying to decide whether to go public.

    The recent accounts of women telling their stories of how Trump touched them inappropriately shook Anderson.

    “It’s a sexual assault issue, and it’s something that I’ve kept quiet on my own,” Anderson said. “And I’ve always kept quiet. And why should I keep quiet? Actually, all of the women should speak up, and if you’re touched inappropriately, tell somebody and speak up about it. Actually go to the authorities and press some charges. It’s not okay.”

    Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks denied the account 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.”

    'It Doesn't Matter Whether They Are Lying or Not'

    Gerald Herbert / AP

    Ben Carson, the former Republican presidential candidate and current surrogate for Donald Trump, had a remarkable exchange Friday morning with Katty Kay, the BBC journalist, on MSNBC's Morning Joe.

    Kay asked Carson whether he believed the women who are alleging Trump sexually assaulted them are lying. Carson, after first accusing Kay of making him “the bad guy,” asked Joe Scarborough, the show's host, to “turn her microphone off so I can talk.” Scarborough declined and urged Carson to answer the question.

    “It doesn't matter whether they are lying or not,” Carson said. “What matters is that the train is going off the cliff. We’re taking our eye off of that, and we’re taking our eye off other issues.”

    He was referring to the state of the United States.

    Clinton Staffers Weren't Mocking Catholics—They Were Knocking Conservatives

    Clinton campaign chair John Podesta (Andrew Harnik / AP)

    Are Clinton staffers guilty of “anti-Muslim bigotry”? That’s what Trump and his team are alleging based on leaked emails that purportedly show Jennifer Palmieri, the communications director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, mocking American Catholics. According to the exchange—which was released by the organization WikiLeaks as part of a hacked cache—John Halpin, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, allegedly wrote an email to Palmieri in 2011 noting that “many of the most powerful elements of the conservative movement are all Catholic (many converts) from the [Supreme Court] and think tanks to the media and social groups.” These actions are “an amazing bastardization of the faith,” he said. “They must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backwards gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian democracy.”

    Catholicism is “the most socially acceptable politically conservative religion,” Palmieri allegedly responded. “Their rich friends wouldn’t understand if they became evangelicals.” Halpin and Palmieri are both Catholics.

    Many conservative politicians and writers have argued that this exchange shows Clinton staffers’ derisive attitude toward Catholics. Trump’s team helpfully rounded up condemnations from leaders on the right, including an opinion column inThe Wall Street Journal, comment from House Speaker Paul Ryan, and skepticism from Raymond Arroyo, the lead anchor for the Catholic news network EWTN. (It’s not clear that the emails themselves are real, or unaltered. John Podesta, the chair of the 2016 Clinton campaign, who is mentioned in another email exchange, has said he does not recognize them.)

    Another email exchange suggests that Podesta acknowledged the need for a “Catholic Spring”—presumably, a reference to the Arab Spring—on gender issues within the Church. Responding to an email from Sandy Newman, the founder of the advocacy group Voices for Progress, Podesta said groups like Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Catholics United had been created “to organize for a moment like this.”

    The head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, responded to the emails in a statement. “There have been recent reports that some may have sought to interfere in the internal life of the Church for short-term political gain,” he wrote. “If true, this is troubling both for the well-being of faith communities and the good of our country.”

    But as The New York Times’  Ross Douthat has argued, the emails seem to say less about anti-Catholic bigotry, or perhaps the kind of meddling Kurtz described, than the “civil war” among Catholics. Just as some progressive Catholics disagree with the Church’s positions on social issues like gay marriage and contraception, and reject those who defend those positions, so conservative Catholics condemn the progressive wing of the American Church for failing to follow Church teachings on issues like abortion. As I wrote last month, Catholic assimilation over the last 50 years has meant that most Catholics no longer vote according to their distinctive principles of faith—they vote as Republicans or Democrats.

    The real derision in the emails, seems to be directed not toward Catholics, but toward religious conservatives. Peggy Noonan recently argued in The Wall Street Journal that the emails are part of a bigger pattern of Democrats’ disdain for people not like them. “The big fact of the week,” she wrote, “has to do with these words: They don’t like us.”

    New Trump Accuser to Step Forward Later Today

    Another woman will reportedly go public with accusations of sexual misconduct against Donald Trump this afternoon.

    According to a press release, “A women [sic] who accuses Donald Trump of victimizing her with inappropriate sexual conduct, will hold a press conference today … with her attorney Gloria Allred. This news conference will be the first time that this accuser has spoken to the press about her allegations against Mr. Trump.” The press conference is scheduled to take place in Los Angeles, California at 2:30 p.m. ET.

    In the wake of recent sexual assault allegations against Trump, and the Republican nominee’s threats of retaliation, Allred, a high-profile civil rights attorney, told Politico that “if any women who are making allegations of inappropriate [conduct] contact me, I would be happy to speak with them and then decide if I would be able to represent them.” Meanwhile, Clinton ally David Brock offered to “pay for the legal defense of Trump accusers.”

    Trump Goes Back to Blaming Mexicans

    Henry Romero / Reuters

    Donald Trump began his campaign by denouncing Mexican immigrants as “rapists”—and now he’s ending it by blaming the allegations of sexual assault he faces on a Mexican.

    The Wall Street Journal reports that the Trump campaign is preparing to attack Carlos Slim, one of the world’s richest men, as the architect of his troubles:

    As early as Friday, Mr. Trump is planning to claim that Mr. Slim, as a shareholder of New York Times Co. and donor to the Clinton Foundation, has an interest in helping Hillary Clinton’s campaign, according to a Trump adviser.

    Attacking the Mexican billionaire would allow Mr. Trump to hit several targets. He could slam the “failing” New York Times, which he says had to be “rescued” by a “foreigner”—Mr. Slim, the adviser said.

    “This is totally false,” said Arturo Elias, Mr. Slim’s spokesman. “Of course we aren’t interfering in the U.S. election. We aren’t even active in Mexican politics.” He said the contributions by Mr. Slim to the Clinton Foundation were a matter of public record.

    One thing that makes the report plausible is that, well, this is precisely what Trump has said in the past. Back in February, he want on a radio show to discuss The New York Times. “Carlos Slim came in and I believe he now owns up to 15 percent. It’s an open secret in the newsroom that Carlos Slim is the guy that’s going to bail out the Times,” the host said, adding that he “was looking for a platform to influence American policy.”

    Trump picked up the thought from there. “Well, certainly, people should know about it,” he said. “They may be doing the work of somebody else. We really don’t know that. Certainly a very rich Mexican owns a big chunk of the paper and has a lot of power over the paper.”

    That radio host—Steve Bannon—is now the Trump campaign’s CEO. And the attack he debuted in February is what the campaign is reportedly preparing to return to in October. The consistent thread is that Trump is never responsible for the problems facing Donald J. Trump. There is always someone else to blame.

    Jessica Leeds, Who Says Trump Groped Her in the 1970s, Speaks to Anderson Cooper

    On Thursday night, Anderson Cooper interviewed Jessica Leeds, who says Donald Trump groped her in the late ’70s while they were seated next to each other on an airplane. She was one of the two women quoted in The New York Times’ story posted Wednesday evening. After watching Trump tell Cooper during Sunday’s debate that he never touched a woman against her will, she said she had a sleepless night before deciding to go public with her story.

    “It would be nice if some men could have some sort of inkling that their behavior leaves a mark, leaves a scar, leaves a lot of pain,” she said. “It may just be fun and games for them, but it’s not for a lot of women.”

    After the incident, she kept the encounter to herself, afraid her bosses would brush her off, she told Cooper. But she remembers feeling helpless, wondering why the flight attendant or fellow passengers hadn’t stepped in. When she heard Trump’s denial, all these decades later, the moment came rushing back. “I literally wanted to throw something at the TV, or punch my hand into the TV,” she said. “That was Sunday night. And Monday morning, I found myself writing an email, a letter to the editor, to the Times.”

    Trump says the incident never happened. He’s lying, Leeds said. “Sometimes I don’t think he’s even really aware that he’s lying. He’s built up his defenses in his head to the extent that he doesn’t know.”

    Pence: It's All Just 'Talk' and 'No Actions'

    Steve Helber / AP

    Mike Pence isn’t wavering in his support for his running mate, Donald Trump.

    On Friday, the Indiana governor made the rounds on the morning shows to defend his candidate.

    “As a father of two daughters and as a public person, we take these kind of allegations very seriously. Trump made very clear yesterday he has categorically denied these allegations,” Pence said on CBS This Morning when asked about the number of sexual assault allegations against Trump, until pivoting to the leaked Clinton emails.

    Co-anchor Norah O’Donnell later followed-up with a question about Michelle Obama’s speech on Thursday, denouncing Trump’s comments about women, Pence said “I don’t understand the basis of her claim.” O’Donnell pressed him, adding: “You don’t believe his language was sexually predatory.”

    “Well, no. I already spoke about my concerns about the language he used in that 11-year-old video. But what he has made it clear is that was talk, regrettable talk on his part,” Pence said. “But that there was no actions and that he has categorically denied these latest unsubstantiated claims.”

    Pence also defended Trump in an interview with Fox & Friends. When asked about Trump slipping in the polls, Pence responded: ”I honestly think there’s something missing in the polling these days.” He added: “When you see this avalanche of negative media coverage that goes chasing after every potential negative story about Trump and still you see tens of thousands of people coming out rallying.”

    So has been the case since the release of a 2005 video in which Trump is heard making lewd comments about women: The Indiana governor has reassured Republicans of Trump despite a wave of elected officials rejecting his candidacy. And based on his interviews on Friday, there’s no indication he plans to change course.

    Trump Called a Deaf Actress 'Retarded'

    Richard Brian / Reuters

    Donald Trump repeatedly referred to a deaf actress as “retarded,” a Daily Beast report says. Marlee Matlin, who won the Oscar for best actress for 1986’s Children of a Lesser God, was a 2011 contestant on Celebrity Apprentice. The Beast talked to three longtime staffers who described how Trump treated Matlin:

    During the taping of the show, Trump would often scribble down notes while sitting at the table of “the boardroom”—the show’s primary set. A person familiar with the notes who helped clean up after tapings said that on one of the pieces of paper, Trump wrote: “Marlee, is she retarded??”

    “[Trump] would make fun of her voice. It actually sounded a lot like what he did [to] the New York Times guy,” one source said, referring to Trump’s ridicule of disabled reporter Serge Kovaleski. “Like, to make it seem like she was mentally not there? [It] sounded like he got a real kick out of it. It was really upsetting.”

    There’s a slew of similar anecdotes in the story. The Trump campaign didn’t comment.

    How Are Trump Surrogates Defending Him?

    Few jobs are less enviable today than being a Trump surrogate, tasked with going on television to defend the Republican nominee.

    A pair of interviews Thursday afternoon showed the problem. One was with Jack Kingston, a former GOP representative from Georgia who is now a Trump adviser. Here’s one section of that interview:

    Asked by Wolf Blitzer point-blank whether he believed Trump had sexually assaulted anyone, Kingston offered, “I don’t think he did.” Kingston then offered his own experience, starting to suggest that the fact that the accusers had not come forward sooner undercut their allegations, before realizing that was maybe a bad idea and backtracking.

    “I’ll say this, that’s not the Donald Trump that I know today, and again, as an employer, having dealt with a couple of these cases myself, it’s very difficult—um, in the cases I’ve been involved with the women were so upset they immediately talked about it, but I also want to be quick to say, there are cases where the women don’t’ say anything, and those are still legitimate cases...”

    Kingston then changed tracks, saying that the Trump he knew did not behave that way in private and was different than his public persona, which is perhaps not as flattering a thing to say about a presidential candidate as Kingston imagines.

    He also compared the accusations to the Duke lacrosse case. I reported on that case earlier today, and there are some discrepancies: That was one accuser, with an inconsistent story, and with relatively straightforward evidence of the innocence of the accused, if only the district attorney had not suppressed it. (He was later disbarred for doing so.) In the Trump case, there are multiple accusers, spread over years, and there are multiple recordings of Trump bragging about just the sort of behavior of which he is now accused.

    Kingston had one last argument: “If he had a track record of sexual abuse, I believe we would have know about it well through the primary season.” Here’s the thing: We did know about it.

    If anything, an appearance by former U.S. Representative Pete Hoekstra of Michigan was even more awkward. Asked by Blitzer about the allegations, Hoekstra tried to change the subject to Bill Clinton’s record, complaining that he didn’t remember much attention for the allegations against the-then president in the 1990s. As Blitzer pointed out, there was, in fact, a great deal of attention paid to those allegations. Though Blitzer didn’t say so, Hoekstra should have remembered—after all, he was a member of the House and voted yea on all four articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton.

    Trump 'Stuck His Head Right Underneath [Women's] Skirts,' According to New Account

    Two fresh bits of news about Donald Trump’s past behavior have come out tonight. One is a new account from a woman who says she witnessed the Republican nominee reaching under women’s skirts at a restaurant in the 1990s, as well a frankly creepy news clipping pulled from the Chicago Tribune archives.

    Lisa Boyne, now a health-food entrepreneur, recounted to The Huffington Post her recollection of a dinner in the mid-1990s between her, Trump, and a half-dozen models.

    According to Boyne, the group was seated at a semi-circular table, with the women in the middle and Trump and [modeling agent John] Casablancas flanking either end. The women couldn’t get out of their seats without one of the men getting up―which they refused to do. Instead, Boyne said, Trump insisted that the women walk across the table, allowing him to peer up their skirts while they did so. Trump “stuck his head right underneath their skirts,” Boyne said, and commented on whether they were wearing underwear and what their genitalia looked like.

    Boyne said that Trump never made any such advance on her. “I’m not a model. He wasn’t interested in me,” she said. “He was more interested in my opinion of who I think he should sleep with. I remember that vividly.”

    Boyne’s account is disputed by Sonja Morgan, an attendee at the dinner and now a cast member on Bravo’s Real Housewives of New York, who says she doesn’t remember Trump acting untoward.

    Then there’s this:

    Pulled from a 1992 copy of the Chicago Tribune, this news brief isn’t the only example of Trump making uncomfortable comments about dating underage women “in a couple of years.”

    Trump's Dangerous Conspiracy Theory

    Mike Segar / Reuters

    Blame the “international banks.”

    When Donald Trump took the stage in his own defense on Thursday, he didn’t just denounce the women who had accused him of sexual assault; he didn’t merely attack the media outlets that had aired their stories. He came out swinging, denouncing his foes as tools of a global conspiracy against decent Americans:

    It's a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth, and put that money into the pockets of a handful large corporations and political entities. Just look at what this corrupt establishment has done to our cities like Detroit, Flint, Michigan, and rural towns in Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, and all across our country. Take a look at what's going on. They've stripped away these towns bare, and raided the wealth for themselves, and taken our jobs away, out of our country, never to return unless I'm elected president.  

    The Clinton Machine is at the center of this power structure. We've seen this first hand in the Wikileaks documents, in which Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks, to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global interest powers, her special interest friends, and her donors.

    So true. Honestly, she should be locked up. She should be.

    This sort of rhetoric comes back into style every few decades in America. Politicians tell Americans that a sinister conspiracy is to blame for their misery. In 1951, for example, Joe McCarthy inveighed against “a great conspiracy, a conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man.” And there’s an odd comfort to conspiratorial thinking: Instead of finding themselves at the mercy of complex forces that grind ahead to a logic of their own, conspiracy theories encourage audiences to detect the machinations of puppet-masters pulling the strings. If there’s a small group of people to be blamed, then their work can be stopped, or even reversed. The human mind is a spectacular tool for discerning patterns; so superb, in fact, that it can create patterns where only randomness prevails.

    But the specific conspiracy matters, too. Trump was speaking to local communities suffering from a feeling of dislocation, a sense that they have lost control of their own destiny and are at the mercy of shadowy forces. He charged that Clinton and other corrupt politicians are plundering the American heartland, despoiling it as part of a cabal of “international banks” and “global interests,” taking American wealth and funneling it abroad.

    That language has a complicated history in America. It has sometimes been used by those who loathe the lords of finance in straightforward and uncomplicated ways. But at least as often, it has been invoked by politicians trafficking in thinly disguised anti-Semitism or over bigotry, encouraging their audiences to chase the money changers from the Temple.

    In the 1880s, a Populist pamphlet, The Seven Financial Conspiracies Which Have Enslaved the American People, told the story of the nation’s takeover by a “bankers’ government” as the seven acts of Shylock. Language like that could be found throughout the Populist revolt of the 1890s, although not everyone embraced it. The Great Commoner, William Jennings Bryan, took pains to insist that his use of such language should not be taken as support for anti-Semitism, as he ran for president in 1896. “I do not know of any class of our people who, by reason of their history, can better sympathize with the struggling masses in this campaign than can the Hebrew race,” he said. Not all of his supporters agreed. A New York crowd packed into Cooper Union to hear the Rothschilds denounced by Mary Ellen Lease, a Populist stump speaker: “A London Jew has been made the receiver of these United States,” she thundered.

    In the depths of the Great Depression, Father Charles E. Coughlin took to the airwaves to denounce “international bankers and those in league with them.” At the height of his popularity, when this rhetoric found its widest resonance, Coughlin depicted a Christian society held hostage by money changers—but insisted that the Jew “is just as much a child of God as the best of you are.” But after his fall from grace, his speeches grew darker and more conspiratorial still, and he crossed over into explicit anti-Semitism, blaming Jews for America’s ills.

    Trump’s campaign is now being run by Steve Bannon, lately the executive chairman of Breitbart, which has been accused with some frequency of peddling anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. But there was nothing in Trump’s speech on Thursday to suggest he was deliberately deploying anti-Semitic tropes. Indeed, as his supporters often hasten to point out, his own daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner are Jewish.

    The trouble is that—as has so often been the case this year—the language Trump has chosen to employ carries with it heavy cultural baggage. And whatever he intends, there are Americans who will find it frightening to hear these images revived—and others who will feel emboldened by their use to go where Trump himself did not.

    Another Howard Stern Interview Comes Back to Haunt Trump

    BuzzFeed just posted video from a 2006 Howard Stern interview in which Donald Trump appeared to mouth the word “true” after Stern co-host Robin Quivers declared—jokingly—that he was a sexual predator. The exchange came in a joint interview with Trump and his children Ivanka and Don Jr., during an awkward line of questioning about Ivanka’s sexuality.

    The video made its way around social media during Trump’s speech in West Palm Beach, Florida, in which he denied all recent allegations of sexual misconduct and assault levied against him. He called each of his accusers “liars” and claimed that they were all part of an orchestrated campaign generated by his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

    Trump Denies Everything, and Blames the Media

    Mike Segar / Reuters

    In his first public appearance since several women came forward to accuse him of sexual assault, an angry and defiant Donald Trump denied the allegations and blamed them on a corrupt cabal of the press and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

    “These vicious claims about me, of inappropriate conduct with women, are totally and absolutely false,” the Republican nominee said Thursday afternoon. “The Clintons know it, and they know it very well. These claims are all fabricated. They’re pure fiction and they’re outright lies. These events never ever happened, and the people who said that fully understand.”

    Of his accusers, he added, somewhat ominously, “You study these people and you’ll understand.” Trump promised to release evidence vindicating him at the “appropriate time.”

    His remarks came several minutes into a rally in West Palm Beach, Florida. Trump began the rally with a lengthy spiel about how there was a pernicious alliance of the media, Washington establishment, and financial titans determined to harm ordinary Americans, reminiscent of Bilderberg-style or anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

    “The corporate media in our country is no longer involved in journalism,” said Trump, who has called for tighter libel laws that would make it easier to sue reporters. “They’re a political special interest, no different from any other lobbyist or financial entity with a total political agenda.” He reprised a threat, made Wednesday night, to sue The New York Times and other outlets publishing the allegations. Even as he spoke, the Times’ lawyer replied to Trump’s attorneys, denying a request to retract their Wednesday article.

    Trump said that “anyone who challenges their control is deemed a sexist, a racist, a xenophobe, and morally deformed.” He argued that the stories were part of a coordinated attack on his candidacy. (As I wrote earlier today, the timing is irrelevant to the veracity, and allegations of abuse against Trump are nothing new anyway.)

    As for the accusations, he continued to deny they were valid. Speaking of Natasha Stoynoff, a former People reporter who wrote for that magazine about an alleged assault while she was reporting a piece on Donald and Melania Trump’s first wedding anniversary, Trump said, “Why wasn’t it part of the story that appeared 12 years ago? Why didn’t they make it part of the story? I was one of the biggest stars on television with The Apprentice.”

    “You look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don’t think so,” Trump said.

    New York Times to Trump: You Have No Reputation to Ruin, Anyway

    Lucas Jackson / Reuters

    The New York Times has released its response to Donald Trump’s demands that it retract its reporting, and it’s a doozy.

    “The essence of a libel claim, of course, is the protection of one’s reputation,” David E. McCraw, the paper’s assistant general counsel, wrote. He pointed to Trump bragging about committing sexual assault, intruding on pageant contestants in their dressing rooms, and telling Howard Stern it was acceptable to call his daughter Ivanka a “piece of ass.” “Nothing in our article,” he concluded, “has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself.”

    For a lawyer, that’s a pretty sick burn. But the letter goes on to make a broader point. The women’s accounts illuminated an issue of national importance, that Trump raised himself. The paper’s decision to publish their accounts, and Trump’s denial, was essential to the smooth functioning of a democracy. The letter ends with the hope that if Trump decides to pursue the matter any further, the paper will “welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.”

    In 1964, the Times won a landmark Supreme Court ruling in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, establishing the need for “actual malice” before public officials could successfully sue for libel. That ruling prevented Southern officials from using the courts to shut down reporting on their suppression of the civil-rights movement. Today, Donald Trump is attempting to use legal bluster to shut down reporting that he finds politically inexpedient. He’s unlikely to be any more successful.

    Trump Threatens to Sue The New York Times—Again

    Last night, Donald Trump’s lawyer sent a “demand for retraction” to New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet that targeted the newspaper’s just-filed report on allegations the candidate groped two women. The story was “reckless” and “defamatory,” the letter read, two words designed to set off alarm bells deep in the fear centers of an editor’s brain.

    It is apparent from, among other things, the timing of the article, that it is nothing more than a politically-motivated effort to defeat Mr. Trump’s candidacy. That is why you apparently performed an entirely inadequate investigation to test the veracity of these false and malicious allegations … Clearly, The New York Times is willing to provide a platform to anyone wishing to smear Mr. Trump’s name and reputation prior to the election irrespective of whether the alleged statements have any basis in fact.

    We hereby demand that you immediately cease any further publication of this article, remove it from your website and issue a full and immediate retraction and apology. Failure to do so will leave my client with no option but to pursue all available actions and remedies.

    The New York Times, though, has been here before. In May, Trump’s lawyers made similar threats over a similar story, which documented a pattern of sexist behavior by the Republican nominee toward women. While the Trump Organization quickly backed down, acknowledging their demands would be difficult to enforce, they’ve continued to use potential legal action as a cudgel. Threatening to sue but never following through is classic Trump; his lawyers have sent similar notes to entities as varied as The Club for Growth, Jeb Bush’s super PAC, and Trump’s former ghostwriter. (Columbia Journalism Review has a good roundup here.)

    So Baquet probably isn’t sweating this. Anyone can threaten to sue anyone for anything; it’s common practice in most newsrooms to avoid covering lawsuit threats until the paperwork is actually filed at the courthouse. But Trump can try to accomplish his goals by using threats alone. Few organizations have the financial wherewithal to survive an extended legal battle with a billionaire. (See: Gawker.) For some, an intimidating cease-and-desist letter on Trump Organization stationery could be enough to force retreat; even if you’re confident you’d prevail in court, why risk financial ruin getting there? Trump likely knows this math very well.

    Michelle Obama's Blistering Response to Donald Trump

    First Lady Michelle Obama speaks at LaSalle University in Pennsylvania while campaigning for Hillary Clinton on September 28, 2016. Mel Evans / AP

    “A candidate for president of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women and I have to tell you that I can't stop thinking about this. It has shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn't have predicted,” Michelle Obama said during a rally in New Hampshire on Thursday. “While I’d love nothing more than to pretend like this isn't happening and come out here and do my normal campaign speech, it would be dishonest and disingenuous for me to move on to the next thing like this was just a bad dream. This is not something we can ignore.”

    She continued: “This wasn't locker room banter. This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexual predator behavior and actually bragging about kissing and groping women, using language so obscene that many of us are worried about our children hearing it when we turn on the TV. To make matters worse, it now seems clear this isn't an isolated incident. It's one of countless examples of how he has treated women his whole life. I have to tell you that I listened to all this and I feel it so personally.”

    Obama carried a tone of urgency throughout the speech, and in several instances, she appeared deeply moved as she spoke. “The shameful comments about our bodies, the disrespect of our ambitions and intellect, the belief that you can do anything you want to a woman, it is cruel, it is frightening, and the truth is, it hurts,” Obama said. She harkened back to the day of “our mothers and grandmothers about how in their day the boss could do whatever he pleased to the women in the office and even though they worked so hard, jumped over every hurdle to prove themselves, it was never enough.” Such behavior and rhetoric resurfacing in 2016 “is not normal, this is not politics as usual,” Obama said. “It is intolerable. [It] doesn’t matter what party you belong to, no woman deserves to be treated this way.”

    Obama also urged voters to consider younger generations. “If all of this is painful to us as grown women, what do you think this is doing to our children?”

    The First Lady has been a key surrogate for the Hillary Clinton campaign. As The New York Times put it: “To divine the places where the Clinton campaign’s turnout operation is under the greatest pressure, and the constituencies about which it is most concerned, look no further than where Clinton aides dispatch the popular first lady.” Her influential role in the election was evident on Thursday. The crowd roared with applause and cheers, getting louder as she called the audience to action to “stop this madness.”

    Trump Sticks to Twitter Amid Sexual Assault Allegations

    Donald Trump is resorting to the medium he knows best in the wake of allegations of sexual assault against him: Twitter.

    Since The New York Times reported on two women who said the billionaire touched them inappropriately, Trump has taken to social media to deny the claims.

    Prior to that, he also denied accusations from a People magazine reporter who said Trump assaulted her.

    Trump has repeatedly used Twitter amid moments of disarray. Later Thursday morning, he also announced that he would be “making a major speech in West Palm Beach, Florida at noon.”

    Former Miss Utah Recalls Encounter With Trump

    In an interview with NBC’s Today aired on Thursday morning, the former Miss Utah, Temple Taggart McDowell, recalled her father introducing her to Trump in 1997. “It was at that time where he turned to me and embraced me and gave me a kiss on the lips. I remember being shocked because I would’ve thought to just shake somebody’s hand,” McDowell said. She recounted a similar encounter later during a visit to Trump Tower in Manhattan. Again, McDowell, said he embraced her and kissed her on the mouth. One of the chaperones that accompanied McDowell on the visit felt “uncomfortable” and another chaperone went with McDowell into Trump’s office.

    Trump, who was married to Marla Maples at the time, denied McDowell’s claims, telling NBC News: “I don’t even know who she is.” He added: “She claims this took place in a public area. I never kissed her. I emphatically deny this ridiculous claim.”

    Last week, a 2005 video obtained by The Washington Post revealed Trump making lewd comments about women. McDowell said that when she first heard the tape it was “very unsettling.” She added: “I have a daughter now… You think of sending your daughter out there with men like that that think like that.”