the national interest

This Sounds Crazy, But Trump’s Rape Denial Might Not Be True

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Asked by reporters about E. Jean Carroll’s accusation that President Trump raped her, Senator Lindsey Graham replied, “He’s denied it. That’s all I needed to hear.”

This seems like an inappropriately high level of credibility to grant a man who has made over 10,000 documented false statements just since taking office. Even aside from the president’s general propensity to lie, though, there are a number of reasons to disbelieve his denial of this specific charge.

Trump began his denials by claiming he had “never met this person in my life.” This denial was pre-refuted by a photograph that New York ran with the story, showing the two of them together.

He proceeded to insist “she’s not my type.” Even aside from the insinuation that Trump does have a type of women he would rape, this denial echoed a line he has used before. After Jessica Leeds charged that Trump had groped her on an airplane — a story Leeds shared with four people at the time of the alleged incident — Trump public dismissed her with the same argument (“Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you”).

Trump also privately used the same argument to dismiss allegations that he slept with Stormy Daniels. Trump called her story a “hoax,” and as the Washington Post reported last year, “The president even has griped to several people that Daniels is not the type of woman he finds attractive.” Trump turned out to have signed checks compelling Daniels to keep quiet. Not even his most fervent defenders still deny she had relations with him. So it would seem a little strange for Trump to be now refuting a false allegation by using the same terms he previously employed to refute a true one.

For that matter, one might also consider the fact that 16 other women have made credible charges against Trump of sexual assault or other inappropriate touching. Trump was caught on a live mic bragging about his regular habit of committing sexual assault. He also boasted in a radio interview of barging in on beauty contestants in their dressing rooms to spy on them naked.

Some of Trump’s allies have questioned the motives of Carroll, who does have a new book that is bound to attract more attention in light of her accusation against the president. “I know that she’s selling a book,” says Senator James Lankford. However, Carroll shared this story at the time it happened with two journalists, predating both her book and Trump’s presidential campaign by two decades. If she was lying at the time, she had no obvious motive to do so. If all three of them are lying about Carroll having said this at the time, her two friends are taking a large professional risk — they’ve confirmed their accounts to New York and spoken to other media outlets, putting their professional credibility on the line — with no discernible upside for themselves.

Obviously, Carroll cannot prove her charge. But the standard of proof used in the court of public opinion is not the same as that used in a court of law, especially when the crime — a rape 23 years ago — is virtually impossible to prove, and cannot be prosecuted due to the statute of limitations.

And Republicans seem happy to default to the standard Graham is using. They’re taking at face value the word of a man who has lied at unprecedented rates about everything, has already lied about this specific case, who has faced credible accusations of similar behavior by other women, and has indeed boasted about his own propensity to do it.

And this is not even to mention the general fact that Trump is extremely comfortable undertaking actions that most people would consider, well, bad. This list of actions runs from small things like refusing to pay his contractors to asking a foreign dictator to steal his opponent’s emails. He is facing several current investigations at the state and federal levels for a number of alleged financial crimes. Before they completely abandoned all pretenses of the concept of morality for their posture of tribalistic relativism, conservatives used to be comfortable making judgments about the character of people who habitually lie and steal. Their decision to place their faith in Trump, against a mountain of circumstantial evidence pointing in the other direction, is a perfectly fitting emblem of their posture of submission to the Trump presidency.

This Sounds Crazy, But Trump’s Rape Denial Might Not Be True