early and often

Trump Coaching Nebraska Candidate Accused of Serial Sexual Assaults

Trump’s man in Nebraska, bull-semen titan Charles Herbster. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Donald Trump has been known to dump candidates he’s endorsed in a New York minute if they get into political trouble. Just ask Alabama Senate candidate Mo Brooks, who got un-endorsed by Trump on the insane premise that he had become “woke”; the old extremist was actually just running a bad campaign and sinking in the polls. The Boss, you see, does not like “losers.”

But Trump has conspicuously not distanced himself from his candidate for governor of Nebraska, Charles Herbster. The wealthy farmer/rancher (a real titan in the bull-semen industry) had built a modest lead in the polls over a large field of rivals when he was hit with allegations of sexual assault from no less than eight women, including a state senator (Julie Slama) who said he put his hand up her skirt at a Republican event. According to the allegations, Herbster is a serial groper. All the incidents he is accused of happened in the last few years, so we’re not talking about ancient history. One of Slama’s legislative allies concluded, “He’s clearly a predator.”

As is often the case in such situations, Herbster has denied everything, accusing the women of being part of a conspiracy cooked up by outgoing governor Pete Ricketts to help his own endorsed candidate, Jim Pillen. But what’s really interesting in this dark tale of sex crimes and lies is that Herbster’s coach in dealing with this situation is none other than the 45th president of the United States, as Politico explains:

Former President Donald Trump’s aides earlier this month told him about explosive allegations: That Charles Herbster, his endorsed candidate in the Nebraska governor’s race and a longtime top donor and ally, had sexually assaulted eight women.

But Trump did not withdraw his support for Herbster, or scrap plans to hold a Friday [April 29] evening rally for the candidate in Nebraska. Instead, he doubled down: The former president relayed word that Herbster wasn’t fighting back hard enough, backing plans for Herbster to hold a press conference aggressively denying the allegations and pushing back at his adversaries.

Herbster is sure taking Trump’s advice. In addition to angrily claiming that he’s the victim of a conspiracy in media appearances, he’s running an ad comparing himself to two famous conservative martyrs who were accused of sexual misconduct, Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh, and directly accusing the sitting governor and his rival candidate of fabricating the allegations.

Why is Trump encouraging this man to go hog wild in professing his righteousness against such formidable evidence? They do go back a ways; Herbster was considered Trump’s top adviser on agriculture issues during the 2016 campaign, heading up an agricultural advisory panel during Trump’s presidency. Beyond that, it’s possible the former president, the subject of so very many sexual-assault allegations over the years, actively empathizes with Herbster. He cannot dismiss groping as “locker-room talk,” but there’s no question he has always deployed 100 percent denials and angry counterattacks when he has been in similar situations.

In any event, Trump’s Nebraska rally is going to be all about Herbster, unlike similar events where he touted multiple candidates. The former president will share the stage with Matt Schlapp, head of the group that sponsors the annual MAGA fest CPAC, and the all-purpose conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell. There’s not a whole lot of time to pull Herbster’s cattle car out of the ditch; the primary is on May 10. But certainly no one knows more about overcoming serious allegations of criminal piggishness quite like Donald Trump.

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Trump Coaching Nebraska Candidate Accused of Sexual Assaults