Natasha Stoynoff had a job to do.
It was late 2005, and Stoynoff, then a staff writer for People, traveled to Mar-a-Lago to interview Donald Trump and his very pregnant bride, Melania, for a story on their one-year anniversary. This wasn’t out of the ordinary for Stoynoff. Trump had been on her beat since The Apprentice’s conception. She had interviewed Trump on multiple occasions. Nothing had ever gone wrong.
On December 27, Stoynoff conducted interviews of Trump and Melania between photo shoots. Melania had just wrapped one poolside session and Stoynoff was preparing to interview the couple together. Melania ran off to change.
“Donald said, ‘I’d like to have you see this really great room,” Stoynoff said Wednesday in Manhattan federal court, where she testified in E. Jean Carroll’s civil rape trial against Trump. “He led the way to show me this room.” They went through some doors and down a hall. They walked into a room. “I’m looking around and thinking, Wow, this is a really nice room. I wonder what he wants to show me,’” Stoynoff said. “I heard the door shut behind me.”
“By the time I turn around, he has his hands on my shoulders and he pushes me against the wall and starts kissing me.” She tried to push him away and he tried to shove her against the wall again, she said.
How did Trump stop? asked Carroll attorney Michael Ferrara.
“The butler came into the room,” Stoynoff said. Melania had finished changing, she recalled the butler saying, and it was time to do the joint interview.
Did Trump say anything?
“He said, you know, ‘We’re gonna have an affair,’” Stoynoff said. Trump also told her “don’t forget” what his ex-wife Marla Maples had purportedly said — that he was the “best sex” she’d ever had. “‘We’re going to go for steak. We’re going to go to Peter Luger’s,’” Stoynoff recalled Trump telling her.
Stoynoff conducted the interview as planned. “I had my questions with me,” she said, describing her feeling as a sort of like being on autopilot. “I had to get my work done.”
She told her direct supervisor what had happened, as well as a former journalism professor, but didn’t take it to higher-ups. “I was worried that they would kill the story and then Trump could try and get revenge on me, try and destroy me,” she said.
After the notorious Access Hollywood tape emerged in October 2016 — the one in which Trump said of women, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy” — Stoynoff wasn’t hell-bent on going public. There was an upcoming debate. Surely, Trump would be asked about it. If he copped to his boorish views on women, Stoynoff said, she was disinclined. He did not, so she wrote an essay for People detailing her alleged experience.
Trump’s infamous hot-mic clip was played to jurors in court today. None of the nine panelists appeared to show any obvious reaction, in keeping with their largely poker-faced demeanor throughout these proceedings.
Stoynoff, who was choked up at several points, became particularly emotional when thinking about other accusers. “I worried that because I did not say anything at the time, other women were hurt by him, so I have some regret,” she said, taking a tissue.
Stoynoff’s testimony came one day after Jessica Leeds testified that Trump had groped her on an airplane in the late 1970s. She is the second Trump accuser Carroll’s team is calling to the stand.
Following Stoynoff’s testimony, Carroll’s team played a portion of Trump’s October 2022 deposition in this case. (His lawyers have said Trump will not testify, and his deposition will provide his testimony.) He was sitting, hunched and orange, appearing more like James Austin Johnson’s doddering caricature of Trump than himself. Did he read Carroll’s 2019 New York article, in which she first accused him of rape? “No, I don’t believe I did.” Trump was presented with a copy of the book; he flipped through the pages. Had he read it? “No, never. I’ve never seen the book,” he said.