Wednesday, September 27, 2023
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Trump accuser No. 3 found solace and shame in being part of a pattern

The former president has not attended any day of the civil rape trial against him, nor will he put on any defense as the case heads into deliberations early next week.

MANHATTAN (CN) — Natasha Stoynoff became the third woman on Wednesday to accuse Donald Trump of sexual assault at the the former president's civil rape trial. Her testimony capped off the trio of alleged attacks dated decades apart that tell the story of a man who forced himself on women, persisted when they tried to shove him away, and then publicly humiliated them when they came forward. 

Writer E. Jean Carroll, the plaintiff, said during her three-day testimony that Trump raped her in a dressing room at the famed New York department store Bergdorf Goodman in 1996. A retired businesswoman named Jessica Leeds took the witness stand next, accusing Trump of groping her and trying to put his hand up her skirt during a flight in 1979 or 1980. 

Each woman’s description began the same way: Trump kissed her suddenly and without consent. It’s the same behavior Trump bragged about on the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape that was played for jurors during Stoynoff’s testimony. 

“I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you've a star they let you do it,” Trump can be heard saying in a hot-mic recording, as the show’s then-host Billy Bush laughs along. 

“You can do anything,” he continues. “Grab them by the pussy.”

The words made Stoynoff sick to her stomach when the video circulated in the weeks leading up to the 2016 presidential election, she told the jury, but she also felt a sense of relief. 

“I actually for the first time thought to myself, ‘Oh, he does this to a lot of women. It's not just me. It's not just something I did,” Stoynoff said. Then she began to cry. 

“And then the horrifying part to me was that I worried — I worried that because I didn't say anything at the time, other women were hurt by him.” 

It was late December 2005 when Stoynoff, then a reporter for People magazine, traveled to Mar-a-Lago to interview Trump and his wife Melania. She was writing a story about the couple’s one-year wedding anniversary and the upcoming birth of their baby, Barron. 

Stoynoff had interviewed Trump as many as 10 times before: at his homes on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and at Mar-a-Lago, on the set of “The Apprentice.” After all, she was on the Trump beat. But this would be the last time they met. 

While on a break between interviews — Melania had excused herself to change — Trump told Stoynoff he wanted to show her a room at the Palm Beach club, she testified. He led her down a hallway and into the room. 

“I hear the door shut behind me. And by the time I turn around, he has his hands on my shoulders and he pushes me against the wall and starts kissing me, holding me against the wall,” Stoynoff said. 

When she shoved him away, Trump came toward her again, Stoynoff said. She described being in shock.

“He was against me and just holding my shoulders back,” she testified. “I didn’t say words. I couldn’t. I tried. I mean, I was just flustered and sort of shocked and I — no words came out of me. I tried, though. I remember just sort of mumbling.” 

A few minutes into the struggle, a butler came into the room to fetch Trump and Stoynoff to resume their interviews. He led the two back to a couch area. Melania was on her way. 

“Trump said a few things to me,” Stoynoff testified. “He said, ‘Oh, you know we’re going to have an affair, don’t you?'” He then made reference to a 1990 New York Post headline quoting Marla Maples, one of his ex-wives, as saying Trump was the “best sex” she’d ever had. 

“We are going to go for steak, we are going to go to Peter Luger’s, we’re going to have an affair,” Stoynoff remembers Trump saying. 

Stoynoff said she told her direct boss about the encounter because she wanted to be taken off the beat. She was. But she didn’t want to take the story up the ladder at work. She “didn’t want to cause trouble” or cause concern about sending her on future interviews. Plus there was the power of Trump. 

“I was worried that they would kill the story,” Stoynoff said, “and then Trump would try and get revenge on me and try and destroy me.” 

Like Carroll, Stoynoff said she felt ashamed in the aftermath, and wondered if she had done something to provoke Trump. She changed up her typically friendly, warm interview style, telling herself, “You’re too nice, don’t smile so much, don’t be so kind.” 

Like Leeds, Stoynoff said she decided to tell the story in an essay for People after watching Trump in an October 2016 presidential debate deny ever kissing women without consent. He told the host, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, that “nobody has more respect for women than I do” and dismissed the lewd comments he has made in private as “locker room talk.” 

“I thought to myself, ‘You liar,’” Stoynoff testified. “I just felt really upset that he was lying to the American people.” 

Another parallel between the three stories: Trump would later respond to each of the women’s accusations by denying them outright while taking a jab at their looks. 

“She’s not my type,” he said of Carroll, speaking to reporters at the White House. 

“Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you,” he told supporters at a campaign after describing Leeds’ allegation. 

“Look at her,” he said, also at a rally, referring Stoynoff. “I don’t think so.” 

The ex-president will not, however, defend himself at trial, which is expected to head into deliberations early next week. Nor will put on any defense case whatsoever, his attorneys confirmed Wednesday. He will not appear at all, in fact, in the Manhattan courtroom where three women accused him of sexual assault escalating to rape. 

In a previous letter to the court, his attorney Joseph Tacopina said Trump “wishes to attend” but cited concerns with security and logistics. 

Asked on Wednesday why he was not in New York, Trump told reporter Stephen Murphy it was because he had a longstanding commitment to travel to Ireland. 

“I hear we're doing very well in New York,” he added.

Follow @NinaPullano
Categories / Civil Rights, Entertainment, Media, Trials

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