“You know I'm automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab 'em by the pussy. You can do anything.” — Donald J. Trump
Here’s the thing: Actually, they don’t let you do it. And, as it turns out, you can’t do “anything” after all.
On Tuesday, a federal jury found that the former president committed an act of sexual abuse and maliciously lied about it. In other words, it was not just “locker room talk,” when he assaulted E. Jean Carroll and then defamed her.
Jurors deliberated for a little under three hours before siding with Carroll, awarding her a combined $5 million in damages. The verdict was an undeniable victory for Carroll, who testified during the trial that Trump violently assaulted her and, years later, unleashed further trauma by ridiculing her as a liar once she spoke out.
For Trump, the verdict was a striking defeat, the latest legal setback as he seeks another term in the White House and faces a separate criminal case in New York and ongoing investigations in Washington and Fulton County, Ga. Trump, 76, has been accused by more than a dozen women of sexual assault or misconduct over the years, but never before had any of those claims been fully litigated in court and decided by a jury.
How bad was this for the MAGA king?
The former president was left to rage at the verdict in ALL-CAPS, and his febrile turd polishers were reduced to insisting that at least he was not a rapist.
So let’s review where we are for the moment.
I think we are going to need a bigger tweet before this is all over.
Pussy grabbing redux
Tuesday’s verdict reminds us that history occasionally takes strange loops.
Seven years ago, the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape marked a decisive pivot in GOP politics. I remember the day well, as I wrote in the paperback edition of “How the Right Lost Its Mind.”
Late on the afternoon of October 7, 2016, I texted an old friend, fellow Wisconsinite Reince Priebus.
The Access Hollywood videotape had just been released, showing the GOP presidential nominee describing his approach to seducing and perhaps assaulting women….
In the course of his campaign, Trump had insulted POWs, women, disabled reporters, members of minority groups, and his opponents without derailing his candidacy. But this felt like it might be different and events were moving quickly.
Trump was due to visit Wisconsin the next day, for a rally with Speaker Paul Ryan, their first joint appearance of the campaign. Relations between Trump and Ryan had been fraught; with the speaker accusing his party’s nominee of “textbook racism,” while Trump derided the speaker as “our very weak and ineffective leader.” The Wisconsin event was the culmination of Priebus’s peacemaking efforts. Like other members of the GOP mainstream, Priebus had been a Trump skeptic, but as chairman of the Republican National Committee, he had embraced Trump’s candidacy with apparent enthusiasm. As one of Ryan’s best friends, the joint event was a symbol of his efforts to normalize Trump’s candidacy and rally the disparate wings of the GOP behind the erratic billionaire.
But now all of Priebus’s friends and colleagues from Wisconsin would have to stand on stage with their pussy-grabbing nominee. It would be the photo-op from hell, a month before the general election.
Despite our deepening political differences over Trump, Reince and I had kept in touch throughout the campaign. At lunch in Milwaukee one afternoon in September, we talked about our lives after the election. He wanted to stay on as RNC chair to pick up the pieces before returning to law or perhaps a cable television deal. I told him that I was writing this book; he said we should stay in touch because, unlike Trump’s campaign staffers, he had never signed a nondisclosure agreement.
So that afternoon I texted Priebus. He wasn’t going to allow Trump to drop a bomb on Wisconsin Republicans, was he?
Priebus responded quickly: “I am the guy trying to fix this!” he texted me. “I am in tears over this.”
Within a few hours, Ryan withdrew the invitation to Trump. For a moment, it seemed like a turning point. But it wasn’t, or at least not in the way that I thought would be.
As we later learned, Priebus actually told Trump he should drop out of the race (for which Trump never forgave him.) Across the country Republicans rescinded their endorsements. Ryan announced he would no longer defend Trump.
But one by one, they drifted back. After Trump’s improbable win, Priebus became White House chief of staff, Ryan, who had so often expressed his disgust with Trump’s comments became his chief enabler in Congress….
Over the last several years, there were many other potential turning points for conservatives and red lines that were never drawn. But in retrospect, the Access Hollywood video foreshadowed the degree to which the Right was willing to surrender its remaining principles and enable many of Trump’s worst impulses. So it should not have come as a shock a year later to watch Trump – along with the Republican National Committee – support an accused pedophile running for the United States senate. Nor should it have come as a surprise when evangelical Christian leaders gave the president a pass on reports he had an affair with a porn star and paid her hush money. They were merely reprising the moral compromises they had made during the campaign.
Trump & Co. assumed that the “Access Hollywood” tape was ancient history, already litigated and forgotten. But in one of history’s more pungent ironies, the tape helped doom Trump this week, as jurors got to hear Trump explain that, yes indeed, “stars” did get away with grabbing women by the pussy. “If you look over the last million years,” he said, “I guess that’s largely been true. Not always, but largely true. Unfortunately or fortunately.”
So here we are. It’s October 7, 2016 all over again: with the issues more sharply drawn and the stakes even higher. But the simulation we are all living through is not quite the same this time around: This time it’s not just talk. The jury found that Trump actually assaulted and injured a woman and then maliciously lied about it.
But the GOP has the same choices to make; and the echoes are unmistakable. In private, Republicans say they are appalled and worried. But only a few are willing to speak out.
“I hope the jury of the American people reach the same conclusion about Donald Trump,” Mitt Romney told CNN. “He just is not suited to be President of the United States and to be the person who we hold up to our children and the world as the leader of the free world.”
Former Arkansas Governor (and presidential candidate) Asa Hutchinson issued a statement saying that: “The jury verdict should be treated with seriousness and is another example of the indefensible behavior of Donald Trump.”
But the usual fluffers…. fluffed.
“That jury’s a joke. The whole case is a joke,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told reporters on Tuesday.
“If someone accuses me of raping them and I didn’t do it, and you’re innocent, of course you’re going to say something about it … it was a joke,” Rubio added of the defamation findings.
“When it comes to Donald Trump, the New York legal system is off the rails,” declared Lindsey Graham.
America’s dumbest senator also had some thoughts.
“It makes me want to vote for him twice,” Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) told HuffPost when asked about the verdict. “They’re going to do anything they can to keep him from winning. It ain’t gonna work ... people are gonna see through the lies; a New York jury, he had no chance.”
And GOP voters?
Sarah Longwell, a political strategist and founder of the anti-Trump Republican Accountability Project, said she conducted a focus group last week in which two-time Trump voters were asked about the Carroll lawsuit. Just one of the seven voters, a woman, had heard of it — “and she didn’t believe her,” Longwell said.
Throughout other recent focus groups with Republican voters, Longwell and her staff have remarked internally about how Trump’s support is “the fiercest” among women who have already supported him twice.
“I wish things were different, but I can’t see this changing anything in a Republican primary,” Longwell said of the sexual abuse verdict Tuesday. “The things that are going to change anything in a Republican primary are if the field — his opponents for 2024 — show some political backbone and political talent and ability to capture some of the oxygen that he is sucking up.”
Exit take: How much time will CNN devote to the sexual abuse verdict on tonight’s townhall extravaganza? Five minutes? Ten? Check back tomorrow.
It’s a book!
Yesterday, the Bulwark published Will Saletan’s magnificent analysis of the corruption of Lindsey Graham. You can read it here… or get the newly published e-book, which is now on sale at Amazon.com:
On the pods
Felix Salmon: The New Not Normal Economy
On Tuesday’s podcast, I talked with Axios’s Felix Salmon about his new book, “The Phoenix Economy.”
Globalism is dead, the remote work revolution is here to stay, the Covid pandemic ushered in a new YOLO economic era, and Americans are still in a very, very bad mood.
You can listen to the whole thing here.
Democrats Should Run on Law and Order
On our new Just Between Us podcast, Mona Charen and I talk gun control, Biden's small footprint on the national psyche, CNN's awful townhall with Trump, and more.
You can listen… and comment here.
Tucker Returns! Sort of.
The folks at Semafor take a long look at Tucker’s non-deal with Elon Musk and Twitter.
Max Tani writes:
Musk’s embrace of Carlson carries immediate risks for a major source of Twitter’s revenue, as Carlson will likely alienate some of Twitter’s remaining advertisers. His inflammatory remarks on Fox News became a liability for the network as advertisers fled. And Musk’s erratic moves since taking over the platform have already caused it to shed millions in ad revenue from major companies.
Ben Smith writes:
A former Twitter employee who worked on it told me today that the core issue with attempting to shift Twitter toward television is the contrast between the requirement that you sit still to watch a show and the basic Twitter experience of scrolling.
“It’s doomscrolling versus doomstaying,” the former Twitter employee said. The notion that Carlson could build a significant video business on Twitter, he said, was “stupid.”
BONUS: The ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted last night: “Tucker Carlson used his primetime show to spread antisemitic, racist, xenophobic and anti-LGBTQ+ hate to millions. Now, he has a new platform to promote his hateful views.”
“Twitter already has problems curbing hate speech. Granting a platform to someone who acts as a Pied Piper for conspiracy theorists and extremists likely will worsen this situation.”
2. The Democrats’ Trump Wannabe
Mona Charen in this morning’s Bulwark:
RFK Jr., like Trump, has swum for decades in the cesspool of conspiracies, lies, baseless accusations, and ginned-up outrage. We hardly pause to note it, because Trump has committed so many other outrages, but he cost tens of thousands of Americans their lives thanks to minimizing the seriousness of COVID. RFK Jr. too belongs in the select company of major figures who have used their power for harm. Perhaps he isn’t quite right in the head. Who knows? But the fact that he appeals to significant numbers of Americans, and particularly to those who have always been on the other side of the aisle, suggests that he is far from alone in that.
We rate this: true.
"So here we are. It’s October 7, 2016 all over again: with the issues more sharply drawn and the stakes even higher. But the simulation we are all living through is not quite the same this time around: This time it’s not just talk. The jury found that Trump actually assaulted and injured a woman and then maliciously lied about it."
Women voters - Democratic, Independent and/or moderate suburban Republican - WILL turn out in November 2024 in huge numbers because of this and Roe v Wade. I encourage all men of decency to join us.
"Man Ordered to Pay 5 Million Dollars in Defamation Case Immediately Goes on Social Media to Repeat Claim That Cost Him 5 Million Dollars"