Yes, yes, I know this is old news but we need to remind ourselves that Trump is not just your run-of-the-mill ordinary creep, he is a predator. On the excellent radio program This American Life this week, we hear another example of this. Writer E. Jean Carroll talked with an old friend of hers named Jessica Leeds about what the latter experienced at the hands (literally) of Donald Trump when she was a young woman. Leeds was one of the first women to accuse Trump of sexual assault in 2016.
It turns out that forty years ago, in 1979 or 1980, Leeds was on a Braniff Airlines flight to New York. After she got on the plane and sat down, a flight attendant asked her if she wanted to come up and sit in first class. This was of course where the big shot men sat and both Carroll and Leeds said that it was common in those days for attractive women to be invited to sit in first class as entertainment for these men. Sometimes the men would size up the entering women and tell the flight attendants whom they wanted and sometimes the attendants (at the time they too were all attractive young women and called stewardesses) on their own would rearrange the seating charts to put the women next to certain men.
It was Leeds’ misfortune to be seated next to Trump and she said that after the meal was served and cleared away, he started kissing her and putting his hands all over her. She said that neither the flight attendant nor the man across the aisle who had been transfixed by what was happening said anything at all to stop the assault and she realized that she was on her own. After a struggle, she finally managed to wriggle free and went back to the back of the plane.
Leeds gives a coda to the story. She said that a year or two later she was working for the Humane Society and assisting at a fundraiser for charities when who walks in but Trump with his then pregnant wife Ivana. As Leeds handed Trump his table assignment, he looked at her and said, “I remember you. You’re the cunt from the airplane.”
Yes, folks, the president of the United States is a really classy guy, someone that about 70 million Americans want as their president.
Some of you may have heard of Carroll before. She is another of the dozens of women who have said that Trump sexually assaulted or raped them. Trump publicly denied her claims in such a way that she felt that he had defamed her and she sued him for that. It began as a private civil suit between Carroll and Trump but then attorney general Bill Barr, once again acting more like Trump’s personal attorney than the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, said that the department of justice was going to intervene and take over Trump’s defense, claiming that Trump’s denial of Carroll’s charges was done as part of his official duties.
While alleged rape does not fall within the conventional job description of American presidents, justice department lawyers said that was irrelevant. It was not his official job description, but his “scope of employment” that mattered – in this case his interactions with the media while on duty.
Judge Lewis Kaplan will hear oral arguments over the justice department’s irregular intervention on Wednesday. His decision will have far-reaching implications.
Should he allow the department to become the defendant in Trump’s place, that would effectively end the case as federal government agencies cannot be sued for defamation. That in turn would put an end to Carroll’s petition to obtain a DNA sample from Trump so that she can compare it against material gathered from the dress she was wearing on the day of the alleged attack.
Carroll’s lawyers have protested that the justice department’s action distorts the law. “There is not a single person in the United States – not the president and not anyone else – whose job description includes slandering women they sexually assaulted,” they said in an earlier court filing.
US District Court judge Lewis Kaplan who is overseeing the case later threw out that request by Barr.
“The undisputed facts demonstrate that President Trump was not acting in furtherance of any duties owed to any arguable employer when he made the statements at issue. His comments concerned an alleged sexual assault that took place several decades before he took office, and the allegations have no relationship to the official business of the United States,” Kaplan wrote. “To conclude otherwise would require the Court to adopt a view that virtually everything the president does is within the public interest by virtue of his office.”
The president, he said, is not a “federal employee” by any standard definition. And even if he were, Trump’s public rejection of Carroll’s claims could not be construed as part of his job responsibilities. In fact, as the constitutional head of government, Kaplan wrote, Trump cannot plausibly be seen as acting at any other person’s direction.
“No one gives him permission to speak. No one can require him to say, or not to say, anything at all. No one has the authority to cut him off. And the statements he makes, as well as the topics he discusses, are entirely of his own choosing,” the judge wrote. “No one even arguably directed or controlled President Trump when he commented on the plaintiff’s accusation, which had nothing to do with the official business of government, that he raped her decades before he took office. And no one had the ability to control him.”
Barr has not appealed the ruling as yet.