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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump compared himself to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on Saturday morning, following a fresh allegation that Trump sexually assaulted a woman in the mid-1990s.
Trump vehemently denied the accusation and said it was akin to the claims of sexual assault that roiled Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the high court in 2018.
“People have to be careful because they are playing with very dangerous territory,” Trump told reporters outside the White House before departing to Camp David. “When they do that, and it’s happening more and more, when you look at what happened to Justice Kavanaugh and you look at what happened to others, you can’t do that for the sake of publicity.”
E. Jean Carroll, a magazine writer and advice columnist, alleges that in 1995 or 1996, she encountered Trump at a high-end department store in Manhattan and agreed to help him shop for a gift for a woman. It was there, she says, that Trump attacked her in a dressing room. She is telling her story for the first time in a new book, excerpts of which were published in New York magazine.
Carroll spoke to The Washington Post on Friday, as did a friend whom Carroll confided in at the time. The Post spoke to a second friend on Saturday. Both friends corroborated the details of the alleged assault.
In a statement released Friday night, Trump said that it never happened and that he did not know Carroll. Asked about it Saturday morning, Trump again said he had no idea who Carroll was.
When asked about a photograph that shows Trump from behind with his former wife Ivana and chatting with Carroll, Trump was dismissive.
“Standing with my coat on in a line, give me a break. With my back to the camera. I have no idea who she is,” he said.
Kavanaugh said he didn’t know Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused him of sexually assaulting her at a house party in high school. Ford testified under oath in Congress about the incident, and Kavanaugh denied the allegations at the same hearing.
Carroll’s accusation adds to those of at least 15 other women who have said Trump groped or kissed them without their consent.
Jill Harth, one of the women who has accused Trump, tweeted Saturday morning, “Deja Vu? Kudos to @ejeancarroll for coming forward with her account. Ironically, what happened to her was almost verbatim to what happened to me at Mar A Lago in 1993.”
Harth worked with Trump on a beauty pageant in Atlantic City, and it was during their business dealings that she alleges Trump attempted to rape her. Trump has said it was Harth who pursued him, and his office shared email messages in which Harth thanked Trump for helping her personally and professionally.
People who know Carroll vouched for her character Saturday and said it was not in her personal or professional interest to make up a story about Trump.
“I’ve never known her to step into something where she is dishonest or hurtful,” said a friend Carroll worked with in the mid-1990s who she told about the alleged attack three days after it occurred.
The friend, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic, added that Carroll didn’t need Trump to sell books.
Stephen Byers, a writer and former editor who was divorced from Carroll in 1984, called his ex-wife of 13 years “one of the most honest women that I’ve ever known. … I can’t imagine her lying about anything, least of all something like this.” Though Byers described their parting as “amicable,” he said they haven’t spoken since.
In South Carolina on Saturday, some of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates were asked about the latest allegations against Trump, and they said they weren’t surprised.
“We know Donald Trump’s character, and it’s revealed every single day,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said, shaking her head. “There aren’t any real surprises here other than the details.”
Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio echoed that sentiment.
“There are a lot of people who aren’t surprised by anything he does, which has happened over time,” Ryan said. “And that is worrisome.”
Ryan also said if the allegations “seem legitimate, we should move forward with some kind of hearings and further investigate.”
There are few limits on congressional inquiries. However, criminal charges could not be brought against Trump because Carroll alleges the assault happened before New York state changed its laws to end the statute of limitations on reporting rape.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he wasn’t sure it was worth adding the sexual assault claim to the long list of areas pertaining to Trump that Democrats are probing.
“You probably don’t need another thing to prove that this is a person who is deceptive, repeatedly, lies as a matter of habit, and is a backstabber, cork-screwer and dirty dealer par excellence,” he said. “So is [it] that necessary to add that to the pile? I don’t know the answer to that.”
Washington Post writer Julie Tate contributed to this report.
If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 800-871-7741.