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Trump liable for sexual abuse but most likely to brush it off like other scandals

Back when he was first on the campaign trail in Iowa, Donald Trump made a claim to voters that reverberated around the world.

“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters,” he said. “It’s, like, incredible.”

Trump actually came second in Iowa to Ted Cruz, but as we know, he would easily win the Republican nomination and then beat Hillary Clinton, no matter how many claims of criminal, or otherwise egregious behavior, were levelled at him.

Remember the Access Hollywood tapes when he bragged about sexually assaulting women? Old news a long time ago. What about paying hush money to porn actress Stormy Daniels? Feels like a century ago.

On Tuesday, Trump was found liable for sexually abusing magazine writer E Jean Carroll in the 1990s and then defaming her by claiming she was a liar.

The jury awarded Ms Carroll $5 million in damages, but it did not find Trump liable on an allegation of rape.

Given it was a civil and not a criminal case, Trump was never going to serve any time in jail whatever the outcome.

It is also worth pointing out that the assault that took place in 1995 or 1996 – Carroll says she does not remember the specific year even though she told friends about it after it happened – occurred in a changing room of the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan.

E. Jean Carroll departs from the Manhattan Federal Court following the verdict in the civil rape accusation case against former U.S. President Donald Trump, in New York City, U.S., May 9, 2023. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
E Jean Carroll leaves Manhattan Federal Court following the verdict (Photo: Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

The store’s address is 754 5th Ave – located just a block away from Trump Tower.

Will Trump emerge from this 5th Ave assault as unscathed as he claimed he would if he picked up a gun and shot someone? Most likely.

Two or three decades ago, such a court ruling would have likely marked the end of any politician’s hopes, or at the very least wounded them gravely, as with the case of Teddy Kennedy, who in 1969 drove his car off the road in Chappaquiddick, leading to the drowning death of 28-year Mary Jo Kopechne. In truth, Kennedy got off lightly and would only be charged with leaving the scene of an accident.

But while he would on to enjoy a long career in the Senate, his star was forever dulled by the episode, and many considered it dragged on his effort to run for president.

Yet that was 1969, and Teddy Kennedy. Today with are dealing with Donald Trump, the only US president to be twice impeached by the House, and who is also the first to be criminally charged, in connection with the hush money payment.

As with everything else he is accused of, Trump labelled the accusation from Ms Carrol as part of a witch-hunt by his opponents. “I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHO THIS WOMAN IS,” he wrote on social media.


There’s no doubt that the ruling against Trump may put off a few voters when it comes to casting their vote in next year’s Republican primary, or on election day in 2024.

FILE - Adult film actress Stormy Daniels arrives for the opening of the adult entertainment fair Venus in Berlin, Oct. 11, 2018. An appeals court ruled Tuesday, April 4, 2023, that Daniels must pay nearly $122,000 of Donald Trump's legal fees that were racked up in connection with the porn actor's failed defamation lawsuit. The ruling in Los Angeles came as Trump also faced a criminal case related to alleged hush money he paid to Daniels and another woman who claimed he had affairs with them. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)
Trump is also accused of paying Stormy Daniels illegally (Photo: AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)

But largely, the 76-year-old will emerge unscathed. There are two main reasons for that.

Firstly, because the verdict does not in any way block him from running for the White House. Neither does the criminal case against him. Trump is going to keep on hitting the campaign trail.

He will most likely use the verdict to rally and energise the hard core of his base at his next rally. And he will surely use it to raise money, as he did with the recent criminal indictment, raising millions of dollars in a few days.

The other critical point is that Trump retains an iron grip on the Republican base. There are certainly some among GOP donors who’d prefer to “move on” from Trump and back someone such as Florida governor Ron DeSantis.

But for all the talk a few months ago of Republicans being ready to shift to a new generation of leaders, Trump’s numbers are actually going up.

In one recent poll, he had widened his lead over DeSantis to as many as 33 points.

More troubling for Joe Biden and the Democrats, a Washington Post-ABC News poll released this weekend found Trump beating Biden 49 – 42 in a hypothetical matchup. DeSantis also beat Biden by a similar margin.

Perhaps most striking was that about 20 per cent of those who believed Trump should face criminal charges over the hush money payouts, said they would still vote for him in 2024.

Speaking on Sunday, ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos said: “This poll is just brutal for President Biden!”

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