GOP whip Scalise cites Trump accuser's 'bizarre' CNN interview in doubting her account

Michael Isikoff
Chief Investigative Correspondent

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise questioned author E. Jean Carroll’s allegations that she was sexually assaulted by Donald Trump more than 23 years ago, citing what he called her “bizarre” interview with CNN anchor Anderson Cooper as a reason to doubt her.

“First of all, the president’s been very emphatic that it didn’t happen,” Scalise said in an interview for the Yahoo News podcast “Skullduggery” when asked whether he had any reason not to believe Carroll’s claims. He then brought up her CNN interview with Cooper, calling it “one of the most bizarre interviews I’ve ever seen. Anderson Cooper went to a commercial, because he didn’t even want her on the air anymore.”

Scalise was referring to an interview Carroll did this week with Cooper in which she seemed to dispute that she was a victim. “I was not thrown on the ground and ravished,” said Carroll, adding that she didn’t consider her encounter with Trump as rape because “I think most people think of rape as being sexy.” After she made the latter comment, Anderson cut to a commercial.

But Carroll’s allegations appeared to gain new credibility Thursday when the New York Times published interviews with two friends who – speaking on the record for the first time — confirmed that the advice columnist told them she had been assaulted by Trump at the time it is alleged to have occurred. “I remember her being very overwrought,” writer Lisa Birnbach, co-author of the 1980 bestseller “The Official Preppy Handbook,” said in an interview. “I remember her repeatedly saying, ‘He pulled down my tights, he pulled down my tights,’” Birnbach told the Times. When Carroll finished telling her what happened, Birnbach said she told Carroll, “I think he raped you.”

Scalise twice refused to answer questions about whether he was concerned about any of President Trump’s conduct detailed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, saying House Democrats in effect were wasting their time considering whether to impeach the president. Mueller, who is due to testify before the House judiciary and intelligence committees on July 17, cited 10 instances of potential obstruction of justice by Trump, including directing White House counsel Don McGahn to create a false document about the president’s efforts to fire Mueller and ordering a confidant, former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, to tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions to curtail the investigation into the Trump campaign.

Steve Scalise (Yahoo News photo Illustration; photos: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images)

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“Do you find any of that troubling?” Scalise was asked.

“What troubles me — if you’d like to know what troubles me — is there was no obstruction,” said Scalise. In fact, Mueller reached no conclusion as to whether the president committed an act of obstruction. “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” Mueller’s report said. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

Scalise asserted that the Mueller investigation was begun by “some real, real bad actors within the FBI” who had a “partisan agenda.”

When pressed, Scalise acknowledged he had not actually read the full Mueller report. “I haven’t read the entire thing,” he said. But he argued that the special counsel “didn’t bring one single charge” against the president. “At some point, the American people are going to ask, ‘When are you going to move on to solving real problems?’

“The committee of jurisdiction of the Mueller report, right now, where they're doing all this impeachment drumbeat — that’s the same committee that has jurisdiction over the border crisis, and they haven't done anything about the border crisis because they're focusing on the Mueller report they thought was gonna yield some kind of collusion. There was no collusion. Why don't they move on?”

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