As yet another woman comes forward to accuse President Donald Trump of sexual assault, a Democratic member of Congress is now calling for a formal investigation into the roughly two dozen similar allegations against Trump.
Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat who sits on the House’s Oversight and Reform Committee and is a leader on the Hill on sexual harassment, said Congress should look into these accusations after writer E. Jean Carroll published a book in which she detailed an alleged violent sexual encounter with Trump over 20 years ago.
“We do have a lot on our plates, so I can’t speak to when it’s going to happen,” said Speier in a brief interview with The Daily Beast on Tuesday. But she affirmed it was worth lawmakers’ time, especially in light of Carroll’s story.
“This particular case is particularly egregious, and there’s no reason not to believe the woman,” said Speier. “I think his problem is, he sees that as a way of wooing a woman and women see it as sexual assault or rape.”
A House Democratic aide told The Daily Beast that the Carroll accusations had some party lawmakers considering an investigation into her story and the many others. But, the aide said, questions remain over which committee might have jurisdiction over such a matter.
Whether the matter ever gets to the point of debating committee jurisdictions seems far off, however. While Speier was speaking openly about the merits of a congressional investigation, she was largely alone. Other Democrats shot down the idea, saying that while they appreciated the gravity of Carroll’s charges, their docket was packed when it came to investigative matters.
“Oh my God, we have enough inquiries going on!” said Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. “I think that would be ridiculous.”
“It’s been well established that the president is inappropriate with women,” said Bass. “We know this. I think there’s a lot of other things that are going on that are equally important, and to me, to focus on this right now would be a diversion.”
Indeed, as Capitol Hill’s Democrats came back to D.C. on Tuesday, Carroll’s story hardly appeared to be top of mind. Few, if any, offices issued press releases and members barely touched the topic during media hits. It also did not come up during weekly press sessions from members of Democratic leadership on Tuesday.
The reticence served as yet another reminder that Washington has grown calloused to something that, in a prior time, would have been a politically paralyzing moment. More than two dozen women have now accused Trump of everything from walking in on naked pageant contests to unwanted kissing and groping to instances that could be conceivably categorized as rape. He has denied them all, including on Monday when he said that Carroll was “not my type.”
The lack of political blowback to such accusations—let alone a sustained focus on them—has left several of Trump’s previous accusers dispirited. Samantha Holvey, one of the Miss USA contestants who said Trump walked in on her in a dressing room, said she was furious with Congress for not doing more. She wanted legislators to hold hearings and investigate, especially given the more serious nature of Carroll’s allegation.
“Where is their magical line that says, ‘OK he’s finally crossed the line, we need to hold a hearing?” she asked. “I’ve lost track of how many women have come forward now, and what you’re saying to us is that we don’t matter.”
But Jessica Leeds, who told the New York Times in 2016 that Trump had groped her on an airplane three decades earlier, said holding hearings at this point would be a waste of time. She compared the president to Teflon, surviving even as other famous men tumbled as a result of lesser #MeToo-related scandals.
“To some degree it’s just, how many times can somebody come forward and tell a story? It just seems to fall on deaf ears,” she said. “It begins to feel like people just shrug and move onto the next problem.”
Jill Harth, one of the first women to accused Trump of non-consensually groping her, added that she understood why Carroll had waited until now to speak out. “I totally get it,” she said. “She watched my story and the other women’s stories get swept under the rug and it meant nothing.”
Democrats, for their part, acknowledged that a familiar pattern had begun to take hold when it came to the allegations against Trump: the shock of the revelation followed by the adamance of the denial leading to the swiftness with which everyone seemed to move on. But that didn’t mean they’d grown numb to it all.
“I think I’m over being stunned by what the president says,” said Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN), who was visibly emotional discussing Trump’s comments. “It upsets me so much.”
Republicans, meanwhile, didn’t bother feigning much outrage at all. Pressed by reporters to respond to Carroll’s allegations and the president’s response to them, many dismissed it entirely.
“He denied it,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “That’s all I needed to hear.”
Others claimed they hadn’t seen the story or simply declined comment altogether. And the few who did cop to reading Carroll’s account tried their best to side step it.
“I think both the accuser and the accused are entitled to due process and respect,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) told reporters on Tuesday. “The accuser has accused and the accused has denied it, in America, just because you’re accused of something doesn’t mean you’re guilty of it.”
But when asked if he was concerned by the story, Kennedy passed. “I’ve done the best I can do,” he said, “to give you an answer on that one.”
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