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Trump Accused of Rape: Will It Affect His 2024 Presidential Campaign?

05-05-2023 Politics
Trump Accused of Rape: Will It Affect His 2024 Presidential Campaign?

Former President Donald Trump is facing a lawsuit filed by writer E. Jean Carroll accusing him of rape. The case has potential implications for his political future.

E. Jean Carroll testified in court with vivid details about the day she claims former President Donald Trump raped her in a department store dressing room over two decades ago, an allegation he has vehemently denied. During the trial, two of Carroll's friends testified that they spoke with her shortly after the alleged attack and believe she is telling the truth. Other women also testified about their separate encounters with Trump, one claiming he groped and grabbed her during a flight in the late 1970s, and another alleging that he forcibly kissed her at his Florida home in 2005. These accounts were shared during Carroll's civil trial against Trump, in which she has accused him of battery and defamation. It's worth noting that this marks the first time any of the numerous allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump have been heard in court. When given the opportunity to respond to Carroll's accusations on the witness stand, Trump declined to appear and instead traveled overseas. Although he has suggested that he may still testify in person, his attorney confirmed that he will not and that they will not present other witnesses.

Despite the damaging allegations made against him in a New York courtroom, Donald Trump's political career appears to remain intact. E. Jean Carroll testified about an alleged rape incident in a department store dressing room two decades before Trump became president. She was supported by two friends who believe she is telling the truth. Other women also testified about separate encounters with Trump. This is the first time that any of the allegations of sexual misconduct against the former president have been heard in a court trial. However, Trump, who is campaigning for a 2024 presidential bid, declined to rebut the accusations on the witness stand. Trump's ability to survive scandals that would sink other politicians has already been tested, with the release of an "Access Hollywood" tape in which he boasted about sexually assaulting women. Some political observers say the public has already formed a solid opinion of Trump, so the Carroll trial is unlikely to change many voters' minds.

Despite facing a number of legal battles, former President Donald Trump is still considering running for the presidency again in 2024. One of those legal battles is the rape accusation made by E. Jean Carroll, who testified in a New York court last week about an alleged attack that occurred in a department store dressing room two decades before Trump became president. Two friends who spoke to Carroll shortly after the alleged attack testified that they believe she is telling the truth. Other women also testified about separate encounters with Trump.

While most politicians would have their aspirations derailed by such allegations, some political observers say the public has already formed hardened opinions about Trump, and it is unlikely that the Carroll trial will change many voters' minds. Rather, the more relevant question is whether a verdict against Trump in this trial or convictions in other cases will scare away potential donors or advisers.

In addition to the Carroll case, Trump is facing 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in a hush-money scheme to cover up allegations of extramarital affairs during the 2016 campaign. He is also under criminal investigation for attempting to overturn his 2020 election loss and his retention of classified documents after leaving office.

Democratic pollster Celinda Lake has been conducting focus groups with Democratic and independent likely voters on Trump and his legal troubles. She found that women in the groups were most troubled by the "rape case." This has led Lake to think that the trial testimony could be more damaging than she initially assumed. While Trump's other legal issues have so far brought limited political fallout, that could change.

A recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that only 4 in 10 U.S. adults believe Trump acted illegally in the New York hush-money case. About half of voters believe he broke the law in Georgia, where he is under investigation for interfering in the 2020 election vote count. The poll also showed that about half feel similarly about Trump's role in the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and his handling of classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago. The poll did not ask about the Carroll case.

Carroll filed a defamation suit against Trump while he was still president, over denials and insults he made about her. She filed the rape claim in November, under a New York state law that temporarily allows sexual assault victims to sue over alleged attacks that happened even decades ago. Because it is a civil and not criminal case, Trump faces no prison time; Carroll is seeking unspecified monetary damages. During the trial, jurors saw parts of a recorded deposition in which Trump called Carroll a "nut job" and "mentally sick" and denied

Trump and his supporters have dismissed Carroll's allegations as politically motivated attacks and an attempt to sell more copies of her memoir. Trump claimed that he didn't know her and wasn't at the department store with her when she alleged the rape occurred. During the trial, Trump's attorney questioned why Carroll didn't report the alleged assault to the police at the time. Carroll said that many people her age were conditioned to keep quiet about such attacks. Despite being a registered Democrat, Carroll testified that her lawsuit had nothing to do with her political affiliation. Women's March Executive Director Rachel O'Leary Carmona is hopeful that Carroll's case will mobilize voters to build women's political power in the country. It's important to note that The Associated Press typically does not name people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Carroll has done.

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