Donald Trump is accused of rape. Will it matter in 2024?

E. Jean Carroll sometimes testified in detail about the day she said Donald Trump raped her in a department store dressing room two decades before he became president, an allegation that Republicans repeatedly denied. -repeatedly and vehemently denied. Taking the witness stand in support of Carroll this week, two friends told jurors they spoke to the former magazine columnist shortly after the alleged 1996 assault, and they believe she is telling the truth. Other women testified about different encounters; One said Trump grabbed and groped her while they were on a flight in the late 1970s, the other told jurors he forcibly kissed her in 2005 at his Florida home.

The accounts, shared during the civil trial over Carroll’s claims of battery and defamation against Trump, mark the first time that multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against the former president have been heard in a court case. Given a chance to rebut Carroll’s allegations on the witness stand, Trump declined to make the appearance, instead traveling overseas. He told reporters in Ireland that he could still testify in person, although his lawyer told the court that he would not and that they would not present other witnesses.

For most politicians, the charges leveled in a New York court would be enough to scuttle any future aspirations. But Trump is not the average politician, a fact that became clear when he won the 2016 presidential contest a month after the release of an “Access Hollywood” tape in which he bragged about sexually assaulting women and said that a As Starr put it, “You can do anything.”

Now, as Trump campaigns for his 2024 presidential bid, the Carroll case provides another test of Trump’s ability to avoid scandals that would sink others. Some political observers say the public already has a harsh opinion of the former president — love him or hate him — and claims about him abusing women are nothing new.

“At this point, the American people have a pretty good understanding of Donald Trump’s character, so it is unlikely that the Carroll test will change the minds of many voters,” said Christina Wollbrecht, professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame. who studies Politics and Gender.

He said a more pertinent question is whether a verdict against Trump in this trial, or a conviction in other cases, will deter potential donors or advisers. In addition to the Carroll case, Trump was recently charged in New York with 34 felonies 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 his efforts to reverse his 2020 election loss and for retaining classified documents after leaving office.

Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, who has worked with President Joe Biden, said that during recent focus groups she has been conducting with Democratic and independent potential voters on Trump and his legal troubles, women volunteered that The case they are most concerned about is the “rape” case.” This has left Lake thinking that the testimony at the trial may be more damning than he initially assumed.

“I was stunned, because I thought the attention was being paid to how voters felt about Trump,” Lake said. “They knew he didn’t respect women and that he was a real playboy, but rape is different.” Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Trump’s campaign, did not respond to a message seeking comment for this story. Trump’s other legal issues have brought limited political fallout so far, according to a poll last month by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, but that could change.

It found that only 4 in 10 American adults believe Trump acted illegally in the New York hush-money case. The survey found that nearly half of voters believe he broke the law in Georgia, where he is being investigated for interfering with the 2020 election vote count. It also felt almost halfway through Trump’s role in his supporters’ storming of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, and his handling of classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago. The poll didn’t ask about the Carroll case.

Carroll filed a defamation lawsuit against Trump over denials and insinuations made by him while he was still president. She filed the rape claim in November under a New York state law that temporarily allows sexual assault victims to sue for alleged assaults that occurred decades ago. Because this is a civil and not a criminal matter, Trump faces no jail time; Carroll is seeking unspecified monetary damages.

Jurors viewed portions of a recorded statement in which Trump answered questions under oath last fall. He called Carroll a “nut job” and “mentally ill”, adding, “She said I did something to her that never happened.” The jury was also shown the “Access Hollywood” tape.

Trump, his lawyers and his supporters have dismissed Carroll’s allegations as politically motivated attacks and an attempt to sell more copies of his memoir. Trump has said that he was not at the department store with Carroll and that he had no clue who she was when the story first aired publicly. Last week on his social media networks, Trump called the affair “a made-up scandal”.

During the trial, Trump’s attorney also questioned why Carroll did not report the alleged assault to police at the time; Carroll, 79, said many people her age had been conditioned to remain silent about such attacks. Carroll, a registered Democrat, also testified that she voted for Trump’s Democratic opponents in 2016 and 2020, but said it had nothing to do with her lawsuit.

Rachel O’Leary Carmona, executive director of the Women’s March, said she hoped Carroll’s case would mobilize voters. Following Trump’s election, millions of people turned out in women’s marches across the country to protest him, and the events have been credited with increasing political participation by women, with a record number of women elected to the US House in the 2018 midterms. . “I hope we can take this moment as another proof point of the very, very serious need to build political power for women in this country,” she said.