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Foster: #metoo spotlight falls on Trump

Dec. 15, 2017 at 11:22 p.m.

We might be at a watershed moment in American history as the #metoo movement is exposing serial sexual assault perpetrators, including some of the most powerful men in entertainment and politics.

But the biggest name on this list of creepy characters so far has escaped the clutches of justice either in criminal or civic actions. However, things may be changing with a scheduled court hearing in New York where a contestant on "Apprentice" alleges Donald Trump defamed her for calling her a liar after she said he groped her.

Summer Zervos was one of a dozen women who came forward during the presidential campaign to claim Trump groped or sexually assaulted them. He has vigorously denied their claims and said he would sue them after the campaign. That hasn't happened, but Zervos decided to file her own suit against Trump for disparaging her.

Trump received some good news in November when one of his accusers dropped a lawsuit claiming he raped the then 13-year-old child in 1994. The woman, identified in court documents as Jane Doe, said she was attacked at the home of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender. Doe said she didn't sue for many years because, "immediately following the rape, Defendant Trump threatened me that, were I ever to reveal any of the details of Defendant Trump's sexual and physical abuse to me, my family and I would be physically harmed, if not killed."

The original lawsuit was filed in 2016 in California. Doe's account was corroborated by a witness who claimed to have watched the child perform various sexual acts on Trump and Epstein, even after the two were advised she was a minor. That suit was dropped in November 2016, just four days before the election, with Doe's attorney citing "numerous threats" against Doe.

The lawsuit later was refiled in New York. And just days before Doe was scheduled to appear in public for the first time, her lawyer said the suit again was being dropped due to "numerous threats" and her law firm's email had been hacked.

According to People Magazine, Alan Carter, vice president and general counsel for The Trump Organization, did not return a call for comment. However, Carter previously denied the allegations, saying they were "categorically untrue, completely fabricated and politically motivated." For complete details on this lawsuit, search the web for "Trump rape trial."

Jane Doe's lawsuit isn't the only time Trump has been accused of rape. During a court deposition, Ivana Trump — Donald's first wife and mother of Eric, Donald Jr. and Ivanka Trump — claimed Trump physically assaulted and raped her in 1989. Details were reported in Harry Hunt III's 1993 book "Lost Tycoon"

Ivana walked back her allegations against Trump after his lawyers insisted she write in her own memoir that her use of the word "rape" wasn't to be interpreted "in a literal or criminal sense."

Trump also was accused of assaulting a former business colleague Jill Harth in 1997. She dropped that suit when Trump settled a companion lawsuit filed by Harth's partner. Trump also paid Ivana a "huge" (my emphasis) settlement in their divorce case, which may account for her retracting her rape claim.

Trump has a pattern of settling lawsuits that put him in an unfavorable spotlight or that he has little chance of winning. Both of those factors were in play when Trump paid $25 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by unhappy students who paid as much as $35,000 each for classes and materials at Trump University. That case was settled just days before his Jan. 20 inauguration.

During the campaign, about a dozen women came forward to claim Trump had sexually molested or harassed them in previous years. Several of these woman filed lawsuits seeking damages while some said they didn't want money, only to set the record straight about Trump being a serial molester.

One thing Trump should be aware of is that his position as president doesn't spare him from legal action for anything he did prior to taking office. Bill Clinton learned that when he faced civil charges for sexually harassing Paula Jones when he was governor of Arkansas.

Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives, which had a Republican majority under Newt Gingrich in 1998. His trial in the U.S. Senate was practically a farce as the impeachment was based on claims he lied about an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. The Senate ultimately acquitted Clinton on two charges with a number of Republicans joining Democrats in voting not guilty.

— John D. Foster, a Carthage resident and former editor of the Panola Watchman, is a regular contributor to the Saturday Forum. Email



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