You can't splatter a pig with mud and expect the pig to be upset about it, after all. Accusations of sexual assault against Donald Trump by over a dozen women simply doesn't matter.
“What was she, like, the 28th or something?” one former White House official pondered to me. In a separate conversation, another offered a different guess: “Twenty-two? Twenty-three?”
They were talking about E. Jean Carroll, the longtime Elle advice columnist who, for the first time last week, publicly accused Donald Trump of assaulting her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room more than 20 years ago. And what they were trying to do was locate the latest number of women who have accused the president of sexual misconduct. (The answer: at least 22.)
For these former officials, the apparently incalculable magnitude of this number did not cause them to reconsider Trump’s every denial of the varied allegations—to wonder, for example, about the likelihood that 22 or 23 or 28 women were all lying in their stories of harassment, groping, unwanted kissing, and, in Carroll’s case, sexual assault.
Rather, for them, the increase in the number of women seemed to mirror the increase in their indifference. Another accusation, they seemed to say, was like another dollop of numbing cream. “I didn’t read it,” the second former official told me, referring to Carroll’s written account in New York, which was an excerpt from her forthcoming book. “We’re just kind of numb to it all at this point.”
One current White House official said that “the only thing” that “caught my eye” was Trump’s dismissal of Carroll’s claim. Speaking to reporters from The Hill on Monday, the president addressed her allegation from behind the Resolute desk: “I’ll say it with great respect: No. 1, she’s not my type. No. 2, it never happened. It never happened, okay?”
“Like, what are you gonna do?” the official said. “This is the guy you got.”
Only one of the half-dozen officials I spoke to, who currently work in or have worked in the White House and on the Trump campaign, had read Carroll’s essay, and none agreed to go on the record with their comments. Taken together, the officials’ quick willingness to dismiss the allegation, not to mention their disinterest in learning more, reflects several of the defining factors of the Trump administration: an under-siege mentality, distrust in the press, and an unwavering loyalty to the president they’ve aligned themselves with. But there’s another reason their assessment is noteworthy. The private reactions of Trump’s top allies reveal how, inside the president’s orbit, the gravity of words such as sexual assaultno longer seems to register. And that attitude—call it a collective shrug—could inform how the government responds to sexual-misconduct claims for, potentially, the next six years.
If you can't get the country to respond to sexual assault by the man in the Oval Office (and no, don't bring up Bill Clinton, because there was a response to him and it was impeachment) then nobody's going to care. Sexual assault is now 100% okay if you're powerful enough.
I know that's always been true, but having that confirmed is pretty grim.
Certainly House Democrats don't seem to care about rectifying it.