Donald Trump — the man who led “lock her up” chants for months; who, as recently as January, called for one of his political opponents’ top aides to be jailed; and who, 29 years ago, called for the execution of the wrongly accused “Central Park Five” — has suddenly discovered a concern for due process. What’s piqued his interest: the ouster of two of his White House aides, Rob Porter and David Sorensen, amid disturbing allegations of domestic abuse. The president is worried they’re not getting a fair shake.
In a tweet on Saturday, Trump worried about the fate of those whose “lives are being shattered and destroyed” by what he characterized as a “mere allegation.”
“Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new,” the president continued. “There is no recovery for someone falsely accused — life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?” (According to Cornell Law School, due process in the United States refers to a right enumerated in the Fifth Amendment and a clause in the 14th Amendment; the two correspond but aren’t the same. Generally speaking: The Fifth, which came first, is about the right to fair treatment under the law; the 14th is about equality under the law. Both act as a safeguard, guaranteeing that the government can’t deny you life, liberty, or property outside the law.)
The “mere allegation” against Porter includes accusations of verbal and physical abuse from two ex-wives and a former girlfriend, and a photograph of one of the women with a black eye. Sorensen’s ex-wife alleges that he ran over her foot with a car, put out a cigarette on her hand, and threw her into a wall.
Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused - life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 10, 2018
Speaking with reporters at the Oval Office on Friday, Trump lavished praise on Porter, who announced his resignation on Wednesday. The president said he hopes Porter has a “wonderful career” ahead of him and pointed out that Porter said the allegations aren’t true. “Now he also, as you probably know, he says he’s innocent,” he said. “And I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent. So you’ll have to talk to him about that. But we absolutely wish him well, he did a very good job while he was at the White House.”
The White House’s response to the Porter allegations hasn’t been great, to say the least
The Daily Beast reported on Friday that Trump has privately expressed doubts about the Porter assault allegations and has repeatedly asked whether there are reasons Porter’s ex-wives, Colbie Holderness (who released the black eye picture) and Jennifer Willoughby (who filed an emergency protection order against him), might lie.
The White House and some Republicans initially supported Porter. After the allegations surfaced, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), whom Porter worked for, came to Porter’s defense, vouching for his character and saying he shouldn’t resign — although they both backed off somewhat days later. Kelly released a statement saying there is “no place for domestic violence in our society,” though he clarified “every individual deserves the right to defend their reputation.” Hatch said Porter is a “good guy” but “there’s enough there to take it very seriously.”
It also appears many in the White House, including Kelly and White House counsel Don McGahn, knew about the allegations against Porter long before they surfaced this week.
That Trump would brush aside assault allegations is really not surprising
Steve Bannon, CEO of Trump’s presidential campaign and White House chief strategist until August 2017, was charged in 1996 with domestic violence, battery, and dissuading a witness. Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was charged with battery in March 2016 after a Breitbart reporter, Michelle Fields, reported he had forcibly grabbed her. (A prosecutor declined to proceed with the case.) Andrew Puzder, Trump’s initial nominee for secretary of labor, was accused of assault and battery by his ex-wife, Lisa Fierstein, and he eventually withdrew from consideration for the Cabinet post.
In November, Trump backed Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for the US Senate seat in Alabama previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was accused of assaulting a 14-year-old girl and pursuing dates with other teenage girls when he was in his 30s. “He totally denies it,” the president said of the allegations against Moore. Trump also came to the defense of ousted Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who faced sexual harassment claims from multiple women and had a $32 million settlement with one accuser. Trump in April 2017 said O’Reilly is a “good person” who he doesn’t think “did anything wrong.”
And, of course, there are multiple allegations against Trump himself, which he’s denied. The president has been accused of sexual misconduct by at least 17 women, including his ex-wife Ivana, who reportedly said at a 1990 divorce deposition that he pulled out a fistful of her hair and raped her. (In 2015 she responded to a Daily Beast story, saying that the alleged rape was “without merit.”) Trump was also caught on the now-infamous 2005 Access Hollywood tape bragging about sexual assault. “Grab ‘em by the pussy,” he said on the tape.
Trump’s Saturday tweet was probably prompted by the Porter allegations and their immediate fallout. It also reflects his take on abuse and assault allegations against men by women: Some of them might be true, but a lot probably aren’t, and even if they are, who cares if it happened a long time ago, anyway?
And why wouldn’t he think that? For Trump, there haven’t been any consequences. He is the president of the United States, who on a Saturday in February has been tweeting a little extra because he’s watching television and it’s too rainy to go to the golf course.