House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn’t think there’s room for Congress to investigate the columnist E. Jean Carroll’s recent allegations that President Donald Trump sexually assaulted her in a dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman in the mid-1990s.
“I don’t know the person — it doesn’t matter if I did or not. I respect that, but I don’t know what Congress’s role would be in this,” Pelosi said during her weekly press conference on Thursday. “But in any of these things, this is not about what Congress would do, this is about what the president’s own party would do. You’d really have to ask them.”
Carroll went public with her allegations against Trump last week in a piece for New York magazine, which is an excerpt from her forthcoming book. The actions she describes in her account amount to the closest thing to a rape allegation from any of 16 women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct over the years — Carroll said Trump forcibly penetrated her during the attack.
On Thursday, Pelosi said that while she respects “the concerns expressed by women as they present their truth,” she reiterated she doesn’t know much about Carroll and hasn’t been following the allegations. The speaker said she’s had other things to think about, such as the possibility of war with Iran, the mounting humanitarian crisis at the southern border, and protecting American election security.
“I don’t know the person making the accusation; I haven’t paid that much attention to it,” Pelosi said. “I’m more concerned about policy decisions that we have disagreements on that we have to come to agreement on, that affect the lives of the American people. I appreciate this getting more publicity. Again, I just am not following that closely.”
For the most part, Democrats on Capitol Hill have had the same reaction as Pelosi. Only one Democratic lawmaker, California Rep. Jackie Speier, has publicly called on Congress to look into the allegations of Carroll and other Trump accusers. Speier has been a leader on calling attention to the problem of sexual misconduct within Congress, sharing her own story of experiencing sexual harassment as a young staffer on Capitol Hill by a former congressman.
Speier told the Daily Beast she thinks there’s room for Congress to look into Carroll’s recent allegation, adding, “We do have a lot on our plates, so I can’t speak to when it’s going to happen.”
“This particular case is particularly egregious, and there’s no reason not to believe the woman,” Speier told the Daily Beast. “I think his [Trump’s] problem is, he sees that as a way of wooing a woman and women see it as sexual assault or rape.”
Other members of Congress have made it clear they don’t think the allegations merit congressional investigation.
“It’s been well established that the president is inappropriate with women,” Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, told the Daily Beast. “We know this. I think there’s a lot of other things that are going on that are equally important, and to me, to focus on this right now would be a diversion.”
Vox reached out to Speier’s and Pelosi’s offices for comment but had not heard back by press time.