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The irony of Trump demanding to meet his accuser, explained

There are almost two dozen women who have gone on record with accusations.

President Donald Trump speaking to press while standing on an airfield, with a microphone in front of him, on September 26, 2019.
President Donald Trump speaks to the press after arriving on Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, September 26, 2019.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Anna North is a senior correspondent for Vox, where she covers American family life, work, and education. Previously, she was an editor and writer at the New York Times. She is also the author of three novels, including the New York Times bestseller Outlawed.

President Trump says he wants to confront his “accuser.”

That was one of the many demands the president issued in a series of enraged tweets over the last few days. “Like every American,” Trump tweeted on Sunday, “I deserve to meet my accuser, especially when this accuser, the so-called ‘whistleblower,’ represented a perfect conversation with a foreign leader in a totally inaccurate and fraudulent way.”

Trump’s demand to face the person accusing him struck many observers as ironic, given that at least one person accusing Trump of crimes is quite eager to face him in court.

Summer Zervos, a restaurant owner and former contestant on The Apprentice, alleges Trump sexually assaulted her in 2007. She’s one of at least 22 women — including, most recently, author and advice columnist E. Jean Carroll — who has alleged sexual misconduct by Trump (the president has denied all allegations). Zervos sued Trump in 2017 for calling her a liar when she came forward with her allegation, and ever since, she’s been fighting to take him to court.

Although it’s the whistleblower report that finally triggered an impeachment inquiry against Trump, his recent tweets are a reminder that the list of allegations against him is long — and includes the testimony of at least one woman who would be only too happy to meet him in a court of law, should he give her the chance.

Trump’s tweet is a reminder that he has many “accusers”

When Trump tweeted about his desire to “meet my accuser,” the response from critics was swift. Karine Jean-Pierre, chief public affairs officer for the liberal group MoveOn, simply tweeted a list of some of the women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct, including Zervos.

Many of these women came forward after the October 2016 release of the Access Hollywood tape, in which Trump was heard bragging about his ability to grab women “by the pussy.” He at first dismissed the comments as “locker-room talk” — but multiple women soon stated publicly that he had, in fact, grabbed, touched, or kissed them without their consent.

There was Jessica Leeds, who said Trump grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt when they were seated on a flight together in the 1980s. “He was like an octopus,” she told the New York Times. “His hands were everywhere.”

There was Natasha Stoynoff, who said that when she visited Mar-a-Lago to write a People magazine story about Trump in 2005, he pushed her up against a wall and forced his tongue down her throat. Melania Trump was pregnant at the time.

And there was Summer Zervos, who said Trump invited her to dinner with him at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2007. She went, hoping for career help. Instead, she said, Trump brought her to his private bungalow, where he touched her breast and pressed his genitals against her.

After she went public with her story in 2016, Trump said that “every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign.” His campaign also released a statement from Zervos’s cousin, arguing she was making up the allegations as a way to get famous.

Zervos sued Trump for defamation in January 2017. But his lawyers argued that, because she filed her suit in state court in New York, it should be thrown out. They claimed that although a sitting president can be sued in federal court (Paula Jones’s lawsuit against Bill Clinton established that), it is illegal to sue a president in state court. They’ve lost at every step — most recently, in March, a New York appeals court ruled that Zervos’s suit could go forward.

Meanwhile, the list of allegations against Trump continues to grow. Most recently, E. Jean Carroll wrote in her new book What Do We Need Men For?, excerpted in New York magazine, that Trump sexually assaulted her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in 1995 or 1996. Trump denied the allegation and insulted Carroll, saying “she’s not my type.”

Trump’s claim that he deserves to meet the whistleblower who raised the alarm about his communications with Ukraine reads as an attempt to intimidate that person, especially given Trump’s previous comments on this issue. At a private event last week, Trump described the whistleblower, whose identity is not publicly known, as “almost a spy,” and said, “we used to handle [spies and treason] a little differently than we do now.” Similarly, Trump has tried to intimidate the women who came forward with misconduct allegations, saying in 2016 that “all of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”

The tweet is also a reminder that while the matter with Ukraine is the basis for the current impeachment inquiry, it’s far from the first serious allegation lodged against the president. And of the nearly two dozen women who have accused him of assaulting or harassing them, Trump has so far faced no consequences for their allegations.