WASHINGTON — Three women who've accused President Trump of sexually harassing or assaulting them before he came to the White House demanded a congressional investigation Monday, following a week in which lawmakers from both parties were forced into resignation amid harassment allegations.
"People are being held accountable, except for our president," said Jessica Leeds, who said Trump tried to force himself on her, including reaching under her skirt, during a plane ride more than 30 years ago. Yet "his staff made a big point of calling us all liars," she said. More than a dozen women accused Trump of sexual misconduct during his presidential campaign last year.
Leeds, Samantha Holvey and Rachel Crooks said the national discussion over sex harassment has felled powerful men across major industries including entertainment and on Capitol Hill. Meantime Trump “has escaped his past unscathed" and “our stories seem to fall on deaf ears," said Crooks.
Crooks says Trump held her hand and kissed her on the mouth when she was working as a receptionist at Trump Tower in Manhattan.
The women also appeared in an earlier interview with Megyn Kelly, prompting the White House to issue a statement saying Trump has denied all of the accusations and that the women were making "false claims." The "timing and absurdity of these false claims speaks volumes," the White House said.
In a Monday press briefing, White House press secretary Sarah H. Sanders said the allegations against the president have already been litigated in the court of public opinion. "This took place long before he was elected president. The people of this country, in a decisive election, supported President Trump," she said.
Trump won the electoral vote while receiving about 2.9 million fewer votes than Democrat Hillary Clinton. "The American people knew this and voted for the president," she said.
The renewed attention to Trump's alleged past treatment of women comes amid a broad backlash to sexual harassment that started with news reports about Hollywood film director Harvey Weinstein, who stepped down from his company amid accusations he assaulted numerous women. The news conference came the Monday after Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., gave a pointed speech on the Senate floor announcing his resignation and taking a parting shot at Trump.
Like Trump, most of the accusations against Franken predate his service in Washington. There “is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office," said Franken, denying some of the allegations from women who said he groped or harassed them. The appearances also came one day after Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that anyone who claims they were victims of sexual misconduct should be heard, even if Trump is the alleged perpetrator.
In the immediate aftermath of Franken's announcement Democrats began to draw a contrast with the GOP and Trump in particular. Republicans may also soon be welcoming to their conference Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who is accused by nine women of inappropriate touching or misconduct. There is a special election in the state on Tuesday.
Over the weekend, at least three Democrats urged Trump to follow Franken's lead and resign over the allegations. Part of the case against Franken includes a photo of him pretending to grope the breasts of Leanne Tweeden, a newscaster who was asleep during an overseas plane ride.
For Trump, a 2005 tape from the show Access Hollywood, in which he is heard bragging about grabbing women in their privates, is the evidence many cite.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., suggested Sunday that Trump should resign. “Here you have a president who has been accused by many women of assault, who says on a tape that he assaulted women,” Sanders said on Meet the Press. “He might want to think about doing the same.” On Vice News, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said “The fact pattern on him is far more damning than the fact pattern on Al Franken."