A mystery of Donald Trump’s US presidency was the absence of a major sex scandal. The thrice-married billionaire who boasted on Access Hollywood that women let him “grab ’em by the pussy’” seemed to commit every abuse of power except the kind that nearly brought down Bill Clinton.
Trump’s effort to regain the White House, however, must confront a different reality: he is now a legally defined as a sexual predator.
On Tuesday a jury in New York found that the former president sexually abused magazine writer E Jean Carroll in the 1990s and then defamed her by branding her a liar, awarding about $5m in compensatory and punitive damages.
It was a moment of reckoning for a man who was previously accused of sexual misconduct or assault by more than two dozen women but faced no legal consequences. It was also a dire verdict for the Republican frontrunner in the race for the White House in 2024.
Yet perhaps the one thing more shocking was how unshockable America has become.
There was no chorus of Democrats and Republicans calling for Trump, 76, to drop out of the primary, though Asa Hutchinson, the former governor of Arkansas and a Republican candidate, did tell Semafor: “The jury verdict should be treated with seriousness and is another example of the indefensible behavior of Donald Trump.”
Nor was there any expectation in the media that Trump is finished. Like road deaths, and to a lesser extent gun deaths, his perpetual scandal machine has become normalised, his peculiar uncanny ability to weather controversies that would sink other politicians now taken for granted. On Monday the Axios website pointed out: “Trump’s weird weapon: Bad news.”
So it is that, despite two impeachments and a criminal indictment, Trump led Joe Biden by seven points in a Washington Post-ABC News poll published on Sunday. Amazingly, 18% of respondents who think Trump should be arrested still preferred him to the current president.
In that context, it seems unlikely that the civil verdict will have an impact on Trump’s core supporters, who view his legal woes as part of a concerted effort by opponents to undermine him. He wrote on his Truth Social platform: “This verdict is a disgrace – A continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time!”
A typical response came from Senator Bill Hagerty of Tennessee on Fox News: “We’ve been watching this legal circus in Manhattan unfold. This is just the latest act in it. This has been going on for years. And he has been amazing in his ability to weather these sorts of attacks and the American public has been amazing in their support for him.”
Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, added some deflection and distraction on the same network: “I do think the American people, though, are going to be focused on what’s happening on our southern border, what’s happening with inflation.”
Will the Christian evangelicals who helped Trump win election in 2016 go at least a little wobbly? Probably not. The Access Hollywood tape and Stormy Daniels hush money case left them mostly unmoved. They are more likely to break with Trump over his unwillingness to be quite as extreme on abortion as some of his rivals.
Still, Democrats are hoping that the laws of political physics must surely reassert themselves in the long run, whatever the lack of enthusiasm for Biden. Outside the rightwing media ecosystem, millions of viewers have now seen a video clip from Trump’s October 2022 deposition that showed him mistaking Carroll for one of his former wives in a black-and-white photo (previously Trump had said he could not have raped Carroll because she was not “his type”.)
Cornell Belcher, a political analyst and pollster, tweeted: “Unfortunately this sexual assault verdict will not have a negative impact on Trump’s GOP primary race, however in the general election, the 2024 gender gap likely just became a much wider & deeper gulf for the GOP, particularly in the suburbs.”
Trump has a town hall event in New Hampshire on Wednesday, live on CNN in prime time. He will likely try to use the platform to defame Carroll again and promote election lies. It will be another test for the media, and the nation, to respond with something other than numbness.
Click Here For The Original Source.