Three women who have accused Donald Trump of sexual assault and misconduct are now calling on Congress to launch a bipartisan investigation into the US president’s alleged actions, saying a probe should go beyond partisan politics.
Samantha Holvey, Rachel Crooks and Jessica Leeds first came forward last year, detailing separate instances in which they say Trump sexually harassed and forcibly kissed and groped them before he became president.
“This isn’t a partisan issue. This is how women are treated every day,” said Holvey, a former Miss USA contestant, during a press conference in New York on Monday morning, where the women called for the independent investigation by Congress.
“The standard that our president is setting, it’s not high enough right now,” Holvey said.
In a statement issued on Monday, the Trump administration denied the women’s claims.
“These false claims, totally disputed in most cases by eyewitness accounts, were addressed at length during last year’s campaign, and the American people voiced their judgment by delivering a decisive victory,” the White House statement reads, according to The Washington Post.
“The timing and absurdity of these false claims speak volumes, and the publicity tour that has begun only further confirms the political motives behind them.”
Speaking to reporters later in the day, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the president has denied all the allegations.
“This took place long before he was elected to be president and the people of this country, at a decisive election, supported President Trump,” Sanders said.
We have a president who acknowledged on tape that he assaulted women. I would hope that he pays attention to what's going on and think about resigning.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) December 7, 2017
But the women’s call for a formal investigation into the president’s actions comes as Senate Democrats have made their own push for Trump to resign over sexual assault allegations.
“We have a president who acknowledged on tape that he assaulted women. I would hope that he pays attention to what’s going on and thinks about resigning,” Bernie Sanders wrote on Twitter last Thursday.
At least 16 women have come forward accusing Trump of sexual misconduct since he first launched his campaign for US president, according to the organisers of Monday’s press conference.
Holvey was a contestant in the Miss USA pageant when she says Trump – who owned the pageant for nearly two decades – entered the backstage area unannounced as women were in various stages of undressing.
She told CNN in October 2016 that Trump personally inspected each contestant individually and “would step in front of each girl and look you over from head to toe.
“As a little girl, I would watch the Miss USA pageant every year and dream of being one of those beautiful, successful, incredibly confident women. These dreams never included a man lining us up to look us over like pieces of meat,” Holvey said on Monday.
Crooks was working as a receptionist at Trump Tower when she says Trump forcibly kissed her on the mouth.
“I felt there was nothing I could do,” Crooks said on Monday about the incident.
Leeds, meanwhile, said she was sitting next to Trump on a plane in the 1970s when he forcibly reached up her skirt. She said she managed to get away from him and get out of her seat, and then moved to the back of the plane, where she waited for all the other passengers to disembark before she could move.
“That was the last time I wore a skirt travelling,” Leeds said at the press conference.
She added that Trump’s presidential victory last November “absolutely destroyed” her.
“We’re at the position now where in some areas of our society, people are being held accountable for unwanted behaviour. But we are not holding our president accountable for what he is and who he is,” she said.
Trump has repeatedly called the accusations against him unfounded, however, and cast doubt on the motivations of his accusers.
He has more recently sought to discredit a 2005 recording, in which he can be heard bragging to Access Hollywood host Billy Bush about kissing and touching women in Hollywood.
“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful – I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait,” Trump said in the recording, which was released by the Washington Post and NBC News in 2016.
Trump apologised when the tape was first released.
“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” he says in the recording. “Grab them by the p****. You can do anything.”
In recent weeks, many women have come forward across several industries to accuse men of sexual abuse, harassment, rape, and other unwanted sexual behaviour.
The slogan #MeToo has been used worldwide to show support for survivors of gender-based violence, and, last week, Time magazine named “The Silence Breakers” – the women who have spoken out about sexual harassment and assault – its “Person of the Year” for 2017.
Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, Democratic Congressman Al Franken, and other men in positions of power have resigned amid the allegations thus far.
But, according to Crooks, despite publicly sharing the details of her alleged assault at the hands of the now-president, her and other women’s stories “seem to fall on deaf ears” and Trump “has escaped [the allegations] unscathed”.
She said she hoped Americans “will hold Mr Trump to the same standard as Harvey Weinstein” and others.
“If they were willing to investigate Senator Franken, I think it’s only fair they do the same for Trump,” she said, adding that how society views sexual harassment of women needs to change. “We shouldn’t let politicians get away with this,” she said.
According to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, 70 percent of Americans believe Congress should investigate the Trump allegations. Another 73 percent of respondents said it was hypocritical for the president to criticise other men accused of sexual harassment.
“The message to President Donald Trump on calling out offenders: People who live in glass houses, even if it’s the White House, shouldn’t point fingers,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the poll, in a statement.
Most Republicans have remained silent on the allegations against the president.
But Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations and one of the highest-ranking women in the Trump administration, recently spoke out, saying that women who have accused the president of sexual abuse “should be heard”.
“They should be heard and they should be dealt with. And I think we heard from them prior to the election. And I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up,” Haley told CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday.
Cory Booker, a Democratic Senator from New Jersey, also recently told VICE that Trump should resign over the allegations.
“I just watched Senator Al Franken do the honourable thing and resign from his office. My question is, why isn’t Donald Trump doing the same thing – who has more serious allegations against him, with more women who have come forward,” Booker is quoted as saying.