More than 100 Democratic legislators in the United States have signed on to a call for a House of Representatives oversight committee to probe sexual assault and harassment claims against President Donald Trump.
Lois Franken, a US legislator from Florida and chair of the Democratic Women’s Working Group (DWWG), said “the time is right to get to the truth” about the allegations against the Republican president.
At least 17 women have made accusations against Trump for inappropriate sexual behaviour, including unwanted kissing, touching and groping, according to a letter released this week by DWWG demanding an impartial inquiry.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Franken said the number of legislators backing the call for the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to probe the president’s alleged misconduct had exceeded 100.
“And that number is rising,” added Franken.
“The #MeToo movement has arrived,” she noted, referring to the phrase women around the world have used in recent months to share experiences of sexual assault and harassment.
“Sexual abuse will not be tolerated, whether it’s by a Hollywood producer, a chef of a restaurant, a member of Congress, or the president of the United States.”
The probe call comes a day after Samantha Holvey, Rachel Crooks and Jessica Leeds – three women who have accused Trump of sexually inappropriate behaviour in separate incidents that took place before he was elected – also demanded a congressional investigation into the president’s alleged behaviour.
Trump denies allegations
The president rejected the accusations against him earlier on Tuesday, saying on Twitter that Democrats were pushing “the false accusations and fabricated stories of women who I don’t know and/or have never met”.
“FAKE NEWS!” Trump wrote.
Despite thousands of hours wasted and many millions of dollars spent, the Democrats have been unable to show any collusion with Russia – so now they are moving on to the false accusations and fabricated stories of women who I don’t know and/or have never met. FAKE NEWS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 12, 2017
But in the letter asking for an investigation, the DWWG – a body that consists of all 66 female Democratic Party legislators who hold seats in the House – said it “cannot ignore the multitude of women who have come forward with accusations against Mr. Trump”.
“Natasha Stoynoff recounted how the president pushed her against a wall and forced his tongue down her throat,” the letter read.
“Jill Harth described how the president attempted to get up her dress. Kristin Anderson detailed how the president touched her genitals through her underwear,” it added, referring to two other women who are also among the 17 to have publicly accused Trump of sexual misconduct.
And while Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on the motivations of his accusers, the women’s stories come as a movement to hold men responsible for sexual misconduct, assault and harassment gathers pace across the US and the world.
Over the last several months, women have used the phrase #MeToo to decry instances of sexual violence and assault, hold perpetrators to account and show solidarity with one another.
In the US, Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, Democratic Congressman Al Franken, celebrity chef Mario Batali and others have resigned amid the allegations.
“I’m sorry, Mr President, you do not live under a different set of rules,” said Brenda Lawrence, a legislator from Michigan and the cochair of the DWWG, during Tuesday’s press conference.
“I stand here demanding accountability, a full investigation, from Congress, when the White House will not provide its own. I stand here in support of over 100 of my colleagues – and I’m sure millions across America – asking for this fair and transparent investigation,” added Lawrence.
The legislators have requested a response from the oversight committee within 10 days.
Twitter war of words
The president’s denial of any wrongdoing went even further on Tuesday when he attacked Kirsten Gillibrand, a US senator from New York who called on Twitter for his resignation.
President Trump should resign. But, of course, he won't hold himself accountable. Therefore, Congress should investigate the multiple sexual harassment and assault allegations against him.
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) December 11, 2017
“President Trump should resign. But, of course, he won’t hold himself accountable. Therefore, Congress should investigate the multiple sexual harassment and assault allegations against him,” Gillibrand wrote on Monday.
In a tweet, Trump called Gillibrand “a total flunky for Chuck Schumer”, another Democratic senator from New York. He also said Gillibrand had begged and “would do anything for” campaign contributions.
Gillibrand responded, again on Twitter, telling Trump “you cannot silence me or the millions of women who have gotten off the sidelines to speak out about the unfitness and shame you have brought to the Oval Office”.
The senator’s colleagues came to her defence on social media throughout the day.
“Are you really trying to bully, intimidate and slut-shame @SenGillibrand,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has also been the target of Trump’s verbal attacks in the past, wrote on Twitter.
“Do you know who you’re picking a fight with?” she added.
.@realDonaldTrump is a misogynist, compulsive liar, and admitted sexual predator. Attacks on Kirsten are the latest example that no one is safe from this bully. He must resign. https://t.co/7lNI23K7ib
— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) December 12, 2017
Mazie Hirono, a senator from Hawaii, called the president “a misogynist, compulsive liar, and admitted sexual predator” and said he should resign.
“Attacks on Kirsten [Gillibrand] are the latest example that no one is safe from this bully,” she wrote.
In a 2005 recording, released by the Washington Post and NBC News last year, Trump can be heard bragging to Billy Bush, host of an entertainment TV show, 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 tape.
“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” he can be heard saying. “Grab them by the p****. You can do anything.”
Trump apologised when the recording was first released.