White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says President Trump’s election absolves him of any accountability for sexual assault.
Thursday’s daily press conference came on the heels of Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) resigning from office, following a slew of Democratic senators calling for him to step down in response to multiple women’s claims that the comedian-turned-senator exhibited sexually predatory behavior. Earlier this week, Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) also resigned in response to sexual assault allegations.
During his resignation speech on the senate floor, Sen. Franken pointed out that President Trump, who once bragged about sexually assaulting women on Access Hollywood in 2005, sits in the Oval Office, and that the Republican Party’s national campaign apparatus is fully supporting Roy Moore, whom several women accused of sexually pursuing them when he was in his thirties and they were in high school.
However, when Sanders was responding to the news of Franken’s resignation, her argument was that since the Access Hollywood tape leaked prior to the election and Trump still won the election, the matter of accountability had already been settled.
“The President addressed [allegations of sexual harassment against him] during the campaign,” Sanders said. “We feel strongly the people of this country addressed it when they elected Donald Trump as president.”
During the 2016 presidential campaign, 16 women accused Trump of sexually assaulting them. People magazine writer Natasha Stoynoff, who was assigned to do a profile of Trump on the first anniversary of his marriage to his third wife, Melania, wrote that during the interview, Trump shoved her up against a wall and forced his tongue down her throat. Another accuser said Trump once groped her without her consent during a 2003 event at his Mar-a-Lago resort.
Sanders’ defense of Trump echoes the famous Nixonian argument of “If the president does it, it is not illegal,” which former President Richard Nixon said to TV host David Frost in response to a question about national security. The quote would later be used in the context of Nixon’s actions in the Watergate scandal, in which he resigned in disgrace ahead of an impeachment vote.
Recently, one of President Trump’s lawyers argued that the President of the United States cannot be charged with obstruction of justice, due to his position. One of the key points of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia is whether or not Trump obstructed justice by firing former FBI director James Comey.
Michael Boone is a freelance journalist and columnist writing about politics, government, race, and media. He graduated from Texas Southern University’s School of Communication, and lives in Houston’s Third Ward.