As he attempts to make his lead in the Republican presidential race unassailable at next week’s Super Tuesday primary contests, Donald Trump is being confronted with resurfaced allegations that he sexually assaulted and tried to rape a woman in the early 1990s.
The woman alleged in a federal lawsuit in 1997 that Trump violated her “physical and mental integrity” when he touched her intimately without consent after her boyfriend went into business with him, leaving her “emotionally devastated [and] distraught”.
The woman, who the Guardian is not naming, dropped the $125m lawsuit in Manhattan the following month. It coincided with a separate legal dispute between Trump and the woman’s then-boyfriend over an alleged breach of contract relating to their beauty pageant business venture. Trump claimed at the time that the lawsuit alleging assault was aimed at pressuring him to settle the other dispute, which reportedly he did for a six-figure sum later that year.
On Wednesday, Trump’s counsel Michael Cohen told a reporter for Mail Online that there was “no truth” to the lawsuit’s allegations. “The plaintiff in the matter ... would acknowledge the same,” Cohen was quoted as saying.
Yet when asked by the Guardian whether she stood by the allegations detailed in the lawsuit, the woman said in a text message: “Yes”. The woman, now a successful makeup artist in New York, declined to discuss the allegations in detail.
Cohen and a spokeswoman for Trump’s campaign did not respond to several requests from the Guardian for comment.
Potentially confusing matters further, the woman appears to now be a supporter of Trump’s campaign for the White House. She told the website Law Newz this week that she would be voting for Trump. “I saw him [Donald] recently, and he said I looked good,” the website reported her as saying. “I have nothing but good things to say about Donald.”
Before her lawsuit was unearthed by the legal news website this week, the woman’s public Facebook page displayed photographs of her with Trump and posts favourable to the property developer and reality television personality. These were no longer visible after Wednesday.
She accused Trump of “outrageous conduct” in her April 1997 lawsuit, which she filed when she was 34. She alleged that Trump had forced her into a bedroom at his Mar-A-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, following a business meeting in January 1993 and “subjected [her] to [Trump’s] unwanted sexual advances, which included touching of [her] private parts in an act constituting attempted ‘rape’”, the lawsuit stated. Trump then implied she should “keep her mouth shut”, she alleged. As she tried to leave, Trump again touched her sexually and made “Svengali-type proclamations of ‘love’”, she said, prompting her to vomit.
She alleged that the same month, during a telephone call supposed to be about the business venture, Trump told her that if she slept with him she “would be an awakened woman” and that he “was the best lover you’ll ever have”. Her lawsuit also named two male business associates of Trump as defendants. They “condoned and participated” in Trump’s harassment, she alleged.
The alleged assault followed what she said was Trump’s first attempt to touch her “intimate private parts” during a dinner meeting on 12 December 1992, where he also introduced her to associates as his “new girlfriend”. She alleged that the following month, during a party at the Palm Beach estate, Trump placed his hand “up [her] thigh” in another attempt to touch her intimately, before going further during the forced encounter later in January.
The woman claimed Trump began harassing her after becoming a partner in the American Dream Festival, which comprised a beauty pageant and other competitions. The festival, which the woman worked for, was devised and led by her then-boyfriend, whom she married in 1995, although they are no longer together.
During their first meeting over the business venture, the woman alleged in the lawsuit, Trump asked her boyfriend: “Are you sleeping with her?” and “demanded to know whether it was ‘just for the night or what?” Trump allegedly said to him at one point: “You know, there’s going to be a problem. I’m very attracted to your girlfriend.”
Around the time of the alleged assault and afterwards, Trump repeatedly pestered her with telephone calls demanding sex, she claimed, telling her she was “the most beautiful girl in the whole world” and saying that he wanted to have sex with her “whenever I was ready”.
The woman accused Trump and his associates of using the American Dream Festival as a vehicle for seeking sex from women. At one stage, she alleged, Trump asked that she “provide [Trump] with access to a 17-year-old Czech contestant whom he described as a ‘sex object’”. At another point Trump “made denigrating, lewd comments about all women in general as ‘sex objects’”, according to the woman.
The lawsuit claimed that weeks earlier in 1997, during a mediation session for the separate contractual dispute over the American Dream Festival, Trump publicly referred to the woman as a “great piece of ass”.
In a report that year in the New York Daily News, Trump was quoted as saying that her lawsuit “was a desperate attempt to get me to settle” the separate contractual dispute. A later report said a settlement was reached in July and that she and her husband attended a party at Trump’s Florida estate to celebrate his separation from his wife Marla Maples.