Wednesday 18 July 2018

President must stop his dirty linen being aired in court if he wants to avoid his Monica Lewinsky moment

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Monica Lewinsky. Photo: Getty Images
Monica Lewinsky. Photo: Getty Images

David Millward

Donald Trump probably got it about right when he said he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and people would still vote for him.

Given that he is on his third marriage, I think it would be fair to say that he is not going to win the award for husband of the year. But unless he does something monumentally stupid, the Stormy Daniels brouhaha should not prove fatal for his presidency.

Trump's libido was hardly a secret when he ran for office and he still won the election. He may have been embarrassed by the 'Access Hollywood' tapes, but they did no lasting damage.

There has been a procession of women accusing Trump of sexual harassment or extramarital affairs. The veracity of these allegations is for others to judge.

Thus far Trump has largely kept quiet about the Daniels allegations beyond a cryptic tweet about fake news and a denial issued on his behalf by the White House press office.

He did, of course, make an angry full-throated denial of the claims of sexual harassment made by Summer Zervos, a contestant on 'The Apprentice'.

Trump's generally muted response to the torrent of allegations is fairly sensible.

As things stand, he has lost the support of some evangelical Christians, which is hardly surprising. He was never particularly popular among women voters.

Not only is there little political capital to be gained in becoming embroiled in a tit for tat with his accusers, but the consequences of doing so could be catastrophic.

He need only look back at what happened to Bill Clinton to appreciate that he should do whatever it takes to prevent any of his dirty linen being aired in court.

To recap: Clinton had a series of sexual encounters with Monica Lewinsky, below, then a 21-year-old intern, with their affair starting in November 1995.

When the relationship broke up she confided in Linda Tripp, a Pentagon co-worker, about her affair with Clinton without realising that the conversations were being taped.

In December 1997 Lewinsky was subpoenaed by lawyers acting on behalf of Paula Jones, who was suing Clinton for sexual harassment.

Clinton put pressure on Lewinsky to file an affidavit denying having had a sexual relationship with him. Clinton continued to deny the allegations in a sworn deposition.

Things got messy as the story unravelled. Clinton faced a special prosecutor and the Republican-dominated House of Representatives ordered his impeachment for an array of offences including lying to a grand jury and attempting to obstruct justice in the Paula Jones case.

Clinton, who was acquitted by the Senate, was only the second president to face impeachment proceedings. The first was Andrew Johnson in 1868.

One suspects that the lessons of the Clinton impeachment proceedings have not been lost on Donald Trump, who will note how close one of his predecessors came to being defenestrated on the back of allegations of sexual misconduct.

At the very least, Trump faces the risk of humiliation should the cases go to court and potentially far more serious consequences should the other side have some sort of smoking gun which proves the truth of the allegations or even worse, shows that he perjured himself during the proceedings.

Ignoring the allegations, save for the odd tweet about "fake news", won't keep the story out of the headlines. But it will prevent it from spiralling out of control.

That is probably the best he can hope for.

Irish Independent

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