Scant ev­i­dence vs. Clinton as en­abler

Trump finds a tough sell in decades-old ac­cu­sa­tions

Baltimore Sun - - ELECTION 2016 - By Evan Halper and Chris Mege­rian

WASH­ING­TON — Don­ald Trump long threat­ened to put the sex scan­dals in­volv­ing Bill Clinton at the cen­ter of the pres­i­den­tial race, and now, faced with hav­ing to an­swer for his own trans­gres­sions, he is de­liv­er­ing in a big way.

But while Trump wins en­thu­si­as­tic ap­plause from his base for paint­ing Hil­lary Clinton as an en­abler of her hus­band’s mis­deeds who cal­lously ru­ined the lives of his vic­tims, it is a tougher sell with the wider elec­torate.

The cases in­volv­ing the women were all in­ves­ti­gated or lit­i­gated years ago, and in most in­stances the ev­i­dence brought against the Clin­tons fell short — par­tic­u­larly when it came to charges that Hil­lary Clinton or­ches­trated cover-ups.

Trump nonethe­less sees op­por­tu­nity in the decades­old ac­cu­sa­tions, and on Sun­day night he moved to cap­i­tal­ize on them by bring­ing as his guests to the pres­i­den­tial de­bate three women who ac­cused Bill Clinton of sex­ual mis­con­duct and a fourth who claims Hil­lary Clinton cold­heart­edly de­fended the man who raped her as a child.

All of the women are stars in con­ser­va­tive me­dia. And their ap­pear­ances were widely re­ported to have been ar­ranged by Trump cam­paign Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Stephen Ban­non. Trump re­ferred to them as he tried to shift the con­ver­sa­tion away from the re­cently dis­closed video­tape from 2005 in which Trump boasts dur­ing what he thought was a pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion about grop­ing women.

Of the four women Trump in­vited to the de­bate, and joined at a brief ap­pear­ance in front of re­porters just be­fore the event, only one has had any suc­cess in pur­su­ing her charges. Bill Clinton paid an $850,000 set­tle­ment in 1998 to for­mer Arkansas state worker Paula Jones, who ac­cused Clinton of mak­ing an un­wanted sex­ual ad­vance while gov­er­nor.

Trump claims that Jones and the other women were “vi­ciously” at­tacked by Hil­lary Clinton. She did, at one point, say the Jones law­suit was part of a big­ger rightwing con­spir­acy against her hus­band. But fact-check­ers have been hard-pressed to find ev­i­dence she mounted any “vicious” at­tacks.

Another of the Clinton ac­cusers who came to the de­bate was Kath­leen Wil­ley, a for­mer White House vol­un­teer. She ac­cused Bill Clinton of fondling her dur­ing a pri­vate meet­ing in the Oval Of­fice. But the same pros­e­cu­tors who rec­om­mended Clinton be im­peached found in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to sup­port Wil­ley’s claims.

Still, Wil­ley’s al­le­ga­tions of threats and in­tim­i­da­tion have been em­braced by right- wing me­dia and Trump.

Another of Trump’s de­bate guests was also fa­mil­iar to those who fol­lowed Bill Clinton’s im­peach­ment. Juanita Broad­drick al­leges she was raped by Clinton in 1978, when she was a nurs­ing home ad­min­is­tra­tor vol­un­teer­ing for his gu­berna- Paula Jones, from left, Kath­leen Wil­ley and Juanita Broad­drick ap­pear Sun­day night for the pres­i­den­tial de­bate be­tween Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump and Demo­crat Hil­lary Clinton. to­rial cam­paign. She says she re­sisted go­ing pub­lic for years, even as ru­mors swirled around Arkansas. Dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion that pre­ceded im­peach­ment, Broad­drick signed an af­fi­davit deny­ing that Clinton raped her.

She later re­neged on that state­ment, telling NBC News and The Wall Street Jour­nal about her al­le­ga­tions.

Clinton’s lawyer de­nied there was any rape, call­ing it “ab­so­lutely false.” Spe­cial pros­e­cu­tors found “in­con­clu­sive ev­i­dence” Broad­drick was raped by Clinton.

Matt Drudge, a con­ser­va­tive jour­nal­ist, re­ported ad- di­tional de­tails of Broad­drick’s story. She de­scribed run­ning into Hil­lary at a po­lit­i­cal event weeks later, and Hil­lary Clinton thanked her for help­ing her hus­band’s cam­paign.

Broad­drick has de­scribed this as Hil­lary Clinton’s at­tempt to “si­lence” her from speak­ing out. Broad­drick has be­come a reg­u­lar pres­ence in alt-right fa­vorite Bre­it­bart News and on Twitter, where she crit­i­cizes the Clin­tons and shares pro-Trump mes­sages.

The fi­nal guest from the Clinton past that Trump brought to the de­bate, Kathy Shel­ton, says she de­tests Hil­lary Clinton for her role in de­fend­ing the man who at­tacked Shel­ton when she was 12. Clinton was as­signed the case by a judge.

Clinton did what de­fense at­tor­neys do in such cases. In an af­fi­davit re­quest­ing a psy­chi­atric ex­am­i­na­tion, Clinton ques­tioned Shel­ton’s emo­tional sta­bil­ity and wrote that Shel­ton “has in the past made false ac­cu­sa­tions about per­sons.”

Clinton’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives have de­fended her con­duct, not­ing that she had “an eth­i­cal and le­gal obli­ga­tion” to rep­re­sent the man as his court-ap­pointed lawyer.

PAUL J. RICHARDS/GETTY-AFP

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