Scant evidence vs. Clinton as enabler
Trump finds a tough sell in decades-old accusations
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.