It took months for Karen Johnson to feel comfortable enough to tell journalists about how Donald Trump allegedly grabbed her by the genitals from behind a tapestry at a New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago in the early 2000s. “I was just walking to the bathroom. I was grabbed and pulled behind a tapestry, and it was him. And I’m a tall girl and I had six-inch heels on, and I still remember looking up at him. And he’s strong, and he just kissed me,” Johnson remembers. “I was so scared because of who he was … I don’t even know where it came from. I didn’t have a say in the matter.”
Johnson’s account of the alleged assault was made public for the first time in All the President's Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator, a book in which journalists Barry Levine and Monique El-Faizy meticulously detail 43 new allegations of inappropriate behavior toward women by Trump.
Johnson told the authors that following the New Year’s Eve party, Trump kept calling her, pleading with her to come visit him, despite the fact that he was dating his now-wife, Melania, and Johnson was married to a man who was dying of multiple sclerosis. “He said he’d have me back by six o’clock. This was like crazy. He was going to fly me to New York for the day to see him. I said, ‘No, no, no,’” Johnson told the authors. “I was scared. I didn’t know what to do.”
Johnson said that after the alleged assault, she never went back to Mar-a-Lago, but it haunted her, especially when, in October 2016, she heard Trump bragging about assaulting women in exactly the same way in that infamous 2005 Access Hollywood tape. “When he says that thing, ‘Grab them in the pussy,’ that hits me hard because when he grabbed me and pulled me into the tapestry, that’s where he grabbed me — he grabbed me there in my front and pulled me in,” she says in the book.
All The President’s Women was released on Oct. 21, the same day Trump held a cabinet meeting calling his phone conversation with Ukraine’s president “perfect,” the very phone call that’s now the foundation of the impeachment investigation against him.
The days and weeks that have followed have been filled with impeachment news and Trump hasn’t publicly commented on the 43 new allegations of inappropriate behavior, including engaging in a threesome with a porn star and young-looking woman, barging into a supermodel’s hotel room uninvited and ogling teenage girls backstage at modeling competitions. (Trump has previously denied all public allegations of sexual misconduct, and neither the White House nor Trump commented for the book before its publication. For her part, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham told Business Insider: “That book is trash and those accusations from 20 years ago have been addressed many times.”)
So why haven’t the sexual misconduct allegations against Trump made more of an impact? “Despite us being surrounded by new stories of #MeToo, whether it’s Harvey Weinstein or Jeffrey Epstein or Bill Cosby, Trump is just not receiving that type of scrutiny, which to me is shocking,” Levine tells InStyle. “It’s mind-boggling to me that we have a president who — take away the impeachment inquiry and what he may or may not have done — separate from that, we have a predator president.”
“Crimes against women are just not taken as seriously, and that has to do with how we value women in society,” El-Faizy tells InStyle. “He said he could do this, and we elected him anyway, and that says more about American society than it does about Donald Trump. I mean, we know who he is, but it says something about us that we allow that man to be our president.”
‘This is how he acts.’
Levine says the dismissal of the allegations against Trump in the run-up to Election Day 2016 was part of what motivated him to write the book. “The women who came forward in 2016 during the election, the week of the Access Hollywood tape, for the most part were brushed aside by the mainstream media and dismissed. Even back then, Trump’s bad-behavior tolerance level was so high that I think it’s a sad commentary on our country. I do think he is in category unlike any other president we have seen.” After Stormy Daniels came forward in 2018 about her alleged affair with Trump and the alleged hush money payment, Levine began digging deeper.
Levine and El-Faizy worked with journalists Whitney Clegg and Lucy Osborne to conduct more than 100 interviews, many of them exclusive, with women and witnesses to Trump’s alleged sexual misconduct. The 43 new allegations in their book bring the total number of allegations of inappropriate behavior against Trump to 67, including 26 incidents of unwanted sexual contact, according to the authors.
For Levine and El-Faizy, writing the book wasn’t just about making new allegations public, it was about finding a pattern in how Trump has viewed and treated women throughout his life. It’s especially relevant now that he is in charge of making policy that affects millions of women, El-Faizy says, and what struck her most were the similarities in the alleged assaults across decades, situations, and involving women from all different backgrounds.
“I was reading these raw transcripts and what was interesting to me was, maybe not every woman, but so many of the women blamed themselves or at least questioned themselves: ‘What was I wearing? What could I have said? What sort of attitude was I putting out there that Trump thought he could treat me that way?’” El-Faizy says. “But when you look at the aggregate, you realize these patterns are so strong, it's not even really about the women. If it wasn't that woman, it would have been another woman standing there. This is how he acts.”
‘How much is more of the same?’
One pattern that emerged was how Trump reportedly treated young women, some of whom were teenagers, that he met in the modeling industry. Several models describe how Trump would ogle and, in some cases, touch, young models while they were in various states of undress during shows.
“I would feel really uncomfortable, because every time we would change, it was like Trump would find a reason to come backstage to see all the teenagers,” model Stacy Wilkes told the authors of meeting Trump when she was 16 and competing in the 1991 Look of the Year contest. “When you’re doing a runway show, they have to strip you down and change you … There was no need for him to be back there.”
“I was thinking, what’s that old guy doing back here,” Shawna Lee, a model who met Trump when she was 14 during the 1992 Look of the Year contest, told the authors. “I was changing and looked up as he was looking and doing a slow stroll by, checking out the girls.”
A Swedish model named Cathleen, who asked the authors not to use her last name, remembers meeting Trump at a dinner when she was 15 in the mid-1980s. “It was an agency dinner. We had them all the time, and he was there. I had no idea who he was,” Cathleen told the authors. “He came in with two girls from the agency and sat down at the other end to me. One of them was a Polish model. She must have been 16, 17, definitely no older than 18. He was all over her. Kissing her on her lips and neck and touching her.”
So why aren’t these allegations of inappropriate behavior toward women, including teenagers, enough to turn the tide against Trump? Both El-Faizy and Levine say that the reckoning the #MeToo movement has brought for so many institutions has also led to a certain numbness on the part of the American public. “There is a general desire to dismiss it, because for a lot of people, they feel it’s been too much, and they feel overwhelmed by it. I think the reception the book got, that absolutely played into it,” El-Faizy says.
“It’s so appalling that Donald Trump’s treatment of women no longer resonates with the general public because they put it up to just more of the same. But how much is more of the same?” Levine says.
But even if Americans are tired of hearing more bad news about Trump, Levine says, it’s crucial that they listen, especially as he runs for re-election. “It’s important for there to be complete transparency when it comes to the presidency, because he is making policy for women, for all Americans, and these actions from his past play a part in the decisions he makes,” he says.
Without reporters or the public demanding Trump answer to the allegations, Levine says the best hope for a reckoning are the two defamation lawsuits filed by E. Jean Carroll and Summer Zervos, which are currently making their way through the courts. “If he survives an impeachment inquiry and we get into a general election, then I’m hoping the allegations come up in the debates and such,” Levine says.
Writing the book also changed its authors. “It was an extremely powerful journey,” Levine says, adding that he will always remember, “the women that we interviewed for the book, how difficult it was for them to tell their stories decades later … [and] just how difficult their lives have been in the wake of what happened to them.”
El-Faizy said hearing so many stories of assault and misconduct — and powerful people’s complicity in them — inspired her to take action. “It was definitely toxic, it was definitely disturbing,” she says. “I always considered myself a feminist, but I would say it really radicalized me.”
“We as a society, our institutions, are protecting powerful men to the detriment of vulnerable women and girls,” El-Faizy adds. “It made me realize it’s not enough to call out harassers and assaulters. It made me think we need to burn the house down.”
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