Trump’s Deposition Statement Was Misunderstood; Maybe True?

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Trump’s Deposition Statement Was Misunderstood; Maybe True?  “They Let You Do It” Suggests Consent to “Stars” As A Legal Defense

Donald Trump’s Access Hollywood Statement Was Misinterpreted

WASHINGTON, D.C – (May 10, 2023) – The portion of Donald Trump‘s deposition citing the Access Hollywood tape in which he says “when you’re a star . . . you can do anything,” has apparently been widely misinterpreted, and it could even be true if read carefully and precisely, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who has won over 100 cases of sexual discrimination against women.

The reason for the perception that he is bragging that he can get away with sexually assaulting women – e.g., because no one will believe their claims and/or that the legal system is misogynistic and unfair – is that a few very important words are being overlooked.

Regardless of how crude and shocking Trump’s words about “grab them by the p-ssy, you can do anything” are, and whether or not Trump actually engaged in the behavior he described or was simply boasting, the activity itself does not necessarily constitute the criminal or civil offense of sexual assault, says Banzhaf. Indeed, read in context, the situations Trump described might not be illegal at all, says Banzhaf.

Immediately preceding his “grab” statement, Trump said “and when you’re a star, they let you do it. you can do anything.” [emphasis added]

If by that Trump means that many women willingly tolerate from a “star” what would otherwise constitute completely unacceptable sexual behavior – because they hoped he could advance their careers, did not wish to embarrass themselves or him, hope to curry some kind of favor in the future, were afraid of tarnishing their careers, etc. – then, at least under some scenarios, their action in letting him do it would constitute express or implied consent, and therefore no assault of any kind.

Indeed, notes Banzhaf, even if consent to sex is obtained by fraud or misrepresentation – e.g., if Trump implied that he would get them a part or marry them – it is still a valid defense to sexual assault or other criminal or civil wrongs.

For example, if Trump suddenly and without any warning reached out and grabbed a woman’s crotch or breast, it would rather clearly constitute sexual assault.

But if she encouraged, cooperated, or simply said and did nothing in response to his sexual touching because he was a “star” whom she wanted for whatever reason to please – as he implied by the words “they let you do it” – then, as unseemly as the scenario might be, it would probably not constitute sexual assault, says Banzhaf.

This interpretation of the words from Trump’s “you can do anything” Access Hollywood tape were reinforced with the followup explanation in his deposition:

Mr. Trump: “Well, historically, that’s true with stars.”

Q: “It’s true with stars that they can grab women by the p—?”

Mr. Trump: “Well, that’s what, if you look over the last million years I guess that’s been largely true. Not always, but largely true.

With these words he makes it rather clear that he is not just speaking about his own sexual interactions with women. Rather he suggests that ‘historically” many women would “let you do it” if the male was a “star.”

Thus he is seemingly referencing frequent suggestions that some actresses “slept their way” to a part in a movie, earned a spot by their actions on the casting couch, or at very least tolerated gropings and other kinds of unwanted or even repulsive forms of sexual touching so as not to offend a star and/or to advance their careers.

Whether or not this impression of Hollywood and/or TV is in any way accurate is irrelevant since Trump is merely trying to explain that women “let [him, Trump] do it” “when [he, Trump]’s a star” just as he believes (correctly or not) that many women do the same thing when a different male is perceived to be a “star.”

Fortunately, even if members of the jury misinterpreted his statements to mean that he was privileged to reach out and grab any woman simply because he was famous, this would almost certainly not constitute grounds to reverse the jury’s decision on appeal.