House Dem women request sex misconduct probe of Trump

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Washington — Nearly 60 House Democratic women, led in part by Rep. Brenda Lawrence of Southfield, on Tuesday formally requested a congressional investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by President Donald Trump.

The Democratic Women’s Working Group signed a letter, joined by dozens of their male colleagues, saying the 17 women who have publicly accused Trump should not be ignored. The call came as powerful men in Hollywood, Congress and corporate America have faced scrutiny in the past few months for improper behavior, with several resigning.

Trump has denied the accusations. The White House dismissed them, maintaining their truthfulness was litigated during last year’s campaign and decided by the outcome of the presidential election.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reiterated Tuesday that the claims are “all false and fabricated.”

“Frankly, I think if Congress wants to spend time investigating things, they should probably focus on some of the things the American people would really like them to investigate, like how to secure our borders, how to defeat ISIS, how to pass tax reform that actually impacts them,” Sanders said at her daily briefing.

The House Democrats’ letter went to Republican South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland. In addition to Lawrence, Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell from Dearborn also signed the letter.

“For too long, accountability has not been the priority, and bad behavior has gone unchecked. For too long, we have accepted cop-outs like ‘locker room talk.’ For too long, courageous voices have fallen upon deaf ears. And now, that time is over,” Lawrence, vice chair of the Women’s Working Group, said at a news conference at the U.S. Capitol.

“I’m sorry, Mr. President. You do not live under a different set of rules.”

Lawrence, a member of the Oversight panel, said the accusers deserve to have a voice and a “full investigation from Congress, when the White House will not provide its own.”

During the campaign a year ago, a decade-old recording by “Access Hollywood” surfaced in which Trump could be heard bragging about using his celebrity to kiss and fondle women without their consent. At the time, Trump dismissed the exchange as “locker room talk.”

Three of Trump’s accusers who had come forward during the campaign reiterated their claims Monday, appearing on Megyn Kelly’s NBC television show in a joint interview.

They spoke out as sexual assault scandals continue to upend Capitol Hill, leading to the resignations last week of three lawmakers – longtime Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Detroit, Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota and Rep. Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican.

Lawrence’s chief of staff also resigned last month in the wake of allegations that he sexually harassed three former aides – which he denies.

Though she said Conyers’ accusers should be heard, Lawrence never called on him to resign, unlike some of her Democratic colleagues. She said the 88-year-old congressman was owed due process.

Some Trump supporters have argued that the alleged incidents occurred before Trump was elected.

Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Florida, noted that the oversight committee has “very broad jurisdiction” to investigate any matter at any time.

“I would remind everyone of the Whitewater investigation years ago when then President Clinton was investigated for matters that were outside his presidency,” said Frankel, chair of the Women’s Working Group.

The goal right now “is to get to the truth. If we can get to the truth, that will lead the next step,” she added.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, on Monday called on Trump to resign over the sexual misconduct allegations, which she said are credible.

Trump tweeted in response Tuesday that Gillibrand would visit to his office “begging” for campaign contributions “and would do anything for them.”

Gillibrand called the tweet a “sexist smear” intended to silence her efforts to speak out against sexual harassment.

“You cannot silence me or the millions of women who have gotten off the sidelines to speak out about the unfitness and shame you have brought to the Oval Office,” she tweeted.