Twice impeached, recently indicted and now on the hook for a $5 million judgment that found him liable for sexual abuse and defamation, a defiant Donald Trump is looking to make more must-see TV.
The former U.S. president is bringing his bid to win back the White House to CNN in prime time, just one day after a jury in New York concluded that he sexually assaulted magazine writer E. Jean Carroll in the 1990s.
“It could be a total disaster for all, including me. Let’s see what happens,” Trump says in a video posted Wednesday to his Truth Social feed, claiming the live town hall in New Hampshire was the cable network’s idea.
“CNN is rightfully desperate to get those fantastic Trump ratings back … they made me a deal I couldn’t refuse.”
Wednesday night’s ratings will surely be higher, for better or for worse, now that Carroll has proven in court that Trump sexually abused her in a Manhattan department store dressing room after a chance encounter in 1996.
The jury stopped short of concluding a rape took place, as Carroll alleges, but that didn’t prevent her from celebrating a “mash of overwhelming emotions” during an interview Wednesday on CNN.
“There is sort of a feeling of victory, that at last somebody has held him accountable in a courtroom,” Carroll said, describing her post-verdict handshake with Joe Tacopina, Trump’s lawyer.
“As I put my hand forward, I said, ‘He did it — and you know it.’”
In a striking illustration of the current state of the Republican party, meanwhile, Trump wasn’t the only prominent party member with a propensity for lying who faced tough questions Wednesday about his mounting legal troubles.
New York Rep. George Santos, the freshman member of Congress who brazenly and repeatedly fictionalized parts of his personal and professional background, was indicted on 13 criminal charges in a Long Island courtroom.
Santos faces seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, as well as one count of theft of public funds. He’s also charged with lying to the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Taken together, the allegations in the indictment charge Santos with relying on repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend to the halls of Congress and enrich himself,” said U.S. district attorney Breon Peace.
“He used political contributions to line his pockets, unlawfully applied for unemployment benefits that should have gone to New Yorkers who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic and lied to the House of Representatives.”
After entering a plea of not guilty, he walked defiantly out of the courthouse, a crush of reporters and cameras trailing his every move, and borrowed a tactic straight from the former president’s self-defence strategy.
“The reality is, it’s a witch hunt,” Santos said, promptly citing the nebulous influence-peddling allegations against Hunter Biden, the current president’s son, that have become a popular Republican talking point.
He waved off pointed questions about the allegations against him, and said not only will he not resign his seat in Congress, but he plans to flourish on Capitol Hill and eventually seek re-election.
“I’m going to fight my battle, I’m going to deliver, I’m going to fight the witch hunt, I’m going to clear my name and I look forward to doing that,” Santos said.
Santos, who has been in Congress just four months, has famously amassed an impressive track record of fictional self-aggrandizement.
He has claimed, falsely, that his mother died in the 9/11 attacks and that his grandmother died in the Holocaust. His claims of being a college volleyball star, a former Goldman Sachs employee and Jewish have all been debunked.
One claim the openly gay Republican initially denied and eventually appeared to relent on was that he regularly performed as a drag queen in Rio de Janeiro during the 2000s.
On Wednesday, when asked why he intends to persist with a career in politics, he appeared to suggest that political Washington is the perfect place for someone with a track record like his.
“The way I look at it, I’ll be a chairman of a committee in a couple of years, if you look at the standards in Congress,” Santos said. “Just look at the Senate.”
—James McCarten, The Canadian Press