New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says he’s taking E. Jean Carroll’s story of being sexually assaulted by now-President Donald Trump in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room seriously, and if Carroll wants to make an official complaint to the New York City police department, de Blasio will ensure the NYPD conducts a follow-up investigation.
Mother Jones reports that de Blasio made the claim while on the campaign trail in South Carolina.
“This is the most serious of all the charges,” de Blasio told a reporter who asked about Carroll’s claims. “The moment we, in New York City with our police department have a complaint, we will investigate immediately, and we will find out the truth.”
Carroll, a longtime New York City gossip columnist, accused (then-New York real estate developer) Donald Trump of sexual assault in an interview with New York Magazine, published late last week. Carroll claims that, after meeting Trump by chance at Bergdorf’s, the pair shopped together in the lingerie department. At one point, Trump pulled a see-through one-piece off the rack and the pair jokingly argued over who should try it on. Then, Carroll says, Trump pushed her into a dressing room, pinned her arms to her sides and pulled down her tights, clearly intending to sexually assault her.
Before Trump could complete the act, Carroll says, she fought him off and ran from the store. She told New York Magazine and other interviewers that she still has the unwashed dress from the incident, and claims to have told at least two people, contemporaneously, about having been assaulted.
When asked, though, Carroll has come up with a litany of excuses as to why she never found a need to file an official complaint against Trump — and why she won’t file one now. In interviews over the weekend, Carroll claimed she wouldn’t go to authorities because an investigation into her own sexual assault would distract from the women being “raped around the clock” at the United States-Mexico border. On Monday, she changed her excuse, citing the statute of limitations, which prevents Trump from being prosecuted for a sexual assault that happened at least 20 years ago.
The statute of limitations is certainly a consideration. As Mother Jones sorrowfully points out, New York allows alleged victims of a felony five years to bring details of that crime to authorities and initiate prosecution. For misdemeanors, victims must make their claim within two years of the alleged incident. Although the state recently lifted the statute of limitations on felony rape and 1st-degree criminal sexual conduct, at the time Carroll says she was assaulted, felony rape was included in the five year column, so that limit would govern her claims.
And de Blasio cannot, effectively, “revive” a case once the statute of limitations has tolled. The Supreme Court has routinely spoken on the issue and found reviving cases to be a violation of the Constitution’s clause barring ex post facto prosecutions.
What Mother Jones seems to miss, though, is that de Blasio probably doesn’t see prosecuting Trump as necessary — only investigating Trump. A criminal investigation, de Blasio likely believes, could hurt Trump at the polls, and one so close to the 2020 presidential election would, no doubt, have some impact on how Trump is received, particularly by female voters.
The problem then, of course, becomes whether de Blasio is violating Trump’s rights by undertaking an investigation that cannot legally go anywhere — but that’s probably a secondary concern for de Blasio, who is running at the back of the pack of potential 2020 Democratic presidential nominees and desperately needs a reason to command the spotlight.
An NYPD investigation may turn up absolutely nothing in the way of evidence that Trump committed a crime — in fact, Bergdorf already says that they have no surveillance footage of the incident, and the only evidence Carroll has presented to prove that she and Trump were familiar is a publicity still from a charity event taken around the same time. In the photo, neither Trump nor Carroll is acknowledging the other and both are shown with dates.