‘Who would do this in public?’
US PRESIDENT Donald Trump has attempted to discredit a woman who says he sexually assaulted her in Trump Tower by arguing that it would have been foolish to do so within the gaze of security cameras.
Rachel Crooks, 35, has told her story publicly many times in the hope of revealing who the real Donald Trump is.
She repeated her story to The Washington Post this week, which splashed her picture on the front page on Tuesday with the headline "Is anyone listening?"
Ms Crooks was working as a receptionist for a company on the 24th floor of New York's Trump Tower in 2006, aged 22, and she would see the businessman regularly as he took the lift up to his residence.
She knew her company did business with the real estate tycoon, so one day in January she plucked up the courage to approach him and introduce herself. She says he immediately forced himself on her and began kissing her without her consent.
"He started kissing me on one cheek, then the other cheek. He was talking to me in between kisses, asking where I was from, or if I wanted to be a model. He wouldn't let go of my hand, and then he went right in and started kissing me on the lips," she told the Post.
"It felt like a long kiss.
"The whole thing probably lasted two minutes, maybe less."
Mr Trump attacked Ms Crooks on Twitter overnight, saying he never even met her, let alone kissed her.
"Who would do this in a public space with live security cameras running," he tweeted.
A woman I don’t know and, to the best of my knowledge, never met, is on the FRONT PAGE of the Fake News Washington Post saying I kissed her (for two minutes yet) in the lobby of Trump Tower 12 years ago. Never happened! Who would do this in a public space with live security......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2018
....cameras running. Another False Accusation. Why doesn’t @washingtonpost report the story of the women taking money to make up stories about me? One had her home mortgage paid off. Only @FoxNews so reported...doesn’t fit the Mainstream Media narrative.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2018
Crucially, Mr Trump got one detail of Ms Crooks' story wrong. She never said the kiss happened in the Trump Tower lobby. She said it happened on the 24th floor, where she worked as a receptionist, and that Mr Trump would have to stop there to take the lift up to his private residence on the 66th floor.
Ms Crooks has told her story many times - to The New York Times, to CNN, at political rallies and at a press conference - and her story has remained consistent throughout.
Meanwhile, Mr Trump has consistently accused her of lying and taking part in a politically motivated smear campaign.
Perhaps the part of Ms Crooks' story that is most compelling is the fact that she sent emails to her mother and sister on the day of the incident, a decade before Mr Trump announced his presidential ambitions.
"Hey Ma, my day started off rough … had a weird incident with Mr. Trump," she wrote to her mother at that afternoon from her office in Trump Tower.
She emailed a relative a few days later: "Ah yes, the Donald kiss … very creepy man, let me tell you!"
Mr Trump gave voters a window into his views on pursuing women when the infamous Access Hollywood tape surfaced in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign.
"You know I'm automatically attracted to beautiful - I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. I just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything," Mr Trump was caught on camera saying in the 2005 tape.
"Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything."
Nineteen women have accused Mr Trump of sexual harassment. He has denied all of the allegations.
Ms Crooks seems disappointed that her story - along with those of a dozen other women - appears to have had no ramifications for the President.
"I am not sure I've changed one person's mind," she told the Post.
Donald Trump's private life has been all over the headlines in the US this year, with detailed accounts of two of Mr Trump's alleged extramarital affairs - one with a porn star and another with a Playboy Playmate - being published.