White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was out celebrating her teenage daughter’s birthday at a Mexican restaurant in Maryland when, she later told police, she felt someone grab her from behind.
Conway said she thought someone was trying to get her attention to tell her goodbye before leaving the party.
But, she said, she soon realized that was not the case.
Conway recounted the incident in a recent interview with CNN, explaining that the encounter, which occurred in October at an Uncle Julio’s restaurant in Bethesda, felt a little too “aggressive” to be a hug.
“I turned around, and the woman had grabbed my hands,” she told CNN, adding that the woman started shouting and shaking her. “She was just unhinged. She was out of control. I don’t even know how to explain her to you. She was just — her whole face was terror and anger. She was right here, and my daughter was right there."
When asked about the incident, Conway declined to provide comment to The Washington Post.
Following a police investigation, the woman, who was identified in court documents as Mary Elizabeth Inabinett, a 63-year-old resident of Chevy Chase, Md., was charged with second-degree assault and disorderly conduct. It was the authorities, not Conway, who filed the criminal charges in the case.
Inabinett’s attorney, William Alden McDaniel Jr., denied the allegations against his client in a statement to The Post. He said Inabinett “saw Kellyanne Conway, a public figure, in a public place, and exercised her First Amendment right to express her personal opinions. She did not assault Ms. Conway. The facts at trial will show this to be true, and show Ms. Conway’s account to be false.”
But Conway told CNN that Inabinett “ought to pay.”
"She has no right to touch anybody,” she told CNN.
In Maryland, second-degree assault, which is a misdemeanor, is broadly defined and can range from grabbing or spitting on someone to repeatedly punching the person in the face. Inabinett is scheduled to go on trial next month in state court.
Authorities responded to the alleged assault on the evening of Oct. 14 at the Uncle Julio’s. Conway told police that she was hosting her daughter’s birthday party when the woman approached her from behind and grabbed her shoulders, according to a criminal summons filed in Montgomery County District Court.
She told police that as she turned around, she was face-to-face with a woman “shouting and making aggressive hand gestures” toward her, the summons stated.
Conway said that the woman shook her for several seconds, according to the summons, and then “continued to yell and gesture at her” for up to 10 minutes.
A restaurant manager told police that the woman, who was also dining there, was screaming “Shame on you,” among other things thought to be about “Conway’s political views,” but that the pair had been separated by the time she arrived on the scene, according to the summons. It stated that the woman was “forcibly” removed from the building.
The alleged assault against Conway occurred a week after Brett M. Kavanaugh was sworn in as the nation’s 114th Supreme Court justice — concluding a hugely controversial Supreme Court confirmation.
Christine Blasey Ford had testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in September that Kavanaugh, then a Supreme Court nominee, had sexually assaulted her when the two were teenagers. The explosive accusations raised crucial questions only days before Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote — leading to a special hearing, tearful testimonies and adamant denials. Kavanaugh was confirmed Oct. 6 to the Supreme Court.
But it’s unclear what exactly Inabinett said to Conway.
Conway has reported being heckled in the past, not long after she moved to Washington. She said she was at a supermarket downtown when a man shouted at her: “You ought to be ashamed of yourself! Go look in the mirror!” She said she brushed him off, responding, “Mirrors are in Aisle 9 — I’ll go get one now.”
The Washington Post’s Paul Schwartzman and Josh Dawsey reported in July 2018 that “for any new presidential team, the challenges of adapting to Washington include navigating a capital with its own unceasing rhythms and high-pitched atmospherics, not to mention a maze of madness-inducing traffic circles.”
Yet for employees of Donald Trump — the most combative president of the modern era, a man who exists in his own tweet-driven ecosystem — the challenges are magnified exponentially, particularly in a predominantly Democratic city where he won only 4 percent of the vote.
For as long as the White House has existed, its star occupants have inspired a voluble mix of demonstrations, insults and satire. On occasion, protesters have besieged the homes of presidential underlings such as Karl Rove, George W. Bush’s political strategist, who once looked out his living room window to find several hundred protesters on his lawn.
Yet what distinguishes the Trump era’s turbulence is the sheer number of his deputies — many of them largely anonymous before his inauguration — who have become the focus of planned and sometimes spontaneous public fury.
The recent incident occurred in Montgomery County, where Hillary Clinton captured nearly 75 percent of the votes in 2016. Less than 20 percent of ballots in the county were cast for Trump.