Team Trump is quite familiar with lobbing stones from its glass house. Two of the president's children complained about the “viciousness” of politics, defending a father who redefined viciousness as a candidate. Trump himself accused San Juan's mayor of politicizing tragedy, despite his own tendency to do the same — repeatedly. The White House said ESPN's Jemele Hill should be fired for calling Trump a “white supremacist,” even as Trump had called President Barack Obama a racist. It has also said attacking Trump is “unpatriotic,” despite Trump's questioning Obama's very legitimacy as president. And on and on.
But even by its standards, going there on Democrats and Harvey Weinstein is pretty brazen.
Donald Trump Jr. has been tweeting about Weinstein for the better part of the past week:
Trump Jr.'s arguments seem to boil down to two things: 1) Weinstein is clearly guilty, given the volume of accusers, and 2) Hollywood and Democrats are too willing to stand up for — or at least too reluctant to criticize — Weinstein.
Both of those arguments, though, could just as easily be applied to his father's own myriad sexual harassment allegations and the Republicans who have stood by him. Eleven women came forward before the 2016 election to accuse Trump of touching them without consent, and although many Republicans initially rebuked Trump, upon his election, the party has stood by him in almost total lock-step. There are plenty of other similarities, too, including Trump and Weinstein both allegedly abusing their public stature, as well as recordings of Trump and Weinstein talking about sexually harassing women.
And it's not as though this is an old story; there is a defamation lawsuit stemming from one of those claims pending against Trump right now in New York. Filed in January, the lawsuit was brought on behalf of Summer Zervos, one of the 11 women. Trump has denied all the allegations.
Zervos, a California restaurant owner, had been a contestant on the Trump reality show “The Apprentice” in 2006. After the show ended, she said, she accepted a 2007 meeting with Trump at a Beverly Hills hotel. She said she believed it was to discuss a possible job opportunity at the Trump Organization. Instead, she alleged, Trump aggressively kissed and groped her.
Her lawsuit does not technically accuse Trump of sexual harassment. Instead, it argues that Trump defamed her when he denied her account during the presidential campaign. Trump insisted that she and other women who made claims against him were lying and advancing a hoax. Trump promised to sue the women almost exactly one year ago, but he has not made good on that threat.
If the lawsuit proceeds, however, the issue of whether Zervos's allegations about Trump's behavior are true will become key to the case. She and her attorney, Gloria Allred, have indicated they will demand internal documents from Trump's company that would shed light on Zervos's 2007 encounter with Trump, and, maybe more importantly, will seek to require Trump to testify under oath.
(Reports over the weekend noted that the Trump campaign has been subpoenaed in the case; that subpoena was actually issued in March and is on hold pending Trump's lawyers' effort to have the case dismissed.)
Such a deposition could open the president to uncomfortable questions about his interaction with Zervos and his history with other women, too. If he were not fully honest under oath, it could also lead to legal jeopardy for the president. When President Bill Clinton lied under oath during a similar deposition in a sexual harassment case brought by former Arkansas worker Paula Jones, it set off a series of events that led to his impeachment.
Trump and his lawyers have moved to dismiss the case. They argue that the president should be immune from civil lawsuits filed in state courts while in office. (The Supreme Court ruled in the Jones case that the president can be sued in federal court, but the ruling did not address state courts.) They also argue that Trump's statements about Zervos were merely heated campaign-season rhetoric and that, besides, Trump continues to maintain that his denials about Zervos were true and that he did not harass her.
The next brief in the case is due Oct. 31, and a judge is likely to rule sometime after that whether to dismiss the case or allow it to move forward.
Given that backdrop, it would be one thing for Trump Jr. and Trump's supporters to argue that Weinstein is benefiting from a double standard that the president did not — and that has indeed been part of their argument. But to suggest Weinstein is clearly guilty and that his allies must denounce him because of how many women have come forward with unproven allegations is an extremely slippery slope for Team Trump.
The GOP establishment more broadly has been pretty hands-off on the Weinstein matter — recognizing the peril in bringing up such a similar set of circumstances. When the Republican National Committee does bring it up, for example, it's to point to Democrats who denounced Trump and have been far less active in denouncing Weinstein, a top Democratic donor and fundraiser.
But Trump Jr. clearly has far less compunction about applying a different standard to Weinstein than to his father. And just about everything he tweeted above could be tweeted at his own flesh and blood.
At this point, though, that shouldn't really be surprising from Team Trump.