Even for a former president known to tell the occasional whopper or 30,000, it’s hard to top this one.
But Trump’s ostensible fuzziness about that Maples era of his life apparently extended to elsewhere in the deposition, a transcript and video of which was released Friday.
At one point, Carroll’s attorney asked Trump a basic factual question: “Isn’t it true that you were seeing Ms. Maples before you were divorced from Ivana Trump?”
Trump responded, amazingly, “I don’t know,” in the sworn deposition. “It was towards the end of the marriage. So I don’t know, really. It could be a lapover, but I don’t really know.”
(It is not clear what a “lapover” means, but we’re guessing it refers to overlap.)
Trump was also asked more generally if he had been seeing women outside of his first marriage, and he responded, “I don’t know.”
So the man who engaged in one of the most famous and widely reported-upon affairs in American history apparently isn’t sure whether the timeline qualifies it as an extramarital affair.
That timeline is murky, in large part, because this was mostly tabloid fodder early on. And that provided Trump the plausible deniability he often exploits, while burnishing his playboy credentials. Trump seemed to have fun playing coy, often referring to Maples as just a friend without truly doing the work of denying the story.
Trump’s divorce from Ivana was finalized in December 1990. And both before and in the years after, it became clear his relationship with Marla Maples had been more than a rumor.
In April 1990, amid the rampant gossip, Trump decided to present Maples to the world at the opening of his Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City.
That same month, Maples conducted an interview in which she said she couldn’t comment on the affair rumors because of “pending litigation.” But when asked whether she loved Trump, she responded, “I can’t lie about it. Oh, I do.” Asked about a romantic relationship, she said, “I do love him.”
In November that year, Vanity Fair published a broad-ranging feature on Maples. She wore a gold Cartier ring given to her by Trump and said, “I believe I have a purpose and that there is a reason we’re together.” At the time, the question wasn’t whether they had had an affair, but whether it began early enough to complicate a revised prenuptial agreement with Ivana Trump from three years prior.
Perhaps the most significant evidence of the timeline came in 1994, when Trump confirmed a long-rumored Christmas 1989 standoff between the women in Aspen, Colo. Ivana Trump had dished about it to ABC News in 1991, and Trump decided to do the same:
We were actually standing near the restaurant, getting ready to put skis on. And I was standing there like an idiot and Marla and Ivana were here. And there wasn’t shouting, but you could obviously see there was some friction. And a man who was standing right next to me, who weighed about 350 pounds and wasn’t a very attractive guy, said to me, ‘It could be worse, Donald. I’ve been in Aspen for 20 years and I’ve never had a date.’ And I’ll never forget the statement and it sort of lightened it up a little bit for me. I’m saying, ‘You know, I guess it could be worse.’
(The video of that interview, as it happens, re-emerged on the 2016 campaign trail the same day that The Washington Post broke the news about the “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump bragged about groping women.)
Trump suggested that the confrontation on the slopes forced the issue, whereas “it’s possible that, you know, maybe it would still be going on.”
He summarized: “My life was so great in so many ways. The business was so great. … I mean, a beautiful girlfriend, beautiful wife, beautiful everything. I mean, life was just a bowl of cherries.”
Apparently that bowl of cherries just isn’t that memorable a quarter-century later. What other explanation could there be?