Trump: I never kissed that woman in the lobby of Trump Tower!

And so a new mystery unfolds: Why the hell would he tweet about this WaPo story knowing that he’ll drive an enormous audience to it who otherwise would never have read it? I missed it completely in my own morning news reading until he piped up about it. The allegation isn’t even among the worst things he’s been accused of, essentially a too-long unwanted kiss.

My theory is that he’s frustrated that he wasn’t able to say anything publicly about Stormy Daniels or Karen McDougal and is venting about Rachel Crooks because there’s no NDA to worry about in her case. Whether or not he’s personally a party to the agreements with Daniels or McDougal, using his giant megaphone to badmouth them might make them so angry that they’d decide to breach their NDAs and turn a minor scandal into something bigger. He has to hold his tongue with them. Not with Crooks.

It *is* weird to think of him kissing a stranger in “the lobby of Trump Tower,” with dozens of people passing by on their way in or out. But … that’s not what Crooks claims. She says he kissed her at the elevator bank outside the office on the 24th floor where she used to work. There may have been no one around at the moment. Security cameras presumably would have picked it up, but this happened in Trump Tower. Guess who owns the security footage.

“He was waiting for the elevator outside our office when I got up the nerve to introduce myself,” she said now, remembering that day when she was 22 years old and Trump was 59. “It’s not like I was trying to upset the apple cart. I don’t know. Maybe I was being naive.”…

She reached for her water glass and lifted it up into the air to use as a prop. “He took hold of my hand and held me in place like this,” she said, squeezing the sides of the water glass, shaking it gently from side to side. “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.”

Reasons to doubt her story: She’s running for state legislature in Ohio this year, as a Democrat. How many state reps get profiles in the Washington Post, let alone Cosmo, to help tout their candidacy? Reasons not to doubt her story: This isn’t the first time she’s made this allegation. She told the NYT what happened between her and Trump in the fall of 2016 and has endured the predictable hate mail and death threats ever since. (WaPo saw one email she received. “Nobody would touch you, especially not Trump. You look like a boy. A gun to your head would be good for our nation.”) She told close friends and family what happened too on the day of the alleged incident more than a decade ago. Her sister and then-boyfriend confirmed to the Times two years ago that they heard about it at the time. WaPo has now seen timestamped emails to other confidants:

Maybe the proof was the email she had sent to her mother, from the Bayrock office in New York, at 1:27 that afternoon in 2006: “Hey Ma, my day started off rough…had a weird incident with Mr. Trump.”

Or the email she sent a few hours later to her sister at 3:05 p.m.: “I must just appear to be some dumb girl that he can take advantage of…ugh!”

Or the email she sent a few days after that to another relative: “Ah yes, the Donald kiss…very creepy man, let me tell you!”

And then there’s the infamous quote from the “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump chattered to Billy Bush about his barely restrained urge to kiss women:

One other point in Crooks’s favor is why, if she were inventing stories about Trump whole cloth, she would have invented an incident as low key as this. If you’re out to smear a presidential candidate and willing to suffer the inevitable backlash from his supporters to do it, why would you stop with “he kissed me on both cheeks and then on the lips”? Why not “he cornered me and began groping me” or “he raped me”? Her own sister told the Times that she asked Crooks at the time if maybe she had just misinterpreted what happened, i.e. if Trump had gone to kiss her cheek and their lips accidentally met. It’s strange to thrust yourself into a public spotlight with a lie so mild your own sibling might not see your accusation as alarming at first.

Under slightly different circumstances, in fact, I think Trump might have considered playing this incident off as a case of Crooks flirting with him and him taking her supposed cue to go in for a kiss. Lots of people would believe, fairly or not, that a small-town girl in the big city who’d seen billionaire playboy Donald Trump around her office might play up to him. But Trump can’t spin it that way. For one thing, he was married to Melania at the time. And for another, the #MeToo zeitgeist would push back hard on any insinuation that “she was asking for it,” even with an incident as mild as this. The smarter play is to deny. Although the smartest play would have been to ignore the charge altogether. Why didn’t he do?