Audio: Trump accuser's confidants corroborate that she told them decades ago about an assault

The full NYT podcast is long at nearly 30 minutes but you don’t need to bother with all of it. The key bit is much shorter — just around 10 minutes in all, starting with E. Jean Carroll’s account at 9:00 or so and continuing with the bits from her two newly revealed confidants, journalists Lisa Birnbach and Carol Martin, beginning at 14:55. (Sorry, but there seems to be no way to embed the clip.) Why is it worth listening to? For starters, there’s a theory circulating on the right this week in the interest of discrediting Carroll that she lifted her tale wholesale from the plot of an old “Law & Order” episode. There was a similar effort last week on the day that New York magazine published her accusation against Trump to compare the details of what she claimed happened to what Trump famously said on the “Access Hollywood” tape, implying that Carroll had fabricated her claim with the tape as inspiration.

But the timeline doesn’t work for any of that. The “Access Hollywood” tape was recorded in 2005. The “Law & Order” episode was filmed in 2012. The incident between Carroll and Trump allegedly happened circa 1993, and she told Birnbach and Martin about it at the time. Here they are on the NYT audio confirming it in their own words, on the record. Anyone who’s invested in the belief that Carroll is lying has to at least include a perfunctory “Birnbach and Martin are lying too, just because” addendum to their theory.

The Times didn’t include its own transcript of the podcast, unfortunately, but here’s a few key bits via HuffPost:

Birnbach said Carroll called her one day after leaving Bergdorf Goodman in New York City, minutes after the alleged rape had occurred. She said Carroll told her what happened ― an account that has made headlines across the world since New York magazine first published it last week…

“You did say, ‘He put his penis in me,’” Birnbach told Carroll during the Times interview. “And I said … ‘What? He raped you?’ And you said … ‘He pulled down my tights. He pulled down my tights.’”…

Between one and three days later, Carroll said she confided in Martin about the alleged assault.

“It wasn’t like she started crying or nothing that was a frantic kind of response to it,” Martin told the Times. “It was like, ‘I can’t believe this happened.’”

Two significant points there, I think. One is how contemporaneous the corroboration allegedly was. Birnbach was the first person Carroll called, minutes after the incident. It’s as close to an instantaneous recollection as one could ask for. The other is that the detail about him pulling down her tights and penetrating her was there from the start, with Birnbach recognizing it as rape immediately. If their memories can be trusted, this wasn’t a case of Carroll embellishing in her mind what had actually happened over the course of decades. The key bits were part of it from the beginning.

She was “breathless and laughing” on their call at first, Carroll and Birnbach remembered. Carroll admitted in her New York piece to laughing initially while the assault was happening and then rushing to get out of the building afterward, which would explain the breathlessness. Neither one remembers any tears or obvious signs of trauma, and one of her confidants recalls Carroll feeling that she had encouraged it (“100 percent responsible”) by shopping with Trump in the lingerie section and then going to the dressing room with him. Carroll herself pointedly refuses to use the word “rape” on the podcast, although the sense you get is that that’s not because she feels the term is inapt but because the sheer weight of it is uncomfortable for her. The obvious Trump defense based on all of that has nothing to do with “Law & Order”: It’s that the encounter was consensual, with Carroll willingly accompanying him to a deserted dressing room, and then ended abruptly in flagrante when she suddenly decided for whatever reason that she didn’t want to go through with it. But whether that’s true or not, it’s too embarrassing an explanation for a sitting president to adopt it. Better to say “never met her” and trust people not to press the point too insistently.

The response raised by the claim that it was consensual is equally obvious, though: If so, why’d Carroll call Birnbach immediately to tell her about the encounter? If she had done it to say, boastfully, “I just had a quickie with Donald Trump at Bergdorf Goodman!”, that would be one thing. But that’s not what either Carroll or Birnbach remember. Carroll wasn’t calling to boast, it seems, she was calling because she was shaken and needed to talk to a friend ASAP. Why?

Update: An excellent point about the Times’s methodology here from Patterico, who shares my belief that what Carroll describes might conceivably have been a consensual encounter which she changed her mind about after it began:

The interview is done very badly. I don’t know if the women made it a condition that they get together with one another and with E. Jean Carroll all at the same time, but that’s how the interview was done. If your goal was to find out what the women independently remember about what Carroll told them, forget it. You barely hear from them in the podcast. It’s certainly an unusual way to conduct an interview that is supposed to be corroboration of Carroll…

Almost nothing about what Carroll actually said to the women comes out of the women’s mouths in the podcast. It’s mostly Carroll describing the incident, and New York Times reporters flapping their meatholes.

Patterico’s a prosecutor by trade. Law enforcement would never interview a group of people simultaneously when trying to establish if their stories line up. If the Times, or the women, wanted a group interview, why didn’t the paper interview them each separately first and then conduct the group interview?