Haley on Trump accusers: Let the chips fall where they may

But just how will those chips fall? As Allahpundit noted in his previous post, the focus of sexual harassment allegations in politics has expanded to both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Several of Donald Trump’s accusers who went public during the 2016 election have come forward again to tell their stories, encouraged by the shift in the cultural paradigm over the last two months, and motivated by the sense that they’ve been “left behind” in the process.

Should we reopen the Trump allegations for public scrutiny? CBS host John Dickerson asked that of UN Ambassador Nikki Haley on yesterday’s Face the Nation, and got a surprising answer. These women “should be heard and they should be dealt with,” Haley says, adding that “we should all be willing to listen to them”:

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about a domestic issue here. There’s a cultural shift going on in America right now. You saw it, three members of Congress kicked out of Congress because of sexual behavior, misdeeds. You were the first woman Senator of South Carolina. What do you think of this cultural moment that’s happening?

NIKKI HALEY: You know, I am incredibly proud of the women who have come forward. I’m proud of their strength. I’m proud of their courage. And I think that the idea that this is happening, I think it will start to bring a conscience to the situation, not just in politics, but in, you know, we’ve seen in Hollywood and in every industry. And I think the time has come.

JOHN DICKERSON: Of course I’m wrong, you were the governor, first governor of South Carolina. Given that consciousness, how do you think people should assess the accusers of the president?

NIKKI HALEY: Well, I mean, you know, the same thing, is women who accuse anyone should be heard. They should be heard and they should be dealt with. And I think we heard from them prior to the election. And I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up.

JOHN DICKERSON: And does the election mean that’s a settled issue?

NIKKI HALEY: You know, that’s for the people to decide. I know that he was elected. But, you know, women should always feel comfortable coming forward. And we should all be willing to listen to them.

Haley, who appears to have Trump’s confidence in foreign policy, seems to cut against the White House messaging on this topic. Their response has been that the election litigated these issues, especially the Access Hollywood “grab ’em by the p****” clip, and that voters have chosen with full information on these allegations. Haley took a pass on adopting that line for herself, choosing to say instead that the people may still get another say when Trump (presumably) runs for re-election in 2020.

It may not be a settled issue legally, either, which means it definitely will not be settled politically. Trump already faces one lawsuit, which his attorneys are trying to postpone until he leaves office, and that might generate even more stories:

One woman who had previously made allegations against the president, Summer Zervos, a former contestant on Mr. Trump’s show “The Apprentice,” has filed a lawsuit against him, claiming that Mr. Trump and his associates defamed her by dismissing her account, and those of other women, as “lies” and “nonsense.” The lawsuit, if it is allowed to move forward, could provide a legal forum for other women to repeat their allegations.

Among those who could be given a new platform to lodge accusations against the president is Temple Taggart, who claimed that when she was competing in the Miss USA pageant in 1997, Mr. Trump kissed her on the mouth. She expressed dismay recently that her accusations against the president did not have more political effect last year.

“With Trump, it was all brushed under the rug,” Ms. Taggart said.

Jessica Leeds, who last year accused Mr. Trump of grabbing her breasts and trying to put his hand up her skirt, said recently that she would be happy to tell her story under oath as part of Ms. Zervos’s lawsuit.

This might prompt Congress to open an investigation into the allegations against Trump, especially if Democrats manage to win back control over the House and/or Senate. A Quinnipiac poll from last week shows it would be a popular idea … a very popular idea:

Americans disapprove 63 – 22 percent of the way President Donald Trump is handling sexual harassment and sexual assault. Republicans approve 55 – 24 percent, the only party, gender, age or racial group to approve.

It is hypocritical for President Trump to criticize men accused of sexual harassment, 73 percent of Americans say, while 16 percent say he has a right to criticize these men.

The U.S. Congress should investigate accusations of sexual harassment against President Trump, Americans say 70 – 25 percent.

Among independents, it’s 66/28 in favor of a probe, and 39% of Republicans support the idea, too. That’s not exactly a demonstration of abject support; it’s a reminder of the character issues that continue to dog Trump and might cripple him if he faces a candidate whose name doesn’t rhyme with Schlinton.

In the short run, though, even a congressional investigation wouldn’t have much impact on Trump’s continuing presence in the White House. Congress hasn’t cleaned up its own houses yet, other than shaming the two men who got the brunt of media attention during this paradigm shift — one of whom hasn’t yet followed through on his commitment to resign. Trump is not going to get shamed into a resignation, and there’s considerable doubt that he even has the capacity for shame at all. Unless Congress impeaches him over his boorish behavior, Trump’s not going anywhere, and an impeachment on those grounds would stand in stark contrast to the efforts Democrats put into protecting Bill Clinton not just from sexual misconduct in the White House but actual crimes of perjury and obstruction that resulted from more serious allegations in Paula Jones’ lawsuit.

That shouldn’t lull Republicans into complacency, though. All Democrats will have to do in 2020 is run a credible candidate with more competency than Hillary Clinton against Trump to push him out of office. They may not have a deep bench, but they’re not completely out of options either. That’s why Nikki Haley is distancing herself from the White House on this — for her own long-term political prospects, as well as an acknowledgment of the inevitable emergence of Trump’s accusers in the media.

In other words, get used to this: