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How Trump’s support is faring in the wake of assault allegations, migrant children’s care

Although the presidency of Donald Trump has been marked by several scandals, they so far have not appeared to jeopardize his support with his enthusiastic base. Will that change with new details about an allegation he raped writer E. Jean Carroll in the 1990s, or with major controversy over the care of detained immigrant children in U.S. custody? Yamiche Alcindor joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, now, it's fair to say the Trump administration, with the Trump campaign before it, has had its share of controversies and even allegations of scandal.

    Few seem to erode the loyal support of the president's base of voters. But this week saw news that has to concern the White House, including the treatment of children in immigration detention facilities. We will get to that in a moment.

    But, first, we want to look at a new allegation against President Trump.

    Longtime writer and advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, in a new book, graphically describes how she said Mr. Trump sexually assaulted her in a New York City department store in the 1990s. Two friends she told about the incident at the time have now gone public to corroborate her account.

    Author Lisa Birnbach and former New York TV anchor Carol Martin joined Carroll on today's episode of The New York Times podcast "The Daily."

  • And a warning:

    This audio has some details of the account of the alleged assault.

  • Lisa Birnbach:

    Honestly, you did say, "He put his penis in me."

    And I said — my face just did it — "What? He raped you?"

    And you said: "He kept pulling get — he pulled down my tights. He pulled out my tights. It was horrible. We fought."

    And I said: "Let's go to the police."

    "No."

    "Come to my house."

    "No, I want to go home."

    "I will take you to the police."

    "No. It was 15 minutes of my life. It's over. Don't ever tell anybody. I just had to tell you."

  • E. Jean Carroll:

    It was an episode. It was an action. It was a fight, not a crime. It was, I had to struggle with the guy, which happened to me before.

  • Lisa Birnbach:

    Well, you felt you encouraged it, probably.

  • E. Jean Carroll:

    Oh, yes, I know I did. I know I did.

  • Carol Martin:

    I said, don't tell anybody. I wouldn't tell anybody this.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    To help break down what this latest allegation and the story of treatment of immigrant children in U.S. custody mean for the president, our White House correspondent, Yamiche Alcindor.

    Hello, Yamiche.

    So, these are serious allegations against the president. What is he saying about it?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The president has flat-out denied these allegations.

    He says that Carroll essentially is making all this up, even though her friends and her are both very adamant that this did happen. The president is getting some backlash for the way that he's defending himself.

    He told The Hill newspaper that Carroll wasn't — quote — "his type." So there are people who say that that wasn't the correct way to defend himself. He's also said that Carroll is trying to sell a book, and that the book that's coming out next month is really just her way of trying the capitalize on saying this story.

    He also questioned openly whether or not Democrats were working with Carroll. So there's this idea that the president's trying to say that some of these attacks or some of these allegations, rather, are politically motivated.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, we know there have been allegations of sexual misconduct against the president in the past. How has he dealt with those?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The president has consistently said he has never sexually assaulted any woman.

    That said, there are at least 18 women who have said that they have been sexually assaulted by the president. Those allegations go everything — are from president groping them, to the president kissing them without their consent, to the president also attempting to rape them.

    Now Carroll is very clear. She doesn't want to use the word rape. She says that that word is not a word that she wants to embrace. It makes her feel like a victim. She says it's essentially that they got into a fight. That said, she says that what the president did to her would be a legal definition of rape.

    The other thing that's important to note is that, even though this all is being said, the president so far politically has not been hurt by these allegations.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And what about that? I mean, is there any evidence that support for the president — that his supporters are affected by this?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    As of now, the president's supporters and the Republican Party as a whole has really, really stuck with the president through these allegations.

    I want to now play just a little bit of sound from Carroll talking about why she didn't come forward with these allegations in 2016.

  • E. Jean Carroll:

    Shocking as it sounds, I thought it would help him. And shocking as it sounds, I was correct.

  • Question:

    Why do you think it would help him, the women coming forward with allegations of profane…

  • E. Jean Carroll:

    Because it is a masculine, powerful, leader-like thing to do to take what you want, to have as many women for your own pleasure as you can take.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Now, what we just heard there was Carroll basically saying that she thought that this would help the president, make him look more masculine.

    I talked to a conservative source today who said there are some people who see these allegations as the president being a playboy, as him being popular with women.

    One source actually told me — and I want to read this quote — "The president doesn't drink. He doesn't smoke. So what do we think he did?"

    So there are people who are really just writing this off as the president having boys-will-be-boy kind of behavior.

    That said, there are also people who think that, because there are so many allegations against the president, the public has essentially become numb to this, and he's benefited from people just not talking about these allegations specifically.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What about — Yamiche, you mentioned conservatives.

    What about the conservative community? How have they reacted? And how are Democrats reacting?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    How you view these sexual assault allegations against President Trump really goes to whether or not you're Republican or Democrat.

    If you're a Republican in this country, most people are seeing these as politically motivated. They believe the president when he says that he has not done anything to these women that would be sexual abuse or sexual assault or any sort of sexual misconduct.

    Republicans, there's a camp of people who are disturbed by these allegations, I'm told, but those people still aren't sure whether or not these women are credible.

    On the Democratic side, there have been activists and Democrats really making noise and criticizing the president over this. But, just today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked about these allegations. And she said, I don't see Congress' role in playing with these allegations and dealing with these allegations. I'm much more focused on policy and immediate needs.

    She said — quote — "I haven't spent any time on that. I don't know what Congress' role would be in this."

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Yamiche, you were telling me, in reporting on this, striking that the — that none of this has affected the support for the president.

    But you did pick up a sense of what the people around the president believe may be harming him politically. What types of allegations have they been worried about?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Both in my conversations with White House aides and anecdotally, when I have spoken to supporters, the one issue that President Trump seems to be worried about or threatened politically by is the mistreatment of immigrant children on the border and family separation.

    So there are people who say, the president, as he talks about these issues, people are really worried about whether or not children in the care of U.S. custody could be hurt.

    I want to show a really disturbing image that came out this week. Caution to all our viewers, it is very disturbing.

    But this shows of — this is a picture of a father and a daughter who drowned in the Rio Grande — in the Rio Grande trying to come here. Their names are Oscar Alberto Martinez and 23-month-old Angie Valeria.

    And what they were trying to do was come to the United States. They were trying to seek asylum, but they couldn't go through the official port of entry.

    Now, the president has usually called people criminal for doing that. But he said this week, this president — this father was likely a wonderful guy.

    And he's been — essentially been ready to talk about the fact that there is mistreatment on the border, that there are conditions that are not appropriate for children.

    So, we have seen the president soften his tone in the face of looking at that picture.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, finally, just quickly, Yamiche, in connection with that, today, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in talking to the White House, to Republicans about border funding, something the House ended up agreeing with the Senate on, the White House agreed to something the Democrats were asking for.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The White House has agreed to tell lawmakers within 24 hours if a child, an immigrant child dies in U.S. custody on the southern border.

    That's really important, because several children have died, and lawmakers said that they have not really been told enough about what's going on, on the southern border and those conditions that children are being held in.

    The White House is also going to essentially say, we're not going to hold these children for more than 90 days in these temporary facilities. These are the facilities where children have not been given toothbrushes, not been given soap, not been given regular baths.

    So that's another big deal that the White House has decided to say, will — we're happy to do that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    They — and significant, as you said, because children, immigrant children, involved.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yamiche Alcindor, thank you.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    thank you.

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