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A History of Sex and Abuse in the Trump Administration

From Ivana and Marla to Pussygate and Porter, a timeline of domestic abuse and sexual misconduct allegations against Trump and his inner circle

Sex, Abuse, and the Price of Silence: A Trump White House Timeline

Evan Vucci/AP

There seems to be a pattern among powerful men in and around the White House. This month, the scandal surrounding Rob Porter – who rose within the Trump administration despite credible allegations he’d abused his ex-wives – unfolded alongside reports that allies of the president paid to silence women involved in Trump’s alleged sexual indiscretions. But the history of Trump and his inner circle mistreating women goes way back – and the responses to a long list of accusers have been unsettlingly consistent. In Trump’s world, domestic abuse accusations are not disqualifying; alleged abusers are praised as “good” men; and scandals involving sex, abuse or infidelity are routinely hushed up with gag orders or cash payouts. Below is a timeline of sex, lies, and abuse allegations surrounding Trump and his White House.

Early 1980s
Seated next to Jessica Leeds on an airline, Donald Trump allegedly put up the armrest and began to grope her breasts, attempting reach up her skirt. “It was an assault,” Leeds later told the New York Times. “He was like an octopus…. His hands were everywhere.” (Trump has denied the “preposterous, ludicrous” claims, insisting they “defy truth, common sense and logic.”)

1986
According to a court complaint, Andrew Puzder “assaulted and battered” his wife Lisa Henning leading to “severe and permanent injuries” including “two ruptured discs and two bulging discs.” (Puzder has denied the abuse. The ex-wife, now Lisa Fierstein, said she now regrets bringing the claim. “Andy and I have since forgiven one another for the hurt we caused each other,” she wrote recently.)

1988
Lisa Henning sues Puzder for $350,000 in damages over the 1986 incident, accusing Puzder of “striking her violently about the face, chest, back, shoulders and neck, without provocation or cause.”

1989
Divorce documents cited in the book, Lost Tycoon, describe how an enraged Trump pulled out clumps of his wife Ivana’s hair, and then had sex with her in a way that made Ivana feel “violated.” “During a deposition given by me in connection with my matrimonial case, I stated that my husband had raped me,” Ivana Trump would later write. “I referred to this as a ‘rape,’ but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.” (In 2015, Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen denied rape had occurred, arguing “you can’t rape your spouse“; Cohen later apologized for his “inarticulate comment.”)

1990
Ivana granted divorce from Trump, reportedly on grounds of “cruel and inhuman” treatment, that according to Ivana’s lawyers also included verbal abuse and humiliation. The settlement included a gag order: Ivana reportedly cannot speak about her marriage to Trump, except with his permission.

1990
Henning detailed her alleged abuse at the hands of Puzder in an episode of Oprah. Her husband, she alleged, “vowed revenge” for her speaking out, telling her: “I will see you in the gutter. This will never be over. You will pay for this.”

Early 1990s
Trump allegedly groped Kristin Anderson at a night club; she says he put his hand up her skirt. “He did touch my vagina through my underwear, absolutely,” she told the Washington Post. (Hope Hicks, as a spokesperson for the Trump campaign dismissed the account: “Mr. Trump strongly denies this phony allegation by someone looking to get some free publicity.”)

1993
Trump married to Marla Maples.

1996
The then-wife of Steve Bannon called 911 after a physical altercation that reportedly left her with red marks on neck and wrist. Bannon pleaded not guilty; misdemeanor charges of domestic violence and battery were later dropped when his wife did not appear in court. (A Bannon spokesperson told Politico: “The bottom line is he has a great relationship with… the ex-wife.”)

Late 1990’s
Trump arrived at son Donald Jr.’s dorm room at Penn to attend a baseball game. Allegedly angry that his son was wearing a Yankee’s jersey, not a suit, the older Donald Trump “slapped him across the face, knocking him to the floor in front of all of his classmates,” according to a witness. (A spokesperson for the Trump family has called this account “completely false.”)

1997
Trump allegedly walked into the dressing room of his Teen Miss USA contest, telling half-naked contestants as young as 15 year olds, “Don’t worry, ladies, I’ve seen it all before,” according to BuzzFeed. (Trump did not respond to this allegation.)

1999
Maples and Trump divorced. As Trump flirted with a presidential run, Maples told a London paper, “I will not be silent. I will feel it is my duty as an American citizen to tell the people what he is really like…. His drug is attention.” Trump responded that Maples signed a “confidentiality agreement” that means she is “not allowed to talk.” Trump and his lawyer threatened to withhold $1.5 million in alimony: “Why am I paying money'” Trump asked, “to somebody that’s violated an agreement?”

2000
Maples sells a tell-all memoir to be titled “All That Glitters Is Not Gold,” promising “juicy details” of the ”the pain of loving” Trump. “For anyone who has ever wanted to marry a millionaire,” the catalog copy read, “Marla shatters the allure of that dream with poignancy and brutal honesty.”

2002
Maples memoir cancelled. ”She signed a confidentiality agreement,” Trump would tell the New York Times.

2003
Rob Porter married Colbie Holderness. Holderness now claims violence began on their Canary Islands honeymoon, being kicked in the thigh by Porter. (Porter called this and other “outrageous allegations” of abuse “simply false,” contending the “vile claims” were part of “a coordinated smear campaign.”)

2005
Trump married to Melania Knauss.

Porter allegedly punched Holderness in the face while on vacation in Florence, Italy: “Up until then, he had always done it in a way that didn’t leave marks,” Holderness recently told reporters for The Intercept. “He threw me down on the bed and punched me in the face.”

Trump bragged to Howard Stern that he often peeped on the contestants of his beauty pageants. “I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it,” Trump said. “They’re standing there with no clothes… these incredible looking women… I sort of get away with things like that.”

Trump caught on tape for a filming of Access Hollywood bragging he forced himself on women: “And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” he said. “You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

In Trump Tower, Trump allegedly began kissing Rachel Crooks, a young receptionist who worked in the building, on the mouth after she introduced herself to him by an elevator. “It was so inappropriate,” Crooks said. “I was so upset that he thought I was so insignificant that he could do that.” (Trump tweeted a denial: “Never happened! Who would do this in a public space with live security cameras running. Another False Accusation.”)

Natasha Stoynoff, a People magazine reporter, traveled to Mar-a-Lago on assignment to write about the Trump’s first year of marriage. Stoynoff later wrote that Trump forced himself on her during her a tour of the property, after taking her to a private room: “Trump shut the door behind us. I turned around, and within seconds he was pushing me against the wall and forcing his tongue down my throat,” she wrote. (A Trump spokesperson told People: “This never happened. There is no merit or veracity to this fabricated story.”)

2006
March
Melania gave birth to Barron.

June
Trump allegedly began 9-month affair with Playboy playmate Karen McDougal. (A White House spokesperson later insisted the affair is “fake news” adding that Trump “says he never had a relationship with McDougal.”)

July
Trump allegedly had sex with Stormy Daniels, aka Stephanie Clifford, after suggesting he could get her on The Apprentice. The alleged rendezvous was at a golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, where Trump had allegedly also flown McDougal for sex, according to the New Yorker. Daniels described Trump’s seduction to In Touch. “He was sitting on the bed and he was like, ‘Come here.’ And I was like, ‘Ugh, here we go.'” (The White House denied the affair.)

2007
During a business meeting at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Trump allegedly kissed, groped the breasts of, and thrust his genitals at Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice.” (Trump dismissed the claim as, “Lies. Lies. No witnesses. No nothing. All big lies.” Zervos sued Trump for defamation.)

2008
Holderness and Porter divorced.

2009
Porter married to Jennie Willoughby. Called her a “fucking bitch” on their honeymoon, according to Willoughby, writing on her website.

2010
February/March

Willoughby separated from Porter.

June 19
Willoughby obtained a court order against Porter: “I filed a protective order with the police because he punched in the glass on our front door while I was locked inside,” she wrote. Nonetheless, the marriage continued: “In my home, the abuse was insidious. The threats were personal. The terror was real. And yet I stayed,” she wrote.

2013
Willoughby divorced Porter.

2014
Porter appointed chief of staff for Sen. Orrin Hatch.

2016
March
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery after grabbing, bruising Michelle Fields, a Breitbart reporter. Assault charges later dropped.

June
After Lewandowski was dismissed as campaign manager, Trump allegedly told Hope Hicks, who had been dating Lewandowski, not to worry about him. “You’ve already done enough for him,” Trump said to Hicks, according to the author Michael Wolff. “You’re the best piece of tail he’ll ever have.”

July
Trump defended confidant Roger Ailes after the executive was ousted from Fox News over sexual harassment claims: “I can tell you that some of the women that are complaining, I know how much he’s helped them,” Trump said. “And now, all of a sudden, they’re saying these horrible things about him… It’s very sad because he’s a very good person. I’ve always found him to be just a very, very good person… So I feel very badly.”

August
The National Enquirer, owned by Trump friend and political ally David Pecker, reportedly paid $150,000 for playmate McDougal’s exclusive account of her alleged affair with Trump, then did not publish the story – a practice known in the industry as “catch and kill.”

Steve Bannon named CEO of Trump campaign.

Roger Ailes tapped as debate coach for Trump.

October
Trump’s vulgar Access Hollywood tape leaked.

Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen paid Stormy Daniels/Stephanie Clifford $130,000, reportedly for her silence. “The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone,” Cohen would tell the New York Times.

December
An unidentified third woman who claimed to be dating Porter reportedly reached out to Willoughby and Holderness, seeking advice on how to end the painful relationship. “I work in politics, and despite Rob’s repeated abuse, some of which I think many know about, he continues to rise and I’m afraid to go against him,” read one message to Holderness.

Andrew Puzder nominated to be Trump labor secretary.

2017
January
Porter tapped as White House staff secretary. White House counsel Don McGahn reportedly warned by Porter that his ex-wives could make derogatory accusations. Porter given interim security clearance.

FBI interviewed Holderness and Willoughby, who detailed abuse.

White House political strategist Bannon appointed to the National Security Council, a post typically limited to generals.

February
Puzder withdrawn as labor secretary nominee after abuse allegation surfaces.

March
FBI submitted partial investigation on Porter to White House, reportedly flagging concerns over his security clearance.

April
Willoughby blogged about alleged abuse by Porter.

Bannon removed from National Security Council.

Trump defended Bill O’Reilly after reports the Fox News host paid millions to settle sexual harassment claims. “He’s a good person,” Trump told the New York Times. “I think he shouldn’t have settled… I know Bill. Bill’s a good person…. I don’t think Bill would do anything wrong.”

O’Reilly fired by Fox News.

May
Lewandowski visited White House. He reportedly spoke with Trump about starting a crisis-management communications shop for the administration.

July
FBI completed background investigation into Porter, submitted it to White House. FBI would soon embark on “follow-up inquiry.”

August
Bannon ousted from White House.

September
FBI contacted Willoughby asking for access to her 2010 restraining order. McGahn reportedly learned that domestic violence allegations were holding up Porter’s security clearance.

October
Jessica Corbett, ex-wife of White House speechwriter and Steven Miller aide David Sorensen, alleged spousal abuse in an interview with the FBI. Corbett told the Washington Post that Sorensen had run over her foot with a car, snuffed out a cigarette on her hand, and hurt her and pulled her hair while aboard a boat off the coast of Maine, “an incident she said left her fearing for her life,” according to the Post. (Sorensen told the Post that he had “never committed violence of any kind against any woman in my entire life,” and countered that Corbett had abused him instead.)

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Staff Secretary Rob Porter follow President Donald Trump as he walks to board Marine One to head to Missouri to push the Republican tax plan, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017

November
FBI completed follow up investigation into Porter. Top White House staffers including Chief of Staff John Kelly and McGahn allegedly informed of problems with Porter’s obtaining a permanent security clearance.

Porter had allegedly begun dating White House communications director Hope Hicks. Porter’s recent ex-girlfriend reportedly called McGahn, detailing abuse accusations by Willoughby and Holderness.

Trump backed accused child molester Roy Moore for U.S. Senate, telling reporters, “He totally denies it. He said it didn’t happen. And you have to listen to him, also.”

December
Singer Joy Villa lodged a sexual assault complaint against Lewandowski, claiming he “slapped her on the butt hard, twice – even after she voiced an objection,” according to Politico. (Lewandowski did not respond to this allegation.)

2018
January
FBI background check of Porter officially closed.

Puzder considered anew for a post in the Trump administration, per Politico.

Porter helped craft Trump’s State of the Union.

February
1st
British tabloid the Daily Mail published scoop on Porter dating Hope Hicks, with photos of them kissing.

Early February
As Daily Mail dug in on Porter story, Hope Hicks reportedly helped craft the White House PR pushback.

6th
Daily Mail broke news of Porter’s alleged abuse of Willoughby. In the story, Gen. Kelly insisted: “Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor, and I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.”

Former boss Sen. Orrin Hatch decried the report as “a vile attack on such a decent man,” adding: “Shame on any publication that would print this – and shame on the politically motivated, morally bankrupt character assassins that would attempt to sully a man’s good name… The country needs more honest, principled people like Rob Porter, which is why I hope that this cynical campaign to discredit his character ultimately fails.” (Hatch later walked the statement back.)

7th
In the early morning East Coast time, Ryan Grimm, DC Bureau Chief for The Intercept tweeted photos of Porter ex-wife Holderness with black eye; Porter reportedly told colleagues the black eye was accidental, the result of struggling over a vase

Porter claimed he broke the glass of Willoughby’s door with overzealous tapping.

White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders gave reporters Porter’s denial: “These outrageous allegations are simply false.” Sanders further announced, “He is going to be leaving the White House. It won’t be immediate, but he is resigning from the White House,” adding: “That was a personal decision that Rob made – and one that he was not presented to do – but one that he made on his own.”

Late that night, Kelly issues a new statement in which he claimed to be “shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter.” He insisted: “There is no place for domestic violence in our society” but added, “I stand by my previous comments of the Rob Porter that I have come to know.”

8th
White House spokesperson Raj Shah insisted president Trump only “became fully aware of these allegations yesterday.” Shah said of Porter: “His background investigation was ongoing.” Contradicting Sanders, Shah added: “Rob Porter was terminated yesterday.”

9th
Contradicting Sanders, Kelly reportedly told colleagues he’d taken action just “40 minutes” after seeing the photos of Holderness’ black eye. “I got his resignation,” the chief of staff allegedly said. 

In the Oval Office, Trump praised Porter for doing “a very good job when he was in the White House,” and highlighted Porter’s claim of innocence: “Now he also, as you probably know, says he says he’s innocent and I think you have to remember that…. It’s obviously a very tough time for him,” Trump added. “We absolutely wish him well.”

Sorensen abruptly resigned over allegations of abusing his ex-wife.

10th
Trump tweeted: “Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”

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