“What was she, like, the 28th or something?” one former White House official pondered to me. In a separate conversation, another offered a different guess: “Twenty-two? Twenty-three?”
They were talking about E. Jean Carroll, the longtime Elle advice columnist who, for the first time last week, publicly accused Donald Trump of assaulting her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room more than 20 years ago. And what they were trying to do was locate the latest number of women who have accused the president of sexual misconduct. (The answer: at least 22.)
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For these former officials, the apparently incalculable magnitude of this number did not cause them to reconsider Trump’s every denial of the varied allegations—to wonder, for example, about the likelihood that 22 or 23 or 28 women were all lying in their stories of harassment, groping, unwanted kissing, and, in Carroll’s case, sexual assault.
Rather, for them, the increase in the number of women seemed to mirror the increase in their indifference. Another accusation, they seemed to say, was like another dollop of numbing cream. “I didn’t read it,” the second former official told me, referring to Carroll’s written account in New York, which was an excerpt from her forthcoming book. “We’re just kind of numb to it all at this point.”….
The only instance in which the current and former officials I spoke to suggested wrongdoing on Trump’s part was when several of them noted his response to Carroll’s story. The first former White House official said Trump’s brush-off was emblematic of his ability to elide whatever controversy comes his way. “In a lot of ways, he lives up to the name Teflon Don. I can’t think of one thing that can seriously hurt him at this point,” the person said. “Everyone has thrown everything at him, and nothing has really stuck.”