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Trump campaign hit by new allegations of sexual assault

The Associated Press

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump kisses a “Women for Trump” sign in Lakeland, Fla., on Wednesday.

The Associated PressPUEBLO, Colo. (AP) — Several women levied allegations of sexual assault against Donald Trump on Wednesday in a series of interviews, adding to the already damaging revelations about the Republican presidential nominee’s aggressive sexual comments about women.

Trump’s campaign dismissed the allegations as having no merit or veracity, and it attacked one of the media outlets that published the women’s accounts as acting on a vendetta. In a letter from his attorneys, Trump demanded The New York Times retract what it called a “libelous article” and apologize.

“For The New York Times to launch a completely false, coordinated character assassination against Mr. Trump on a topic like this is dangerous,” Jason Miller, Trump’s campaign spokesman, said in a separate statement. “To reach back decades in an attempt to smear Mr. Trump trivializes sexual assault, and it sets a new low for where the media is willing to go in its efforts to determine this election.”

A story published in The Times said Jessica Leeds, 74, of New York, told the newspaper she encountered Trump on an airline flight three decades ago. Leeds said Trump grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt. “He was like an octopus,” she told the newspaper. “His hands were everywhere.”

Rachel Crooks, of Ohio, said she met Trump at Trump Tower in 2005. Age 22 at the time, Crooks said Trump kissed her “directly on the mouth” against her will.

Trump denied the accusations, telling the Times, “None of this ever took place.” The letter from his lawyers said unless the paper removed the article from its website and ceased further publication, it would pursue “all available actions and remedies.”

Separately on Wednesday, The Palm Beach Post in Florida reported that Mindy McGillivray, 36, told the newspaper that Trump groped her at his Mar-a-Lago estate 13 years ago. People magazine reporter Natasha Stoynoff also posted a story about a 2005 incident at Mar-a-Lago where, she wrote, Trump “was pushing me against the wall, and forcing his tongue down my throat.” The Trump campaign said there was no “merit or veracity” to either story.

Hillary Clinton’s communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, said in a statement the latest run of allegations “sadly fits everything we know about the way Donald Trump has treated women.”

The interviews come just days after the publication of a recording from 2005, on which Trump made a series of vulgar and sexually predatory comments about women. While waiting to make a cameo appearance on a soap opera, he bragged to then-“Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush that his fame allowed him to force himself on women.

“And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump said, adding later: “Grab them by the p----. You can do anything.”

Trump has apologized for the comments on the recording, but also dismissed them as “locker room talk” and a distraction from the campaign. Asked during Sunday’s presidential debate whether he ever engaged in the sort of conduct he described in 2005, he said: “No. I do not.”

The reports about Trump’s conduct came at the end of a day during which an increasingly confident Clinton made only brief reference to her opponent’s treatment of women — she noted his dismissal of the conversation as “locker room talk” — and did not address the new allegations.

Trying to float above the fray, she warned voters in Colorado and Nevada not to be turned off by the “pure negativity” coming from her opponent.

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