Wednesday, 22 November 2017

USA President Trump deserves presumption of innocence on sexual harassment/abuse charges against him which he has flatly denied

Famous personalities in the USA have resigned from or been removed from their positions after sexual harassment allegations. What about USA President Trump? This is a question that some readers may have.

I felt it appropriate to publicly share my views on this sensitive matter and so this public post. I think there are views going around that the USA judicial system is influenced by powerful people to NOT investigate such cases. From what I have read and viewed about this matter, it seems to me that that is an unfair view of the USA judicial system as far as these allegations are concerned. As a lover and supporter of democracy and a fair judicial system in India and the USA, I felt this post may help to reinforce faith in USA democracy and judicial system in some readers who may have come under the aforementioned impressions.

First I would like to say that I am publicly neutral in USA politics. So I am not a supporter and neither a critic of President Trump. I respect the most powerful position in the world which is President of USA, that he currently holds, and so do view words and actions of his as USA president through a respectful lens. That does not mean that I do not publicly criticize some of his actions as USA president that I feel strongly about as negative - I have done that in the past and will continue to do so (for stuff that I see as strongly negative). An example of it was his very scary threatening language used from the UN General Assembly podium, in the past against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (Trump said he will totally destroy North Korea) that was unprecedented for a USA president in my adult lifetime (as far as I know).

Coming to the sexual abuse/harassment allegations against Trump, I think the key factor here is that Trump has publicly said that all those allegations are lies! USA Senator Franken got confronted with that pictorial evidence. He had no choice but to acknowledge it. Like Trump had no choice but to acknowledge the Access Hollywood tape once it was broadcast on USA TV, where he said atrocious things but did not commit any crimes as per USA law as they were just words ("locker-room talk" is how Trump described it).

I think Trump has to be given the presumption of innocence in this matter. USA politics (like Indian politics) can become incredibly nasty with false allegations being made to bring down a top political office candidate. Sexual assault like rape charges are criminal charges though non-consensual groping may not be criminal at least in some jurisdictions in the USA. In Trump's case I think the lawyer associated with some accuser(s) used the term sexual assault at least in some cases which makes it a very serious matter and which I think needs to be decided by a court of law when the accused completely denies the accusations, which is what Trump has done.

I don't know how and why USA media houses decided to drop famous figures (e.g. Bill O'Reilly with, if I recall correctly, O'Reilly denying a lot of those accusations) from their network, simply on the basis of unproven allegations. In O'Reilly's case I think Fox made a deal with him where he got a lot of money in exchange for being removed from Fox. That would have taken care of any legal challenge threat from O'Reilly for Fox's actions of removing him, I guess. I don't know the business situ for Harvey Weinstein case and so cannot comment on it.

I would like to add that by no means am I not supportive of the women accusers who have shown extraordinary courage to openly make their sexual harassment charges against very powerful and aggressive then-candidate Trump. I had put up this public blog post in Oct. 2016: Attorney Lisa Bloom fully supports Jill Harth, Trump sexual misconduct accuser, wrt Trump lawsuit threat, http://ravisiyermisc.blogspot.in/2016/10/attorney-lisa-bloom-fully-supports-jill.html, as my small effort to help Jill Harth and her attorney Lisa Bloom in their quest for justice. I also put up the same/similar contents in a Facebook post here: https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/1808971899319379 dated Oct 2016.

The videos having the accounts related by some of these accusers show that their accounts seem credible (including the Roy Moore USA Alabama Senate candidate matter in the news currently). So I have great sympathy and empathy for them. But then when Trump (and Roy Moore) deny the sexual assault allegations, it is clear that there is a dispute here about what really happened. And that is where the court of law is the best place to try to arrive at the truth of what happened. And we have to give the accused who deny the allegations like Trump and Moore, the presumption of innocence, in my considered view.
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Why does Donald Trump not face charges in court of law for sexual abuse/harassment on the allegations levelled against him?

I find that the USA has very courageous attorneys who are willing to help such victims of alleged Donald Trump sex harassment/abuse to file charges (for more, see my public post: http://ravisiyermisc.blogspot.in/2016/10/attorney-lisa-bloom-fully-supports-jill.html, dated Oct. 2016). Lisa Bloom is one such attorney. It seems to me that these accusers do not have evidence that can help the case to be viewed seriously in a USA court of law. And then there is the statute of limitations in various states of the USA on sexual assault cases (two to three years for adult cases in many states) which may be preventing these charges from being accepted by courts of law at least in some states of the USA (for more see: http://injury.findlaw.com/torts-and-personal-injuries/sexual-assault-civil-statutes-of-limitations-by-state.html). These may be the main reasons why such old sexual abuse/harassment/assault charges do not cause legal challenges to be made against the accused.

But the victims can tell their accounts of such old (and statute of limitations expired perhaps) cases of sexual abuse/harassment to the public so long as they are confident that they can face any defamation suit that might be brought against them. Donald Trump had threatened to bring defamation suits against his accusers after the elections, which was welcomed by attorney Lisa Bloom as that may have given them some legal options to question him on the matter in court. But Trump did not file the defamation suits, as yet in end Nov. 2017, over a year after the election.

Besides courts of law, political bodies seem to have some rules under which they can dismiss elected political representatives (like USA senators) for inappropriate sexual behaviour after conducting their inquiries. I think this is what is being talked about as one of the actions the USA Senate may take if candidate Roy Moore of Alabama is elected as a USA senator, as there are some unproven allegations of sexual harassment (including that of a minor) against him. The allegations against Roy Moore have been made now but the alleged incidents go back some decades!

I don't know much about the impeachment of a USA President by USA Congress to comment on whether such sexual abuse/harassment charges can be viewed as grounds for impeachment. Of course, such impeachment efforts would need, at its final stage, two-third of the Senate to vote in favour of it. As of now, that possibility is extremely remote as most Republican senators back President Trump. For more see https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/5/12/15615066/impeachment-trump-process-history.

Impeachment is more of a political thing and not so much a right and wrong thing. Even if some Republican congressmen and women, and some senators are openly critical of Trump, perhaps not one of them who is seeking re-election will want to even say the word 'impeachment' in this context publicly. I mean, many of the Republicans in Congress would want to avoid attracting the anger of the Trump base. Whatever criticism one may level against Trump, I think the fact is that he still has a solid base of support in the USA.
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I had said that sexual assault charges are criminal charges. But I think sexual assault is typically rape or that kind of sexual act. The accusations we are talking about here is more of non-consensual groping, which the wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groping#United_States says, is illegal. But it seems to be criminal only in some places in the USA.
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