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Democrats put harassment allegations against Trump on back burner

House Democrats are not taking steps to investigate sexual misconduct allegations against President TrumpDonald TrumpGiuliani used provisional ballot to vote in 2020 election, same method he disparaged in fighting to overturn results Trump gets lowest job approval rating in final days as president Fox News' DC managing editor Bill Sammon to retire MORE, after calling for a probe while they were in the minority.

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsHouse Democrats reintroduce bill to reduce lobbyist influence Trump voters and progressives have a lot in common — and Biden can unite them We must act on lowering cost of prescription drugs MORE (D-Md.) told The Hill that he hasn’t decided how or when to proceed with such a probe given all of the other investigations into the Trump administration his panel is handling.

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“It’s definitely something that I’m very interested in,” he said of the allegations.

But he added: “We’ve got so many priorities.”

Cummings said it’s not an issue that Democrats are dropping.

“Nobody is above the law,” he said. “And I think we have to look at it at some point. But I just don’t know when.”

Rep. Steve CohenStephen (Steve) Ira CohenHouse Judiciary Democrats ask Pence to invoke 25th Amendment to remove Trump Stopping the abuse of the pardon power De Blasio mum on whether he'll block sale of Mets to controversial investor MORE (D-Tenn.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, last year endorsed the idea of having the women who accused Trump of sexual misconduct testify before Congress. 

But this week, Cohen said other actions by Trump are higher priorities for oversight.

“Those are bad things,” Cohen said of the sexual misconduct allegations against Trump. “But he’s doing — he’s raping the Constitution.”

“That’s the main issue we’ve got to deal with, is what he’s doing to the Constitution and the rule of law and democracy. And while those are important issues, what he’s doing is just — it kind of pales. Where do you put your priorities?” Cohen said.

Three women who had accused Trump of sexual misconduct called for a congressional investigation in 2017.

Jessica Leeds, Rachel Crooks and Samantha Holvey said they’d still like to see lawmakers investigate the issue and that they’d be willing to testify.

“I would like to see Congress investigate the sexual misconduct allegations against President Trump,” Holvey said in an email, confirming she would “absolutely” testify about her allegations that Trump ogled her when she met him prior to the Miss USA pageant in 2006 and walked into a dressing room where she and other contestants were changing clothes.

Not all the women are optimistic that Democrats will conduct an investigation, however.

Leeds, who says Trump groped her on an airplane in the late 1970s, noted all the other probes Democrats are conducting of Trump.

“It’s probably low priority. I think his taxes and some of his other problems get the headlines more, but I’d like to see it,” she said in a phone interview. “You do have to pick your battles and I understand that.”

Crooks, who says Trump forcibly kissed her in an elevator at Trump Tower in 2005, said she’d be willing to testify, though she added that Christine Blasey Ford’s experience discussing her allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughHarris to resign from Senate seat on Monday Why we need Section 230 more than ever 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate MORE during his confirmation hearing last fall didn’t set an ideal precedent for people speaking out about alleged sexual misconduct.

“Of course I think it’s still something Congress should pursue, though I will say that after watching what Dr. Christine Blasey Ford went through, I would be fearful of the inevitable backlash from Trump supporters,” Crooks said in an email.

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More than a dozen women have accused Trump of inappropriate behavior ranging from sexual harassment to assault. As the “Me Too” movement began to take off in late 2017, Leeds, Crooks and Holvey held a press conference arranged by Brave New Films to call on Congress to investigate the allegations.

Trump has denied the allegations and said he doesn’t know the accusers.

House Democratic women held a press conference of their own the next day to endorse the idea and circulated a letter that gained signatures from more than half the caucus.

“The American people deserve a full inquiry into the truth of these allegations,” they wrote. “We cannot ignore the multitude of women who have come forward with accusations against Mr. Trump.”

Cummings also said at the time that “it is extremely hard for Republicans to argue that Congress should ignore these multiple allegations.”

Then-House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Trey GowdyTrey GowdyThe Hunter Biden problem won't go away Sunday shows preview: Joe Biden wins the 2020 election Sunday shows preview: Election integrity dominates as Nov. 3 nears MORE (R-S.C.) declined to pursue an investigation. But he acknowledged in a response to Democrats that the allegations would amount to crimes and referred them to the Justice Department.

House Democratic women who spoke to The Hill were cautious in talking about the subject.

“It occurred before his presidency,” Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierGlobal Gag Rule is just the tip of the iceberg: Why Repealing the Helms Amendment matters Democrats press to bar lawmakers from carrying guns in the Capitol The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress moves to avert shutdown as virus talks stall again MORE (Calif.), a Democratic Women’s Caucus co-chairwoman and Oversight and Reform Committee member, said of the allegations.

When Speier was reminded that this didn’t deter Democrats from calling for an investigation in 2017, she replied: “Well, there are many issues that have intervened to a level of corruption in the presidency that I think are more current.”

Speier didn’t entirely rule out pursuing the issue, saying it’s “conceivable” that members of the Democratic Women’s Caucus could push for action later on.

Fellow co-chairwoman Rep. Lois FrankelLois Jane FrankelHow Congress dismissed women's empowerment Frankel defeats Loomer in Florida House race Live updates: Democrats seek to extend House advantage MORE (Fla.), through a spokeswoman, said that the Democratic Women’s Caucus “defers to the Oversight Committee on next steps.”

The accusations have come back to light since Trump went after former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenWoman accused of trying to sell Pelosi laptop to Russians arrested Trump gets lowest job approval rating in final days as president Trump moves to lift coronavirus travel restrictions on Europe, Brazil MORE, a potential 2020 opponent, in recent days for facing accusations of touching women in ways they felt was inappropriate.

Cohen dismissed the notion that Democrats could face blowback from Republicans pointing to Democratic politicians accused of misconduct if they pursued an investigation into the allegations against Trump.

“I wouldn’t be worried about that. Trump and Harvey Weinstein are a class of their own,” Cohen said. Biden, he said, is “not even in the same ballpark.”

In the meantime, Democrats have been taking on the issue of sexual harassment in ways that don’t involve Trump. Multiple House committees, including Oversight, have been looking into sexual harassment allegations at the Forest Service.

“Wherever I find it, I want to deal with it,” Cummings said.

And on Tuesday, Rep. Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkSanders defends push to impeach Trump: Insurrection won't be tolerated Cuomo: 'I call on President Trump to resign' Ben Carson dismisses 25th Amendment talk: 'As a nation we need to heal' MORE (Mass.), the Democratic Caucus vice chairwoman, introduced a bill with Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayHawley pens op-ed to defend decision to object to electoral votes amid pushback Demolition at the Labor Department, too Hawley, Cruz face rising anger, possible censure MORE (D-Wash.) to expand protections against workplace harassment, including eliminating the tipped minimum wage in a nod to advocates who say those workers are more vulnerable.

Frankel also introduced bipartisan legislation last month that seeks to broaden protections against harassment and require that public companies disclose the number of workplace harassment settlements in their annual filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Leeds said her ultimate goal is to change societal attitudes about sexual misconduct, even if a congressional investigation into the allegations she and others made against Trump doesn’t ultimately come to fruition.

“My real hope is that the ‘Me Too’ movement continues gathering strength because I think this is really good and healthy. And if I had any part of getting that started, I’m very pleased,” Leeds said.