Democrats put harassment allegations against Trump on back burner

House Democrats are not taking steps to investigate sexual misconduct allegations against President TrumpDonald John TrumpButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation MORE, after calling for a probe while they were in the minority.

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsMaloney primary challenger calls on her to return, donate previous campaign donations from Trump Second person heard call suggesting Trump cared more about 'investigations' than Ukraine: AP Brindisi, Lamb recommended for Armed Services, Transportation Committees 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 CohenImpeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Boeing CEO gives up bonus over 737 Max crashes Democrat says he voted to recognize Armenian genocide because 'Turkey doesn't seem to respect' US 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 KavanaughKavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation Protesters roll out a screen playing Blasey Ford's testimony ahead of Federalist Society dinner Kavanaugh to deliver major speech to conservative Federalist Society 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 GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Conway spars with Wallace on whether White House will cooperate with impeachment inquiry after formal vote Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' 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 SpeierDemocrats seize on new evidence in first public impeachment hearing Live coverage: House holds first public impeachment hearing Brindisi, Lamb recommended for Armed Services, Transportation Committees 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 FrankelCharlize Theron: We didn't want the politics to overshadow 'Bombshell' Democrats introduce 'THUG Act' to block funding for G-7 at Trump resort Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Impeachment inquiry overshadows Trump at UN | Veterans push VA to follow through on reforms | Iranian leader open to changes in nuke deal 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 BidenButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California 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 ClarkThe Hill's Morning Report - Fallout from day one of Trump impeachment hearing 'Squad' members recruit Raskin to run for Oversight gavel House passes third bill aimed at preventing foreign election interference MORE (Mass.), the Democratic Caucus vice chairwoman, introduced a bill with Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenators press FDA tobacco chief on status of vaping ban Retirement bill blocked in Senate amid fight over amendments Senate Democrats call on White House to abandon plan to collect DNA from migrants 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.