If you thought the Access Hollywood tape was the opening salvo in the story of Donald Trump's transgressions against women, think again. In All the President's Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator, journalists Barry Levine and Monique El-Faizy draw on over 100 interviews, many of them exclusive, to craft a detailed history of Trump's relationships with women, stretching back to his childhood and education as well as his rise through real estate, entertainment, and politics. What emerges from the authors' reporting is a portrait of a predator who hides behind wealth and institutional power to frequently harass and abuse women.
While the president has publicly faced allegations from two dozen women, this book reveals another 43 allegations of alleged inappropriate behavior, including 26 instances of unwanted sexual contact. In this exclusive excerpt from All the President's Women, Levine and El-Faizy investigate an alleged wave of unwanted touching that preceded his proposal to Melania Knauss, including a disturbing instance of groping at Mar-a-Lago. —Adrienne Westenfeld
In 1998, Sam Mendes packed the old Henry Miller Theater at Forty-Third Street and Broadway with round black cabaret chairs and tables dotted with red tasseled table lamps and installed banquettes and a bar, thus transforming it into the Kit Kat Club for the second Broadway revival ofCabaret, a musical about the rise of Nazis in 1930s Germany. “It’s rough, it’s dirty, it’s in your face,” Mendes said of the new Weimar-styled nightclub-cum-cabaret-cum-theater. Perhaps fittingly, it was there that Donald Trump, who would eventually have his own political rise, met an inscrutable twenty-eight-year-old brunette with steel-blue eyes who would be the star of the second revival of his role as married man.
The third Broadway staging of Cabaret was a huge hit and opened the door to Mendes’s career as a film director—and it seems Trump has had success his third time around as well. In Melania Knauss, he found his best match, a woman who seemed to combine first wife Ivana’s Eastern European love of a strongman with second wife Marla Maples’s homey attitude.
Donald Trump is a creature of habit, and the story of how he met the Slovenian model Knauss rings familiar. In 1998, when he had been separated from Maples for about a year, he went to the Kit Kat Club for a party for a Victoria’s Secret model with Norwegian heiress Celina Midelfart, who was in her mid-twenties and living in Trump Tower while studying at New York University, as his date. According to Trump’s account, he was meant to be introduced to another model that night, but Melania caught his eye. “I went crazy,” he told Larry King during an interview the CNN host conducted with newlyweds Donald and Melania in 2005. “There was this great supermodel sitting next to Melania. I was supposed to meet this supermodel. They said, ‘Look, there’s so and so.’ I said, “Forget about her. Who is the one on the left?’ And it was Melania.” Melania was twenty-eight at the time and had been invited to the party by her friend and agent, Paolo Zampolli. When Midelfart absented herself to use the restroom, Trump seized the opportunity to hit on Melania.
After chatting her up, Trump asked Melania for her number, but she refused to give it to him, asking for his instead. She was impressed when he gave her all his numbers—the office, Mar-a-Lago, all of it, she later told Harper’s Bazaar. Their courtship began with a few dinners together in New York. It didn’t take more than a month before she was boarding his private jet to fly to Mar-a-Lago.
Of course, Melania wasn’t the only woman in Trump’s life during his separation from Marla. Trump was also seeing two well-known models, Maureen Gallagher and Kara Young. Gallagher, who has never publicly acknowledged her romance with Trump before being interviewed for this book, dated Trump in the late 1990s, after he had already started seeing Young. Gallagher said she found the titan genuine—and genuinely interested in her as a person. “We had really great conversations, we talked about all kinds of stuff—mostly about sports and dreams and hopes and where we’re going with this whole thing,” she said. “He wanted to push me. He always wanted to push me to do better.” According to Gallagher, she and Trump would have dinner in the private dining room at Mar-a-Lago, and sometimes she would go down on her own and stay in his daughter Ivanka’s room. “I could always use the spa,” she said. And when she decided to move to Miami, he took care of that for her, flying her bike and everything she needed down to Palm Beach and then trucking it down to Ocean Drive in Miami for her.
Gallagher had other men in her life, too, and wasn’t looking to settle down with Trump, so was unable to give him the kind of affirmation he seemed to need. “He said to me, ‘You love me, don’t you? You’re in love with me?’ And I was like, He’s a megalomaniac. I didn’t know what to say. I was like, ‘I like fucking you.’ I was like, ‘I don’t spend enough time with you to be in love with you.’ I told him straight up... I’m having fun.”
Trump’s relationship with Young was something different. She was the one Trump really fell for. He saw Gallagher behind the scenes. He took Young out in public. And it was Young who had Trump’s credit card. “I knew everyone in SoHo. They were like, ‘She was just here with his card,’” Gallagher said.
Trump’s feelings for Young had been so real that he had asked her to marry him before they had even been together a year, celebrity reporter A.J. Benza revealed in an interview for this book. Young, whose son from her first marriage was still an infant at the time, turned Trump down. “I do know he wouldn’t take no for an answer for a while,” said Benza, who had also dated Young. “And he made numerous attempts.”
Of all the women Trump dated after Maples, it was Young whom Melania viewed as the biggest threat. “She knew Donald thought differently about [Young] than the way he casually would date other women in the city,” Benza said. “Melania knew he treated Kara differently. This was a girl he stayed home with, ate at home with and watched movies... It was very domesticated.”
Early on in her relationship with Trump, Melania learned the hard way that he was not completely finished with Young, a source close to Young told us. “Melania came home and saw [what was] not her makeup on a bathroom towel. She flipped out. A big fight ensued,” Young’s friend said. “They flew her back to Mar-a-Lago.” The source told us that Melania was allegedly suffering from a health issue and had gone down to Mar-a-Lago to recuperate. She eventually forgave Trump. Melania’s former roommate said they broke up over “trust issues” after he went “back to his old ways.”
They got back together a few months later, but Trump apparently hadn’t abandoned those old habits. In the period before he proposed to Melania, Trump engaged in a wave of allegedly unwanted touching. One of those incidents happened during a Mar-a-Lago New Year’s Eve party in the early 2000s. Karen Johnson spoke publicly about the events of that night for the first time in an interview with us.
Johnson said she was at Trump’s Palm Beach estate that night with her husband, who was suffering from multiple sclerosis, and another relative. The family visited the seaside club regularly; Johnson and her husband had even held their wedding reception there a few years earlier. Trump, whom she didn’t know before her wedding, had “chased some of my bridesmaids around,” said Johnson, but he had been “nice” to her.
At the New Year’s Eve party, Johnson, wearing a black Versace dress, danced with her friends. Shortly after glittering balloons fell from the ceiling at the stroke of midnight, her husband said he wasn’t feeling well and the relative was ready to go. Johnson decided to make a quick trip to the restroom before they headed home. “I hadn’t seen [Trump] that whole entire night,” said Johnson, who was in her late thirties at the time. “I was just walking to the bathroom. I was grabbed and pulled behind a tapestry, and it was him. And I’m a tall girl and I had six-inch heels on, and I still remember looking up at him. And he’s strong, and he just kissed me,” she recounted to us. “I was so scared because of who he was... I don’t even know where it came from. I didn’t have a say in the matter.”
Johnson said Trump then grabbed her hand and said, “You have to help me greet these guests out,” explaining that Melania was upstairs. “So I stood next to him while he greeted some guests out the door,” Johnson said. She didn’t let on that anything was amiss because she didn’t want to create an awkward situation. “I was afraid to say what had happened,” she said. “I didn’t even know how it happened.”
Documentation and photographs corroborate Johnson’s general description of the evening. A friend also said Johnson told him about the encounter years before Trump ran for office.
In the days after the incident, Trump began pursuing Johnson. “He started calling me. I answered my phone and he said, ‘Do you know who this is?’ And I knew his voice. And I was wondering how he got my phone number,” she said. He called her regularly for the next week or two, she told us, offering to fly her up to New York to visit him. Johnson told Trump she couldn’t because she was taking care of her dying husband. “Don’t worry about it, he’ll never know you were gone,” she said Trump told her. “He said he’d have me back by six o’clock. This was like crazy. He was going to fly me to New York for the day to see him. I said, ‘No, no, no.’” But Trump persisted. When he was in Florida, he called and said he would send a car to bring her to Mar-a-Lago. “I kept saying, ‘No, no, no,’” she said. “I was scared. I didn’t know what to do.”
In time, Johnson said, the calls stopped. She never went back to Mar-a-Lago. She eventually told the relative who was with her at the New Year’s Eve party what had happened, but she never told her dying husband. Years later, Johnson was shocked to hear Trump describing on the Access Hollywood tape exactly what he had done to her. “When he says that thing, ‘Grab them in the pussy,’ that hits me hard because when he grabbed me and pulled me into the tapestry, that’s where he grabbed me—he grabbed me there in my front and pulled me in,” she told us.
Trump has repeatedly denied all of the accusations against him that have previously been made public. He has said the sexual misconduct allegations against him are made up and politically motivated. He has accused women who have made accusations against him of seeking fame. He has said the allegations don’t make sense—he never would have been in a nightclub alone, for example, or that an accuser is not physically attractive enough to warrant his attention. “Look at her. I don’t think so,” he said of one at a 2016 rally in Florida. “Believe me, she would not be my first choice,” he said of another at a North Carolina rally that same year. But what hurts accusers even more than Trump’s verbal assaults is being treated as though they are worthless.
Like other women who say they were sexually assaulted by Trump, Johnson hesitated to tell anyone about her experience. “I feared that because I had been a dancer many years before they would say to me, ‘Well, you must have asked for it,’” she told us. “What he did was very traumatizing to me,” Johnson added. “And it still is. You know, I didn’t ask for that. I was literally just walking through a room... no matter what my past is I don’t deserve to be treated that way.” Despite her fears about not being believed, she is clear that she didn’t bring the assault on herself. “This is about a monster, an immature child running around who has no respect for anybody but himself and his giant ego,” she said.
As one of the oldest of his accusers, Jessica Leeds, who alleged during the 2016 presidential campaign that Trump had groped her on an airplane decades earlier, has some perspective. “I spout off about a lot of these men [who are accused of sexual impropriety], and a lot of them are wealthy, powerful, or consider themselves important. They work for major companies. For them it’s like scratching an itch. It doesn’t mean anything. But the psychological damage they can do to the person they are inflicting aggression on is profound.”
From the book ALL THE PRESIDENT'S WOMEN: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator by Barry Levine and Monique El-Faizy. Copyright © 2019 by Scoop King Press, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Hachette Books, New York, NY. All rights reserved.
You Might Also Like