Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has distanced itself from Trump Organization special counsel Michael Cohen, who had asserted, “You can’t rape your spouse.” (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Donald Trump’s lawyer has apologized for his erroneous assertion about marital rape.
“In my moment of shock and anger, I made an inarticulate comment — which I do not believe — and which I apologize for entirely,” Michael Cohen, executive vice president and special counsel at The Trump Organization, said in a statement on Tuesday, a day after he responded to a reporter’s question about an old divorce deposition — in which Ivana Trump used the word “rape” to describe a 1989 incident with her then-husband — by saying, “You can’t rape your spouse.”
“You’re talking about the frontrunner for the GOP, presidential candidate, as well as a private individual who never raped anybody,” Cohen told the Daily Beast’s Tim Mak. “And, of course, understand that by the very definition, you can’t rape your spouse.”
“It is true,” Cohen added. “You cannot rape your spouse. And there’s very clear case law.”
Cohen, though, was clearly mistaken. In 1984, New York’s Court of Appeals struck down the state’s “marital rape exemption” law, becoming the 18th state to deny that “wives are property” and ruling that married men, and women, could be prosecuted for rape. It’s now the law in all 50 states.
“As an attorney, husband and father there are many injustices that offend me, but nothing more than charges of rape or racism,” Cohen said on Tuesday. “They hit me at my core. Rarely am I surprised by the press, but the gall of this particular reporter to make such a reprehensible and false allegation against Mr. Trump truly stunned me.”
Ivana and Donald Trump finalized their divorce in 1991. Ivana’s “rape” assertion was revealed in a 1993 book, “Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump.” After it was published, Donald Trump denied the allegation, and Ivana issued a statement saying her “rape” remark was taken out of context.
“During a deposition given by me in connection with my matrimonial case, I stated that my husband had raped me,” her statement read. “[O]n one occasion during 1989, Mr. Trump and I had marital relations in which he behaved very differently toward me than he had during our marriage. As a woman, I felt violated, as the love and tenderness, which he normally exhibited towards me, was absent. I referred to this as a ‘rape,’ but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.”
Cohen told the Daily Beast that Ivana was trying to say “she felt raped emotionally.”
According to Mak, Cohen threatened to sue the Daily Beast if it printed a story “that has Mr. Trump’s name in it with the word ‘rape’”:
“I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we’re in the courthouse. And I will take you for every penny you still don’t have. And I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know,” Cohen said. “So I’m warning you, tread very f—ing lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. You understand me?”
“You write a story that has Mr. Trump’s name in it, with the word ‘rape,’ and I’m going to mess your life up … for as long as you’re on this frickin’ planet … you’re going to have judgments against you, so much money, you’ll never know how to get out from underneath it,” he added.
The Trump campaign quickly distanced itself from Cohen, telling CNN, “Mr. Trump speaks for Mr. Trump and nobody but Mr. Trump speaks for him.”
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz called Cohen’s comments “a new low” for the GOP:
Rape is rape. Full stop. End of story. There is no difference or division between ‘forcible,’ ‘legitimate,’ ‘marital,’ or any other label Republicans slap on before the word ‘rape.’ All rape is a disgusting violation, and Americans have fought too long and hard for that to be acknowledged to still have it questioned in 2015. It’s a pattern of outrageous comments that must stop, and Republicans should call it what it is — despicable.
Ivana Trump also released a statement, saying the Daily Beast report is “totally without merit:”
I have recently read some comments attributed to me from nearly 30 years ago at a time of very high tension during my divorce from Donald. The story is totally without merit. Donald and I are the best of friends and together have raised three children that we love and are very proud of. I have nothing but fondness for Donald and wish him the best of luck on his campaign. Incidentally, I think he would make an incredible president.