It’s time to go into the Wayback Machine, all the way to July 27, 2015, when Brandy Zadrozny and Tim Mak of The Daily Beast wrote about Donald Trump raping his first wife. The piece appeared six weeks after Trump descended the Trump Tower escalator to formally announce his candidacy for the presidency of the United States of America and accused Mexican immigrants of being rapists.

Donald Trump introduced his presidential campaign to the world with a slur against Mexican immigrants, accusing them of being “rapists” and bringing crime into the country.

“I mean somebody’s doing it!… Who’s doing the raping?” Donald Trump said, when asked to defend his characterization.

It was an unfortunate turn of phrase for Trump—in more ways than one. Not only does the current frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination have a history of controversial remarks about sexual assault, but as it turns out, his ex-wife Ivana Trump once used “rape” to describe an incident between them in 1989. She later said she felt “violated” by the experience.

The Daily Beast is now a subscription-only outfit, but it reports Tuesday that Trump will sue the people responsible for making a film about him called “The Apprentice” which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival on Monday night. This is in part because the movie graphically depicts Trump’s alleged rape of Ivana. Here’s part of the Washington Post review by Jada Yuan:

In details that seem to be based on a 1990 divorce deposition from Ivana Trump, we see him go under the knife, in gory detail, to get liposuction and a scalp reduction surgery, as a solution to his growing love handles and bald spot.

And we watch when, as Ivana also alleged in that deposition, Trump pushes her to the floor of their home during an argument and rapes her. (Ivana’s testimony had brought the concept of marital rape into mainstream American conversation at the time, but she recanted her statements about it in 2015.)

Vanity Fair wrote about the surgery in June 2017:

In 1990, Ivana Trump said under oath that her husband flew into a fit of rage due to the pain and displeasure with a scalp reduction surgery, performed in 1989. Also known as alopecia reduction, the surgery is intended to correct balding, and involves cutting the bald spot out and sewing the remaining skin back together. The tightened scalp can cause headaches and swelling. The man who allegedly performed the surgery was Ivana’s own doctor, Dr. Steven Hoefflin. He’s most famous for extending his services to Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, and Joan Rivers, among other stars. Hoefflin also performed liposuction on the chin and waist of our now president, according to Ivana’s deposition. (She rescinded part of the deposition, which included rape allegations, in a 2015 statement).

Trump has always denied that he had the surgery at all, but there’s clearly something fucked up about his scalp. The story was told in Harry Hunt III’s 1993 book Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump.

After a painful scalp reduction surgery to remove a bald spot, Donald Trump confronted his then-wife, who had previously used the same plastic surgeon.

“Your fucking doctor has ruined me!” Trump cried.

What followed was a “violent assault,” according to Lost Tycoon. Donald held back Ivana’s arms and began to pull out fistfuls of hair from her scalp, as if to mirror the pain he felt from his own operation. He tore off her clothes and unzipped his pants.

“Then he jams his penis inside her for the first time in more than sixteen months. Ivana is terrified… It is a violent assault,” Hurt writes. “According to versions she repeats to some of her closest confidantes, ‘he raped me.’”

Following the incident, Ivana ran upstairs, hid behind a locked door, and remained there “crying for the rest of night.” When she returned to the master bedroom in the morning, he was there.

“As she looks in horror at the ripped-out hair scattered all over the bed, he glares at her and asks with menacing casualness: ‘Does it hurt?’” Hurt writes.

When all of this came back up in July 2015, an interesting character rose to defend Trump against the allegations.

Michael Cohen, special counsel at The Trump Organization, defended his boss, saying, “You’re talking about the frontrunner for the GOP, presidential candidate, as well as a private individual who never raped anybody. 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.”

At the time, more focus was on Cohen’s incorrect notion that it’s legally impossible to rape your wife than on the implications of the allegation being true. But the form of Cohen’s argument was “the incident may have happened but you can’t call it rape and you can’t speak ill of the Republican frontrunner for president.”

Ivana also reiterated a denial she had first made in 1993 at the time The Last Tycoon was published. That first denial was interesting.

“During a deposition given by me in connection with my matrimonial case, I stated that my husband had raped me,” Ivana Trump said in a statement at the time, as the Daily Beast reported. “[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’s denial that spousal rape is possible landed with a thud and Trump disavowed his comments. Cohen then apologized.

“As an attorney, husband and father there are many injustices that offend me but nothing more than charges of rape or racism. They hit me at my core,” Cohen said. “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. In my moment of shock and anger, I made an inarticulate comment — which I do not believe — and which I apologize for entirely.”

Notice, the form of Cohen’s denial had changed. He was no longer arguing about the semantics of a brutal sexual encounter he implicitly admitted had taken place. Now he was saying reporting of the encounter was “reprehensible and false.” Either way, Cohen was demonstrating the typically fierce defense of  Trump he was known for at the time.

Ironically, Cohen finished testifying against Trump in the Stormy Daniels hush money case on the same day as The Apprentice movie debuted in France. Trump announced he would sue the filmmakers on Tuesday, the same day his defense rested and the trial began a week-long hiatus before closing arguments.

The moviemakers depict what looks like a rape, but they aren’t prosecutors or a jury. They don’t determine how the act is legally interpreted. What’s important is that even as Ivana disavowed the word “rape” that she used in a divorce deposition, she described an encounter in which Trump acted out of anger and without love or tenderness, and which left her feeling violated. She filed for divorce shortly thereafter after it became clear that Trump was having an affair with Marla Maples.

Trump denies he had liposuction or scalp-reducing surgery, so obviously he couldn’t have been angry about how the surgery had gone. He claims it was all fabricated by Ivana as part of her effort to win more money in the divorce settlement. It presages his defense in the Stormy Daniels trial. Rather than concede that he had sex with Daniels and just argue that he wasn’t responsible for false business records produced to cover up a hush money payment, he says that the whole thing is a hoax and a witch hunt conducted in a kangaroo court.

As for Cohen, he performed the same service in both cases. He denied the charges and attacked the press, suggesting it was all political. It eventually landed him in prison. Next week, we’ll find out if lands Trump gets convicted. Later on, we’ll find out if he’ll go to prison, too.

As for the movie, I expect a lot of Americans to see it. They can judge whether what he did to Ivana is something they find acceptable in a president. Or they can just take Trump’s word for it that it never happened.

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