WASHINGTON: Donald Trump spent his week furiously denying allegations of lewd behavior, as multiple women came forward accusing the Republican presidential nominee of sexual assault and unwanted sexual advances.
The billionaire real estate developer’s candidacy has spiraled downward since last Sunday, when he said during a televised debate with opponent Hillary Clinton that he had not done the things he bragged about in a 2005 “hot mic” video — like grabbing women by their genitals without their consent.
Observers suggest it may have been Trump’s denial that motivated the women to come forward.
The scandal has plunged the US presidential campaign into unprecedented levels of vulgarity, and prompted high-profile members of the Republican establishment to turn their backs on Trump.
The turbulence within Trump’s political family has opened what appears to be a wide path to the White House for Clinton, who now holds a comfortable lead in opinion polls.
Stepping off the campaign trail for now — partly to prepare for the final debate with Trump on Wednesday — she has left her rival to struggle on his own with an increasingly chaotic campaign.
With 24 days left before the November 8 election, here is a summary of key events in the past week:
Trump’s campaign suffered a jolting setback Wednesday when The New York Times quoted two women who said the businessman had groped and kissed them without consent.
The explosive allegations included claims from a former traveling businesswoman who said Trump grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt as they sat next to each other on a flight in the early 1980s.
A former aspiring model told the Washington Post in an article Friday that in the early 1990s, Trump sidled up to her in a New York nightclub, put his hand under her skirt and touched her vagina through her underwear.
Several women have accused the billionaire since Wednesday of sexual assault, aggression or harassment.
The Republican candidate has pushed back vehemently against all the allegations, calling them “false smears” and attacking the news media for slandering or libeling him as part of what he says is an orchestrated attempt to keep him out of the White House.
Series of defections
Dozens of Republican officials have distanced themselves from Trump — or have withdrawn their endorsements — in the wake of his comments about women. Even his running mate Mike Pence declared himself “outraged.”
The party machine seemed to abandon all hope of regaining the White House, turning its focus to an all-out effort to preserve its majorities in both houses of Congress.
Paul Ryan, the House majority leader, said Monday he would no longer defend or campaign with his party’s presidential candidate.
“It is hard to do well when Paul Ryan and others give zero support!” Trump tweeted in response.
Major Republican donors have urged the party’s national committee to drop Trump, The New York Times reported Thursday. Some said the scandal surrounding the billionaire threatens the party with lasting damage unless it repudiates him.
The Obamas against Trump
First Lady Michelle Obama cast off her usual reserve on Thursday to lash out at what she said were “intolerable” remarks by the Republican candidate.
“This is disgraceful, it is intolerable, and it doesn’t matter what party you belong to,” she said in an unusually impassioned speech in New Hampshire.
“No woman deserves to be treated this way — none of us deserves this kind of abuse.”
And on Friday, President Barack Obama told a rally in Cleveland, Ohio that “democracy itself is on the ballot.”
The American president had delivered another powerful speech against Trump on Tuesday. On Friday he trashed the Republican candidate in scathing terms during the rally for his former secretary of state, mocking Trump for suggesting — even before the election — that “it’s rigged and it’s a fraud.”
New trove from WikiLeaks
Meanwhile, a massive new set of documents released since October 7 by the WikiLeaks site has provided fresh embarrassments for the Clinton camp, which has accused Moscow of interfering in the campaign.
While the trove contained no sensational revelations, it cast a harsh light on some of the Democratic candidate’s shifting positions.
Extracts from her speeches to New York bankers, for example, describe a Clinton who dreams of a common market in the Western Hemisphere with “open trade and open borders,” and who believes the financial industry should basically be able to regulate itself — in contrast to her official positions.
Clinton’s lead grows
Still, boosted by Trump’s latest woes, Clinton increased her lead to 6.7 percentage points in the latest average of national polls conducted by Real Clear Politics.
Running out the clock
Confident in her advantage, Clinton is cutting back on campaign events, and has none planned for the next several days.
Her next public appearance may not be until Wednesday, when she meets Trump in Las Vegas for their third and final presidential debate.