NEW YORK CITY — During Wednesday’s testimony in the civil trial of former President Donald Trump, author and journalist Natasha Stoynoff became the third woman to testify under oath that Trump sexually assaulted her years earlier.
Called as a witness by lawyers representing writer E. Jean Carrolll, who is suing Trump, Stoynoff took the witness stand at the Daniel Patrick Moynihan US Courthouse in Manhattan. She told the jury about an incident in 2005 during which, she said, Trump forcefully kissed her while she was interviewing him at his Mar-a-Lago estate for an article for People magazine.
Stoynoff testified that he had interviewed Trump several times over the phone and in person during for the magazine, and that he had never made physical advances. That changed, she told the jury, during her trip to Mar-a-Lago in December 2005, when Stoynoff was assigned to do a piece on Trump’s first marriage anniversary with his wife, Melania, who was then pregnant with the couple’s son, Barron .
Choking back tears, Stoynoff told the jury that he spent the day at Mar-a-Lago, conducting interviews with Trump and Melania while they were both being photographed outside by the pool. During a break, she said, Melania went upstairs to change clothes and Trump asked her to go inside because he wanted to show her “a really great room.”
She recounted how he led her into the room and heard him close the door behind them. By the time she turned around, she said, Trump was pushing her against the wall and was kissing her. She told the jury she pushed him away but he came toward her again.
Carroll attorney Michael Ferrara asked her if she screamed or said anything during the assault.
“I didn’t say words. I couldn’t. I tried. No words come out. I tried,” she responded.
The whole encounter lasted just a few minutes, Stoynoff tested, and was interrupted when a butler came into the room to tell them that Melania was ready for their joint interview.
Stoynoff said they went back out into the backyard and Trump said to her “you know we’re going to have an affair don’t you?” before Melania joined them and he began doting on her.
“I was so shocked, flustered. I couldn’t speak,” Stoynoff told the jury, adding that she went on “autopilot” in order to complete the interview.
“It wasn’t easy,” she said. “I had to get my work done.”
Afterward, Stoynoff said she told a close friend and a former journalism professor about her encounter with Trump. She also told her direct superior at work, who was also a close friend, but she didn’t tell anyone else higher up at the magazine for fear that they’d kill her story and Trump would retaliate, she was tested.
“I was ashamed and humiliated about what happened,” Stoynoff said.
Stoynoff, who is originally from Canada, said she is “not at all” politically active and has only voted in 3 US presidential elections since becoming an American citizen in her 30s. Her decision to speak publicly about the assault came about after Trump’s entry into the 2016 presidential race.
“I wanted to warn the American people,” she tested.
Just as Jessica Leeds, a second witness called by Carroll’s lawyers, testified a day earlier about an alleged sexual assault by Trump, the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape that Trump captured bragging about sexually assaulting other women also provided motivation for Stoynoff to come forward.
Through tears, Stoynoff testified that when he saw the tape, he thought, “Oh he does this to a lot of women… it’s not just me. It’s not something I did.”
Carroll’s lawyers sought to show the jury that Trump engaged in a pattern of behavior similar to the sexual assault they say their client suffered in the mid-1990s, when Carroll says Trump raped her in a changing room at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan following a chance encounter.
Trump has steadily denied the claims made by Carroll, Leeds and Stoynoff, but Carroll’s lawyers also introduced the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape to the jury during Stoynoff’s testimony.
“I’m automatically attracted to beautiful women — I just start kissing them, it’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” Trump was heard saying on the tape played to the jury, “Grab them by the pussy.”
At the conclusion of Stoynoff’s testimony, the jury heard more from Trump, though not in person. Carroll’s lawyers presented video-taped excerpts of the October deposition given by the former president. In the clip, Trump could be seen sitting hunched over a table, his arms crossed, speaking in a low tone and occasionally mumbling.
Carroll attorney Roberta Kaplan could be heard off screen questioning Trump about his relationships outside of his marriage to his first wife Ivana, including his affair with Marla Maples, which Trump denied that he had been public about, despite widespread media coverage.
Kaplan also asked Trump whether he shopped at Bergdorf Goodman at the time of the alleged assault on Carroll.
“It’s possible I was there, but I don’t know that I ever shopped there for myself,” he replied.
On Tuesday, the jury heard from a former Bergdorf Goodman employee who tested he had seen Trump in the women’s section of the store on two occasions.
While Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina told Judge Lewis Kaplan on Wednesday that the former president would not appear in court to seize the claims made against him in the case; a videotaped deposition did, at least, give Trump the chance to deny them.
“It’s the most ridiculous, disgusting story,” Trump said in the video. “It’s made up.”
Tacopina also relayed to the judge that the defense would not call any witnesses to back up Trump’s assertions of innocence.
Kaplan then informed the jury: “I think you can reasonably expect to get the case early next week.”