Donald Trump faces multiple groping claims

Donald Trump is battling fresh allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour after four women accused him of groping them or making unwelcome advances, claims that come as the Republican presidential candidate continues a bare-knuckles fight with leaders of his party.

Mr Trump tweeted on Thursday that a New York Times story containing allegations from two women was a “total fabrication”. But he was also facing accusations in the Palm Beach Post and People magazine from women who claimed the former star of The Apprentice touched them inappropriately or tried to kiss them against their will.

In addition, CBS News released footage from 1992 in which Mr Trump says of a young girl visiting Trump Tower: “I am going to be dating her in 10 years. Can you believe it?”

The claims come five days after the release of an 11-year old video in which Mr Trump brags in vulgar language about groping women — and 27 days before the November 8 election.

Over the past two weeks Mr Trump has seen his support fall in the polls, although he has recovered a little from the 11-point deficit in an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that came out on Monday. According to an average of recent polls compiled by Real Clear Politics, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton leads her Republican rival by 5.5 points. 

A lawyer for Mr Trump sent a letter to the New York Times demanding that it retract its story, which he said was libellous and a “politically-motivated effort to defeat Mr Trump’s candidacy”.

The newspaper said Jessica Leeds, a retired businesswoman, had accused Mr Trump of grabbing her breasts and trying to put his hand up her skirt 30 years ago on a flight. Separately, Rachel Crooks, a receptionist, said he had kissed her on the mouth without permission after she greeted him in Trump Tower in Manhattan in 2005.

The Trump campaign also denied separate allegations from Natasha Stoynoff, a former People magazine reporter who wrote that he had tried to kiss her against her will while she was at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for an interview with him and his then pregnant wife Melania. 

“There is no merit or veracity to this fictional story,” said Hope Hicks, spokesperson for Mr Trump. “Why wasn’t this reported at the time? Mr Trump was the biggest star on television and surely this would have been a far bigger scoop for People magazine.”

The Palm Beach Post said Mindy McGillivray, 36, accused Mr Trump of groping her 13 years ago at Mar-a-Lago. Ms Hicks also denied that claim, saying there was “no truth” to it. Ms McGillivray told the newspaper she understood that her claims would be scrutinised because she had been arrested on felony charges twice in the past.

Mr Trump has also faced other allegations in recent days. Tasha Dixon, a former Miss Arizona who in 2001 competed in the Miss USA beauty pageant, which Mr Trump owned, told CBS that he sometimes entered the changing room where the contestants were naked without warning. In the 2005 video, Mr Trump said “I sort of get away with things like that” in describing similar situations.

Several of the women who made Wednesday’s allegations said they were outraged at Mr Trump’s comments during Sunday night’s debate with Hillary Clinton that the things he said in the 2005 video were just “locker room talk” and that he had never engaged in any of the lewd acts he had described.

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In the debate, Mr Trump also played down his words as “talk” while accusing Bill Clinton of engaging in inappropriate “action” with a number of women — charges that the former president has denied.

Jennifer Palmieri, head of communications for the Clinton campaign, said the “disturbing story sadly fits everything we know about the way Donald Trump has treated women”. She added that the reports about his alleged groping “suggest that he lied on the debate stage and that the disgusting behaviour he bragged about in the tape are more than just words”. 

The allegations swirling around Mr Trump have exposed the deep and expanding fissures in the Republican party, which is again grappling to come to terms with him as its nominee. Republican politicians are struggling to work out whether the best way to defend their majorities in the Senate and House, which have been put in jeopardy by the controversies, is to stick by or abandon the New York property developer.

As many as 160 Republicans, including former presidential nominee John McCain, have declared that they would not support Mr Trump in his bid for the presidency. However, some Republicans up for re-election in November have over past few days backtracked on rescinding their endorsements because of anger from Trump fans. 

The Republican infighting has distracted from revelations emerging from the leaked emails of John Podesta, Mrs Clinton’s campaign chairman. Over the past five days, WikiLeaks has released more than 6,000 of Mr Podesta’s hacked emails, with Julian Assange claiming that there are more than 43,000 emails still to be released.

Mr Trump urged supporters to read the emails, calling on Mrs Clinton to fire aides who made critical remarks about Catholic conservatives.

Among the emails are extracts from paid speeches Mrs Clinton gave between 2012 and 2014, which suggest that she was comfortable with the idea of the “revolving door” between banks and government, and that she thought the banking system shouldered too much blame for the global financial crisis.

The emails have fanned tension between the Clinton campaign and supporters of Bernie Sanders, her former rival for the Democratic nomination, who believe Mrs Clinton will not be as tough on Wall Street as she has claimed.

Several senior bankers suggested that the political climate had shifted so much in recent years that it would be hard to imagine Mrs Clinton adopting a softer policy towards Wall Street, given the new power of the Democratic party’s anti-bank faction, led by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. 

The excerpts are “awkward; obviously there was a reason she didn’t want to release those speeches,” said Cam Fine, head of the Community Bankers Association. “But as the party’s nominee, she’s obligated to adhere to the party’s platform, which is more representative of the Warren wing of the party than Clinton’s pure view a couple of years ago.”

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