Donald Trump‘s lawyer threatens reporter over ex-wife’s allegations: ‘You cannot rape your spouse’
Campaign spokesman and attorney responds to resurfaced assertions of Ivana Trump ‘rape’ with vulgar tirade that political watcher says could undermine lead
Ben Jacobs in Washington
Tuesday 28 July 2015 07.32 BST
A lawyer and spokesman for current Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump issued a series of vulgar threats to a reporter on Monday, while falsely claiming that it was legal for a husband to rape his wife in New York.
Michael Cohen, special counsel for the Trump Organization, threatened Canadian-American reporter Tim Mak of the Daily Beast with untold legal consequences in response to an article that resurfaced allegations that Trump had raped his then-wife Ivana.
The statements from the real-estate tycoon’s long-time attorney may, campaign watchers said, prove to undermine a campaign that officially began with Trump’s incendiary remarks about migrants from Mexico whom he called “rapists” and has survived a series of increasingly controversial remarks over the following six weeks.
The Daily Beast story repeated details of a deposition relayed by a Trump biographer, who described the mogul as forcing himself on his then-wife as revenge for her encouraging him to undergo a painful and unsuccessful scalp reduction surgery in the late 1980s.
The 1993 book, by author Harry Hurt III, includes a statement from Ivana Trump stating that she referred to the sexual encounter in question “as a ‘rape’, but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense”. Donald Trump has long insisted that the assertion of assault was “false”.
But Cohen, Trump’s lawyer and a spokesman who has helped control his candidate’s message in maintaining the Republican poll lead over more experienced politicians, went much further than that. According to the Daily Beast, he issued a series of vulgar quotes when questioned by its reporter.
“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 told the website. “So I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. You understand me?”
The attorney then went on to issue direct threats regarding the resurfaced assertions: “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.”
“[Y]ou’re going to have judgments against you, so much money, you’ll never know how to get out from underneath it,” Cohen told the Daily Beast.
But the lawyer’s most specious claim in the vociferous interview arrived in a false assertion about the law: “You’re talking about the front-runner for the GOP, presidential candidate, as well as private individual who never raped anybody. And, of course, understand that by the very definition, you can’t rape your spouse,” he said.
“It is true,” Cohen told the Daily Beast. “You cannot rape your spouse. And there’s very clear case law.”
Marital rape was made illegal in all US states in 1993. It was made illegal in New York state in 1984, five years before the alleged incident. Donald and Ivana Trump settled their divorce in 1992.
Despite Trump’s penchant for controversial comments – including disparaging the heroism of Arizona senator John McCain during the Vietnam war, which led to widespread condemnation within his party – Trump has maintained a substantial lead in national polls for the Republican presidential nomination.
Rick Wilson, a prominent Republican consultant, said the lawyer’s comments – just the latest party line from a man described as “Trump’s pit bull” – represented a campaign that was parroting his hyperbole.
“The Trump circus is largely comprised of hangers-on with a key skill set: kissing Donald Trump’s ass,” Wilson told the Guardian. “Oddly, the same skill set doesn’t extend into other domains like politics, common sense or judgment.”
Cohen, Ivana Trump and the Trump campaign did not respond to request for comment from the Guardian.
In an interview on Fox News that aired after the Daily Beast report surfaced, Trump continued to talk about undocumented migrants and how current president Barack Obama was “the worst”.
“Congratulations on your good poll numbers,” Fox personality Sean Hannity said.