Several women accusing President Donald Trump of sexual misconduct have come together to publicly reaffirm their stories and call on Congress to hold him accountable.
Samantha Holvey, a former Miss USA contestant, said that while women unsuccessfully came forward in 2016, the national climate has changed in the wake of allegations against disgraced media mogul Harvey Weinstein — and, subsequently, many others — and the resurgence of the powerful #MeToo movement.
"Let's try round two," she said after a news conference. "The environment's different, let's try again."
On CNN, Holvey recalled times in 2006 when Trump would walk backstage while the women were getting dressed.
She also told about an incident during a Trump Towers media tour before the 2006 Miss USA pageant.
"He lined all 51 of us up, and I thought it was going to be, 'Hi, how are you, nice to meet you,' that type of kind of meet and greet thing. It was not. It was him going down and one by one, looking us over, like we were pieces of meat, and he was trying to decide which piece of meat he wanted," Holvey said on CNN.
Holvey recalled that on finals night he went backstage while the women were getting ready and dressed in nothing but robes.
"He comes walking backstage, and I'm so startled, like, 'What are you doing back here?'" Holvey said.
"And then I saw him walk into the dressing room, just like he has bragged about on Howard Stern."
Holvey is referring to comments Trump made on "The Howard Stern Show" in 2005.
"I'll go backstage before a show, and everyone's getting dressed and ready and everything else, and you know, no men are anywhere, and I'm allowed to go in because I'm the owner of the pageant, and therefore I'm inspecting it," he said at the time.
Trump owned the Miss Universe Organization from 2002 until 2015, in a joint venture with NBC Universal. In 2015 NBC chose to cut ties with the then presidential candidate following his disparaging remarks about Mexican immigrants. Trump bought NBC's remaining shares of the Miss Universe Organization and sold the entire venture to WME/IMG just two years ago.
During this decade-and-a-half span that Trump owned the organization, not only did he face zero consequences for his predatory behavior — he was being paid a lot of money in the process. CNN Money reported in 2015: "Trump's financial disclosure forms indicated that the joint venture was worth between $5 million and $25 million. The pageant organization generated $3.4 million in income for him in 2014."
In contrast, while Trump received a paycheck and the Oval Office despite his sexual misconduct, Rep. Trent Franks, Rep. John Conyers and Sen. Al Franken have all stepped down in light of accusations against them. In his announcement Franken noted the fact that the most powerful man to be accused remains untouched.
"I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party," he said, also making a nod at Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who stands accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls while in his 30s. The Republican National Committee is once again providing financial aid to his campaign after Trump announced his support for the accused predator.
Despite Trump's admission on "The Howard Stern Show" and the accounts of his victims, the White House denied the claims by Holvey and others, saying in part in a statement, "The timing and absurdity of these false claims speaks volumes."
But Trump has spoken for himself, Holvey pointed out.
"He brags about this," she said on CNN. "It's not that I'm accusing him. I'm simply verifying what he himself has said."
"It's just so disgusting that he brags about it and people are coming at me saying, 'You're lying, you're lying.'"
In total, 15 women have publicly accused Trump of actions ranging from sexual harassment to sexual assault, according to media reports.
More than a dozen women have accused Trump of making unwanted sexual advances against them.
Jessica Leeds appeared with Holvey on NBC's "Megyn Kelly Today" on Monday morning and also recalled her encounter with Trump. She said Trump groped her and tried to go up her skirt while they were on a plane.
A third woman, Rachel Crooks, said Trump forcefully kissed her on the mouth in 2005 while she was working as a receptionist for Bayrock Group.
At a press conference the three women called for a congressional probe into the allegations.
"In an objective setting, without question, a person with this record would have entered the graveyard of political aspirations, never to return," Crooks said. "Yet here we are with that man as president."
"In some areas of our society, people are being held accountable for unwanted behavior. But we are not holding our president accountable for what he is and who he is," Leeds said.
Multiple senators have called for President Donald Trump to step down in light of the accusations against him. Knowing that the odds of this are slim to none, several — including Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Ron Wyden, as well as Rep. Lois Frankel — have urged for a congressional probe into the allegations.
On Tuesday Trump took a swing at Gillibrand on Twitter.
"Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office "begging" for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!"
In response Gillibrand tweeted:
"You cannot silence me or the millions of women who have gotten off the sidelines to speak out about the unfitness and shame you have brought to the Oval Office."
The accusations against Trump follow a pattern, though. According to the Associated Press, he invoked the Fifth Amendment 97 times during a divorce deposition: "In 1990, during his divorce from first wife Ivana, Trump invoked the Fifth Amendment nearly 100 times, mostly 'in response to questions about 'other women,'' according Wayne Barrett's biography 'Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth.'"
This follows Trump's previous statements that invoking the right to silence equates to guilt. He directed this bit of advice to fellow accused sexual predator Bill Cosby.
"I am no fan of Bill Cosby but never-the-less some free advice - if you are innocent, do not remain silent. You look guilty as hell!"