#MeToo, the press and due process

President Donald J. Trump’s sad soliloquy for departing White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter and Trump’s plaintive plea for Due Process for men is both confused and hypocritical.

First, due process is a primarily a legal term, although it is sometimes is used in a broader sense outside the law as a synonym for fairness. Still, victims of sexual assault don’t owe due process – legal or societal – to their abusers.

Second, due process is the fundamental fairness the government owes its citizens. Private individuals don’t owe due process to wrongdoers. The Civil Rights Movement didn’t owe George Wallace any kind of due process.

Third, if anyone owes due process to Porter – who resigned last week after his ex-wives’ abuse allegations became public – it is his employer. That’s Trump himself.

Fourth, Porter received so much due process in the form of FBI investigations and special White House indulgences that he was able to stay in his job viewing top secret papers for months after the White House knew he was accused of beating his two former wives.

And finally, it is apparent Trump pleads for due process for the accused male predators because he is a man credibly accused of being a predator by more than a dozen women. In his pathetic monologue about Porter’s resignation, Trump paints Porter as the victim – just as he sees himself as the victim of the women who say he assaulted them in the crude manner he confessed to on the Access Hollywood tape.

Even as he calls for more due process for men he is trying to deny one of his accusers her due process by claiming the president is above the law in New York state and should not have to answer her claims. In other words, due process for men but not for the president’s female accuser.

Trump’s comment on Porter made no mention of the actual victims, his first wife, Colbie Holderness, whose photo with a black eye was published nationally, or of his second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, who obtained an order of protection against Porter.

“…we certainly wish him (Porter) well.” said Trump. “It’s a, obviously, tough time for him. He did a very good job when he was in the White House. And we hope he has a wonderful career, and hopefully he will have a great career ahead of him. But it was very sad when we heard about it. And, certainly, he’s also very sad. Now he also — as you probably know, he says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent. So you’ll have to talk to him about that. But we absolutely wish him well. Did a very good job while he was at the White House.”

Trump followed that monologue with is tweet obviously aimed at the #MeToo movement: “There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”

Due process is an important legal phrase in the Fifth and 14th Amendments protecting people from the government by ensuring life, liberty and property can’t be taken away without due process of law. It is one of the most powerful phrases in the Constitution and the foundation of individual privacy and human dignity, including the right to control one’s body and marry the person of one’s choice.

That’s probably not the kind of legal due process Trump is referring to. He’s talking about the due process guaranteeing procedural fairness. The phrase is almost self-defining in that it means the legal process that is due under the circumstances. In other words fundamental fairness.

A victim of sexual harassment or assault doesn’t owe the perpetrator due process, although the alleged perpetrator gets legal due process if he is prosecuted for rape or sued for assault. Larry Nassar got plenty of due process at his sentencing hearing for abusing hundreds of young female athletes.

Also, men who lose their jobs or suffer damage to their reputations have the right to sue for wrongful discharge or defamation, with all of the attendant legal process.

Few of the accused men have sought that kind of due process, probably because they don’t have a case. Historically, most of the abusers have been only too happy to settle lawsuits against them without the due process of trial, agreeing to pay off women who agree to the silence of confidentiality agreements.

Due process doesn’t directly apply to the media, but the press adheres to a duty of fairness requiring journalists to check out allegations and to give alleged abusers the chance to respond. The press also has a journalistic obligation to put allegations in context, from the horror of Nassar’s abuse of 265 young victims, to Harvey Weinstein’s dozens of assaults, to the serious but lesser allegations against former Sen. Al Franken and former public radio host Garrison Keillor.

The press was dragged into a dirty little off-the-record session that gave Porter an extra dollop of due process. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders arranged an off-the-record session for Porter to defend himself to the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey, Axios’ Jonathan Swan and the Wall Street Journal’s Michael Bender.

During this session he claimed Holderness was lying about how she got the black eye. He admitted he had called Willoughby a “fucking bitch,” apparently on their honeymoon. It’s hard to fault the reporters for agreeing to hear Porter’s defense, although it’s a dirty business and he should not be able to call Holderness a liar without putting his name behind it. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/13/rob-porter-ex-wife-black-eye-blamed-fall-meeting-reporters-407277

Altogether, Porter got far more process – legal and societal – than he was due or the White House should have afforded.

Porter’s ex-wives had told the FBI about his abuse early last year and the FBI gave the White House its report last summer. It took publication in the press and finally the picture of the black eye to force Porter from his job even as he mouthed his hard-to-believe protestations of innocence. As a result of the excess of due process, Porter was viewing the nation’s most important secrets for months after he was in a position to be blackmailed.

The other extraordinary thing about Trump’s plea for due process is he makes it at the same time his lawyers are arguing in New York that former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos should not be able to sue Trump in state court while he is president. Zervos claimed before the 2016 election that Trump kissed and groped her and pressed his genitals against her in a Beverly Hills hotel in 2007. Trump called her and all his other accusers liars. Zervos thought that deserved the due process of a defamation suit, even if he is president.

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