Trump, Epstein and the silence of mainstream media
Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash
On April 26, 2016, Katie Johnson filed a lawsuit alleging that defendants Donald J. Trump and Jeffrey Epstein had savagely raped her, in 1994, when she was only 13 years old. In addition, the lawsuit alleges that she had been kept as a sex slave by Epstein and was brutally molested, raped, and beaten by both Epstein and Trump over a period of four months, spanning June-September of 1994. The following paragraphs describe the lawsuit?s career through the court system, the lawsuit?s dramatic withdrawal and the media coverage it received.
Katie Johnson?s civil suit alleges that she was enticed by promises of a modeling career to attend parties hosted by Jeffrey Epstein. Instead, she was made into Epstein?s sex slave and was trafficked to his friends, including Donald J. Trump. Johnson alleges that she had sexual contact with Trump on four different occasions, during this span, each time at the direction of Epstein.
On the first occasion, Johnson ?was forced to manually stimulate Defendant Trump with the use of her hand upon Defendant Trump?s erect penis until he reached sexual orgasm.? The second occasion, ?the Plaintiff, Katie Johnson, was forced to orally copulate Defendant Trump by placing her mouth upon Defendant Trump?s erect penis until he reached sexual orgasm.? The third time, ?Plaintiff Johnson was forced to engage in an unnatural lesbian sex act with her fellow minor and sex slave Maria Doe, age 12.? Then, ?both minors were forced to orally copulate Defendant Trump by placing their mouths simultaneously on his erect penis until he achieved sexual orgasm.?
Afterward, Trump allegedly, ?physically pushed both girls away, while berating them for their poor sexual performance.? It was alleged that in the final encounter Trump tied Johnson to a bed and savagely raped her, while she protested and pleaded for him to ?please wear a condom.? She further alleges that he then began ?violently striking her in the face with his open hand while screaming that ?he would do whatever he wanted.?
As Trump dressed, Johnson asked him what would happen if she got pregnant. The lawsuit alleges that ?Defendant Trump grabbed his wallet and threw some money at her and screamed that she should use the money ?to get a fucking abortion.? The deposition that contained these allegations was supported by a sworn statement by another minor at the time named Tiffany Doe.
Tiffany Doe had recruited Katie Johnson to attend Epstein?s underage sex parties, and she had witnessed all the acts alleged in Johnson?s pleading. Katie Johnson and Tiffany Doe were both threatened with the death of themselves and their families if they ever divulged what had happened.
Tiffany Doe, ?a former trusted employee of the Defendant? provided a sworn Declaration of support, as a material witness to all of Jane Doe?s allegations against both Trump and Epstein. According to the Declaration, Tiffany Doe had worked for Epstein for over a decade, ?as a party planner for his underage sex parties.? Additionally, it was her job to observe all the illegal sex acts that were done by Epstein?s guests, and thus to accumulate Kompromat for Epstein. She was also required to listen in on conversations for information that could enable Epstein to have those guests ?in his pocket.?
Tiffany Doe?s Declaration
Tiffany Doe was physically present at each of the four occasions of sexual abuse by Defendant Trump upon the person of Plaintiff Johnson, as it was her job to witness all of the sexual escapades of Defendant Epstein?s guests at these underage sex parties and later reveal all of the sordid details directly to Defendant Epstein.
Defendant Epstein also demanded that Tiffany Doe tell him personally everything she had overheard at these parties explaining to her that ?knowledge was king? in the financial world. As a result of these underage sex parties, Defendant Epstein was able to accumulate inside business knowledge that he otherwise would never have been privy to in order to amass his huge personal fortune.
In other words, trafficking in underage girls was central to Jeffrey Epstein?s business model, to which Donald J. Trump has been named as a willing participant.
The complaint further alleges three instances of sexual molestation and rape of Katie Johnson by Jeffrey Epstein. The first two times, Johnson was made to give Epstein a massage while he was completely naked, and she was wearing only a bra and panties. The complaint alleges that he forced her hand onto his erect penis, and then made her clean up the semen, after he had ejaculated. Trump had allegedly been present for this second massage/sexual assault, while he was receiving his own ?massage? from a different13-year-old Jane Doe.
After the massage/molestation, Epstein and Trump were overheard arguing about which of them would ?pop the cherry? of the 13-year-old Katie Johnson, with Trump saying it should be himself because Epstein was a ?Jew Bastard.? After the alleged rapes by Trump, Epstein assaulted Johnson anally and vaginally in retaliation for Trump having ?taken her virginity,? which Epstein said should have been his right.
Katie Johnson was warned more than once that she and her family would be killed if she ever revealed ?the depraved and perverted sexual and physical abuse she had been forced to endure as a sex slave of Defendant Trump and Defendant Epstein.? On June 20, 2016 Katie Johnson asked the Court for a protective order against Trump and Epstein.
Johnson?s request for a protective order alleges that since filing suit in California, she had received threatening phone calls. Johnson had been warned that if she ever said anything about what had happened, she would share the fate of Maria Doe, who had not been seen since the day of the third assault by Defendant Donald J. Trump, the day she had received that warning:
Indeed, Defendant Trump stated that I shouldn?t ever say anything if I didn?t want to disappear like Maria, a 12-year-old female that was forced to be involved in the third incident with Defendant Trump and that I had not seen since that third incident, and that he was capable of having my whole family killed.
Case Dismissed on a Technicality
Katie Johnson filed her California lawsuit in forma pauperis, declaring that she was unable to afford an attorney. Her Declaration stated that she earned $200?300/month as a freelance model and that she had never filed an income tax return because she had never earned enough money to require the payment of income tax. The case was allowed to proceed but it was dismissed on a technicality.
Johnson refiled her suit in the Southern District of New York, on June 20, 2016, with the help of Patent Attorney Thomas Meagher. The second lawsuit (filed in New York) differed from the first lawsuit (filed in California) only in the respect that it omitted the dialogue that was related to wearing a condom and the possible consequences of Johnson?s being impregnated by the rape.
In preparing her California lawsuit, Katie Johnson had received help from media impresario Al Taylor, which is credibly reported to be a pseudonym for Norm Lubow, a former producer on The Jerry Springer Show. The following account is derived from reporting by Anna Merlan in Jezebel, Brandy Zadrozny in The Daily Beast, Emily Sugarman in The Revelist and Jon Swaine in The Guardian. Swaine?s ?Rape Lawsuits Against Trump Linked to Former TV Producer? not only outs Al Taylor as Norm Lubow but it also undermines Taylor?s credibility by surveying a history of manipulative and misleading media initiatives, wherein Lubow sometimes hid his identity and which bear a persistent quality of lacking truthfulness. As Swaine writes in The Guardian:
Norm Lubow, a former producer on the Jerry Springer TV show, has previously been involved with disputed allegations that OJ Simpson bought illegal drugs on the day Simpson?s wife was murdered, and that Kurt Cobain?s widow had the Nirvana frontman killed.
Further into the article, Swain identifies ?Al Taylor? as a pseudonym for Norm Lubow:
A telephone number and an email address used by ?Taylor? have also been used by Lubow, according to three sources who have worked with them. A longtime associate of Lubow also told the Guardian that Lubow used the identity ?Al Taylor.?
Al Taylor?s background lends no credibility to a narrative that is already complicated. The plaintiff has never appeared in public, can only be identified by a handful of people, and has only been interviewed by two reporters, one of which was a phone interview.
Furthermore, many of Taylor?s quoted remarks are mean-spirited, bullying and misogynistic to the extent that they themselves represent the very rape culture against which Taylor?s cause was aligned. Nevertheless, as Johnson?s attorney Thomas Meagher told Swain, doubts about Al Taylor?s credibility should not be projected onto Katie Johnson.
Origins of Lawsuit
Al Taylor is reported to have met Katie Johnson at a party in the late Spring or early Summer of June 2014. Katie Johnson told The Revelists?s Emily Sugarman, in a conference call that included Meagher that a mutual friend had steered her toward Taylor as someone who had the resources to get her story heard:
[Taylor is] for lack of a better term, a good team player,? Johnson told me. ?If I need help with something, he?s there to help me. ? He knows a lot about a lot of different fields that just have been really helpful to this entire thing, and I couldn?t have done it without him. I wouldn?t have done it without him.?
In the same article, Sugarman reports a different perspective on that meeting, this one told by conservative mega-donor and anti-Trump activist Steve Baer:
?Al says he?s a friend of Katie?s,? Baer told me. ?He met her at a party that a friend held ? I think it was a Christmas or holiday party ? about two years ago.?
At that party, Baer recounted, Taylor asked Johnson conversationally whether she had any good celebrity gossip. Eventually, Johnson told him the story of her assault. At the time, Baer claims, Taylor didn?t want to touch the story. But when Trump?s campaign started picking up steam, he circled back around to Johnson.
?They concluded, I think on advice of friends of Al?s in media, that the way journalists would feel comfortable about writing about this story would be if it were attached to a lawyer and a plaintiff?s case,? Baer told me. ?Because that way Katie doesn?t have to be out front and at personal risk for her life and safety.?
The day after Sugarman?s interview with Baer, he sent her a letter that appeared to have been written by Johnson that same day to Speaker of the US House of Representatives Paul Ryan:
I am an independent person who wants only one thing,? the politically-charged letter says. ?I want to stop the evil, sick, pedophile pervert who raped me when I was only 13 from becoming president of this great country of ours.
Baer had gotten in touch with Taylor in early May 2016 by texting the phone number listed in the California lawsuit. May 20, Baer wired $13,000 to Al Taylor, $7,000 of which was earmarked to acquire an apartment for Katie Johnson, plus $6,000 to pay videographer Jonathan Launer to produce a video wherein Katie Johnson tells the story of her alleged rape by Epstein and Trump. Over the next several months, Taylor would become the foil that journalists and spokespersons pointed to, as Johnson?s story was discounted in the media. Johnson?s story, however, remained consistent: ?I just want to get justice,? she told The Revelist?s Emily Sugarman. ?I mean, these things happen to girls everywhere ? I just want people to know.?
Katie Johnson Video
Over the next few months, following Katie Johnson?s and Al Taylor?s initial meeting, discussions were held between Taylor, filmmaker Jonathann Launer, and Gawker Media reporter/tabloid producer Mike Smith. In February 2016 Launer made a video recording of Katie Johnson telling her story. She wore a wig, her face was pixillated, and her voice was altered. The following statement, attributed to Johathann Launer appears underneath the video on the website Justiceforkatie.com:
To whom it may concern,
My name is Jonathann Launer. I am an award winning filmmaker in Los Angeles. In February 2016, I was hired to film an interview with Katie Johnson, who apparently had some Donald Trump story to tell. I drove to San Diego, and met Ms. Johnson. She was there with Al Taylor. She began the story, and she accused Mr. Trump of rape, and was very detailed in her allegations.
Now just to be very clear, I have no personal agenda, no beef with Mr. Trump, and no political affiliations whatsoever. I was simply there as a hired gun to do what I do. Film. As the interview went on, she gave more and more graphic detail about the alleged rape. I could tell she was very upset and genuinely disturbed. She was shaking and had to compose herself several times during the interview.
I am not an expert in psychology, and don?t claim to diagnose her mental state, but I DO know acting when I see it. I do not believe she was acting. I believe she was telling the truth as she saw it. Now, I?m not accusing Mr. Trump of anything, as I was not there. But what I saw in Ms. Johnson?s interview was very convincing. I have no stake in this whatsoever, and have nothing to gain. I have no ownership in the footage. Like I said, I was just hired to do a job.
Gawker entered into a non-disclosure agreement with Al Taylor March 30, 2016. In April 2016, Katie Johnson filed her first lawsuit in California, alleging that she had been trafficked as an underage sex slave to Donald Trump, who she said had raped her.
The charges received little media attention. The lawsuit, which had been filed pro se without an attorney, was dismissed on a technicality the following May. The California lawsuit was reported in Radar Online, where it was vigorously denied by Trump:
?The allegations are not only categorically false, but disgusting at the highest level and clearly framed to solicit media attention or, perhaps, are simply politically motivated. There is absolutely no merit to these allegations. Period.?
There are difficulties in substantiating the accusations, difficulties that were pointed out by Dylan Howard?s story in Radar Online. Most of these difficulties revolve around Johnson?s anonymity, along with her desire not only to hide her true identity from the public but also to hide her whereabouts from those who would have already known her identity: Jeffrey Epstein and Donald Trump. The address listed on the lawsuit was a foreclosed home that had been abandoned for a year. Johnson?s only corroborating witness, at this time (Tiffany Doe), was also anonymous.
?Abusers Protect Abusers?
However, Radar went further, calling the allegations ?outrageous.? Howard writes, ?But in a twist to the looming scandal, questions are already being raised about the validity of the woman?s allegations.? This assertion was backed up by an anonymous ?political source? who was quoted as saying ?This is nothing short of a desperate plot to try and ruin Donald. It won?t work.? The article was written by Dylan Howard, who had himself faced allegations of sexual harassment, while working as an editor at Radar Online, in Los Angeles, according to the Associated Press.
Following those charges, Howard resigned but was rehired by parent company American Media Inc (AMI) the following year, to a higher position in the media giant?s NYC office. Reporting by the New York Times and The New Yorker later revealed that Howard, at the time of the Katie Johnson rape story, had been working as Harvey Weinstein?s ?fixer.? Howard used his position at AMI to undermine the credibility of sexual harassment charges against Weinstein and to keep stories about the media mogul?s misconduct under wraps. At the time, Howard was also representing AMI in a joint television venture with Weinstein. Howard, along with his boss David J. Pecker, have since been granted immunity for their cooperation in the Robert Muller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Friends of Pecker
Harvey Weinstein?s ?Complicity Machine? included David J. Pecker, owner of American Media Inc, which employed Dylan Howard as the chief content editor for Radar Online and The National Inquirer. Weinstein was known as an ?untouchable FOP? or Friend of Pecker?s, a status that he shared with Donald Trump. Howard was Weinstein?s go-to guy to ?catch and kill? potential stories about Weinstein?s sexual misconduct. It was Howard who sent a Coleman-Rayner entertainment reporter to collect dirt on Rose McGowan, after she had accused Weinstein of raping her at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival. Howard sent Weinstein an email that included a recording of a female media representative dishing dirt on McGowan. ?This is killer,? Weinstein replied, ?especially if my fingerprints are not on it.? When Johnson?s rape lawsuit raised allegations against Trump, Dylan Howard wrote the story, ensuring that it would be, in the words of Jezebel?s Anna Merlan, ?uncharaceristically skeptical.?
Catch and Kill
When Playboy model Karen McDougal prepared to go public with her alleged affair with Donald Trump, Pecker paid $150,000 to ?catch and kill? the story. The following is an excerpt from The Washington Post?s The Fix:
?When her people contacted me that she had a story on Trump, everybody was contacting her,? Pecker told New Yorker reporter Jeffrey Toobin. ?At the same time, she was launching her own beauty-and-fragrance line, and I said that I?d be very interested in having her in one of my magazines, now that she?s so famous. Once she?s part of the company, then on the outside she can?t be bashing Trump and American Media.? Toobin wrote that he ?pointed out that bashing Trump was not the same as bashing American Media,? the Enquirer?s parent company.?To me it is,? Pecker replied. ?The guy?s a personal friend of mine.?
It is no coincidence that the Katie Johnson rape case was first reported by Pecker?s right-hand-man Dylan Howard in Radar Online. This is where Trump?s and Weinstein?s complicity machines overlapped: they were both Untouchable FOP ? Friends of Pecker. After actor and NFL player Terry Crews went public on Good Morning America with his account of sexual harassment by William Morris agent Adrien Venit, Publishing Insider reports that Dylan Howard tried to intimidate Crews. Crews said that Howard threatened to retaliate with a false story in Radar Online that would accuse Crews of hiring prostitutes in Monte Carlo. Crews tweeted about the incident, ?ABUSERS PROTECT ABUSERS.?
Lawsuit Refiled in NY
Katie Johnson?s lawsuit was re-filed June 6, in the Southern District of New York, this time with the assistance of an attorney. Johnson and Taylor had placed an advertisement in Gossip Extra, and thus acquired the services of patent attorney Thomas Meagher. Meagher told Jezebel?s Anna Merlan:
I saw a woman who was effectively being denied representation because of who the defendants are and it didn?t bother me.
Meagher?s specialty was intellectual property, and he had never handled this type of case before. LawNewz quoted Trump attorney Alan Garten as saying ?I don?t know of any attorney ? in this country worthy of being admitted by any bar ? who would sign legal papers ? attesting to such outrageous facts.? LawNewz also reported Garten as threatening sanctions against Meagher. When asked by Anna Merlan if he had seen Garten?s threat, Meagher replied that he hadn?t, ?but that wouldn?t change my mind about proceeding with the suit.? Meagher might have been inexperienced at this type of litigation but he did offer something Katie Johnson needed: representation by a lawyer who was not intimidated by Donald Trump.
At the end of June 2016, The Huffington Post published an opinion piece by attorney Lisa Bloom, ?Why the New Child Rape Case Filed Against Donald Trump Should Not be Ignored.? At that time, the rape case had been covered by Radar Online, The Daily Beast, The Real Deal, the New York Daily News, LawNewz, Buzzfeed, Vice News, and Fusion. However, as Bloom wrote in the Huffington Post, ?The mainstream media ignored the filing.? Bloom argued that although Trump was entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, the charges were credible. In making her argument, Bloom placed the charges within the context of Trump?s ?current, long standing, and well-documented contempt for women,? having called them ??dogs?, ?slobs? and ?pigs.?? She reminded readers of two prior court claims of sexual assault against Trump, one by his ex-wife Ivana and another by business partner Jill Harth.
Katie Johnson?s allegations were placed within the context of a 1989 deposition by Ivana Trump, wherein Ivana alleged that the the future president had raped her, saying he had ripped out her hair and forcibly penetrated her. The hair-ripping was explained in other publications as retaliation, acted out in a fit of rage, after his own scalp treatment had gone badly. Years later, after a divorce settlement, Ivana Trump walked back the statement, saying that she had not meant the word rape in the ?literal or criminal sense.? Bloom asks sardonically, ?You didn?t mean forced penetration literally?? Bloom argued that Katie Johnson?s claims were consistent with her previous statements, and that the claims were also consistent with known and verified facts about Trump, Epstein and their overlapping lifestyles.
Bloom pointed out that sexual assault claims are rarely supported by a first-hand witness but Johnson?s lawsuit was accompanied by a powerful declaration from a first-hand witness, who had been in a position to describe with great clarity the alleged rape, along with the circumstances surrounding it. In addition, the final version of the lawsuit, filed Sept 30 in New York, contained a declaration by Joan Doe, a longtime friend of Katie Johnson?s, who swore that Johnson had told her contemporaneously about the rape and its details, thus corroborating her story. Bloom concluded her argument for broader and deeper news coverage of the rape case, including the major television networks with a question: What do you call a nation that refuses even to look at sexual assault claims against a man seeking to lead the free world? Rape culture.?
Voldemort of Lawsuits
The Nation?s Leslie Savan called it ?the Voldemort of lawsuits.? Referring to the television news, Savan described a Nexis search, assisted by Media Matters, that revealed only one television mention of the case, which had occurred on MSNBC?s The Last Word, with Lawrence O?Donnell. The case had been mentioned in a discussion about Trump and rape culture with playwright Eve Ensler of the Vagina Monologues.
The mainstream media had motives for self-censorship regarding the Katie Johnson rape lawsuit. Rolling Stone magazine had recently gone to trial over defamation lawsuits related to a discredited rape story. Gawker Media had recently been sued into bankruptcy by Charles Harder the same attorney that represented Melania Trump in her September 2016 defamation suit against The Daily Mail. In recent history, when faced with the choice of exposing or accommodating the fraudulent claims of wealthy and powerful people, the USA?s flagship news media have generally taken the path of accommodation.
?Grab ?em by the pussy?
In October of 2016, Republican nominee Donald J. Trump faced a raft of credible allegations of a range of sexual misconduct, up to and including sexual assault. Trump, himself, had bragged on a ?hot mic? incident that he ?didn?t even wait? before kissing the women, who were exposed to the future president?s alleged predations. He ?just moved in.? He ?grabbed ?em by the pussy.?
On November 4, 2016 Katie Johnson was in the offices of famed attorney Lisa Bloom, waiting for a scheduled afternoon news conference that would be attended by major television news channels. However, the press conference never took place, and Bloom announced its cancellation at five o?clock that same afternoon. Later, the lawsuit, which had been joined by Florida super-lawyer J. Cheney Mason, was also withdrawn.
Katie Johnson had finally arrived at the destination she had worked so hard for: excellent representation and a voice in the mainstream media but she backed out at the last minute. Many ? perhaps most ? of the details of what took place in the offices of Bloomfirm, between one p.m. when the press conference was announced and five p.m. when it was cancelled, is and will remain a mystery. However, one relevant fact about that situation became known a year later when The New Yorker broke the story of Harvey Weinstein?s serial sexual harassment and assault of women, along with the role of his network of corporate enablers. As that story was unfolding, it was revealed that in November of 2016 ? when Lisa Bloom was representing Katie Johnson in the media,? Bloom was also secretly working for Harvey Weinstein, who had promised to turn Bloom?s book about the Trayvon Martin case into a television mini-series.
Lisa Bloom Co-opted
Katie Johnson?s rape lawsuit, corroborated by two witnesses and promoted by a high-profile victims? attorney and bolstered by the addition of Chesney Mason onto her legal team, was potentially explosive. Lisa Bloom?s HuffingtonPost essay had presented Johnson?s case as meritrous, believable, and deserving of broader press attention. Approximately one year later, October 5, 2017, the New York Times revealed that Bloom had been Weinstein?s representative for about one year, advising him on issues of ?gender and power dynamics.? On October 10, 2017 Ronan Farrow broke the Weinstein story in The New Yorker, and his reporting led to a Pulitzer Prize. Within 48 hours of the story breaking, Lisa Boom had resigned her position as Harvey Weinstein?s representative.
?The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump?
History shows that victims? stories are scrutinized much more closely than the stories of the accused, if the accused is a powerful white male. History also shows that any disability or psychological condition that the victim manifests will be presented as undermining the validity of their story, even if such condition is caused by the trauma of the incident represented in their complaint.
An imminent group of psychologists and psychiatrists has described various behaviors and statements by Donald Trump that fit the profile of someone capable of doing what Katie Johnson has alleged. Their statements were published in the book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 37 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President (Thomas Dunne Books 2017). Plainly stated, Donald J. Trump is a malignant narcissist who is psychiatrically unfit to serve as President of the United States, and he should be removed from office via the 25th Amendment.
Trump and Epstein
Although Trump has recently made efforts to distance himself from Jeffrey Epstein, this was not always the case. Trump has been reported by social columns in the presence of Epstein, including at Epstein?s parties in a New York City mansion, owned by the billionaire lingerie mogul Leslie Wexner. Trump is listed numerous times in Epstein?s ?little black book? (as are many other celebrities, politicians and businessmen). Trump is quoted as saying:
I?ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy! He?s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it ? Jeffrey enjoys his social life.
Epstein?s Florida Case
In 2008, Jeffrey Epstein was charged with soliciting prostitution from a minor in Florida. In what Miami Herald author Julie K. Brown has called ?A Perversion of Justice,? Epstein was sentenced to 13 months in prison and was forced to pay settlements to his underage victims and also to register as a Level IV sex offender. While serving his sentence, Epstein was allowed to go home at night. His victims were re-victimized by the settlement process, along with the deal Epstein made with federal prosecutors. Local police had wanted to charge him with sexual molestation of a minor, and they had the evidence to prove it.
The federal prosecutor in charge of the case, Alex Acosta, was later elevated to Trump?s cabinet as Secretary of Labor in 2017. He resigned from that position, under a cloud, after the publication of Brown?s article in the Herald. Epstein?s lead attorney Alan Dershowitz, is accused of having sex with Virginia Roberts, one of Epstein?s underage sex slaves, when she was only 16 years old.
This same underage victim was trafficked out of Trump?s sumptuous Mar-a-Lago Resort and has appeared in at least one photograph with Trump. Jeffrey Epstein died last August of a suspicious-looking suicide, in a maximum-security Manhattan jail, where he awaited trial on charges of child sex trafficking. Evidence suggests that his victims might have numbered in the thousands and that trafficking was the source of his 500-million-dollar fortune. Numerous jail employees have been subpoenaed in a criminal inquiry by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Katie Johnson has disappeared.