US Elections 2016: Final countdown

Trump's plot to ambush Bill fails

From left: Ms Paula Jones, Ms Kathleen Willey, Ms Juanita Broaddrick and Ms Kathy Shelton at Sunday's presidential debate at Washington University in St Louis.
From left: Ms Paula Jones, Ms Kathleen Willey, Ms Juanita Broaddrick and Ms Kathy Shelton at Sunday's presidential debate at Washington University in St Louis.PHOTO: REUTERS

Campaign tried to seat women who have accused Bill Clinton of sex abuse in VIP box

ST LOUIS • Mr Donald Trump's campaign sought to intimidate Mrs Hillary Clinton and embarrass her husband by seating women who have accused former president Bill Clinton of sexual abuse in the Trump family's box at the presidential debate on Sunday night, according to four people involved in the discussions.

The women were to have walked into the debate hall at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, at the same time as the 42nd president and confront him in front of a national television audience.

"We were going to put the four women in the VIP box," said former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who represents Mr Trump in debate negotiations. "We had it all set. We wanted to have them shake hands with Bill, to see if Bill would shake hands with them."

Mr Frank Fahrenkopf, the debate commission's co-chairman and a former Republican National Committee chairman, caught wind of the plot on Sunday and immediately moved to put an end to it - just minutes before it could be executed.

He tartly warned a Trump staff member that if the campaign tried to put the four women in the family box, security staff would remove them, according to those with direct knowledge of the conversations.

"Fahrenkopf said 'no', verbally said 'no', that security would throw them out," said Mr Giuliani. "But we pulled it because we were going to have a big incident on national TV. Frank Fahrenkopf stopped us and we weren't going to have a fight on national TV with the commission to start the debate."

ALL SET UP

We were going to put the four women in the VIP box. We had it all set. We wanted to have them shake hands with Bill, to see if Bill would shake hands with them.

FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI, who represents Mr Donald Trump in debate negotiations.

STEPPED BACK

Frank Fahrenkopf (debate commission co-chairman) stopped us and we weren't going to have a fight on national TV with the commission to start the debate.

MR GIULIANI 

RATTLED

The women were outraged... No one was pushing them. They volunteered. But I knew the minute we got pushback that we had gotten into their heads. (Hillary Clinton) was rattled. They were rattled. 

MR GIULIANI

The four - Ms Paula Jones, Ms Juanita Broaddrick, Ms Kathleen Willey and Ms Kathy Shelton - sat with other ticketed audience members.

Three of the women - Ms Jones, Ms Broaddrick and Ms Willey - have alleged that Mr Clinton sexually assaulted or harassed them years ago, accusations that he has long denied. Ms Shelton was 12 years old when she accused a 41-year-old man of raping her. Mrs Clinton was selected by a judge to defend the man and he eventually pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

The gambit to give the women prime seats was devised by Trump campaign chief executive Stephen Bannon and Mr Jared Kushner, the candidate's son-in-law, and approved personally by Mr Trump.

"The women were outraged," Mr Giuliani said. "They were in the holding room and ready to go. No one was pushing them. They volunteered. But I knew the minute we got pushback that we had gotten into their heads. (Hillary Clinton) was rattled. They were rattled."

Senior Clinton campaign officials said they were unaware of Mr Trump campaign's plans to try to seat the women in the family box.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2016, with the headline 'Trump's plot to ambush Bill fails'. Print Edition | Subscribe