President Donald Trump is now claiming the Access Hollywood tape—the one in which he boasted about the anatomical location where he likes to grab women—is fake, even though he apologized for it more than a year ago. But if Trump really thought the tape was doctored, wouldn’t he have been first in line at the courthouse to sue Access Hollywood when it was released? Trump’s inaction over the past 13 months speaks louder than his words this week.
Trump’s new allegation comes on the heels of his tacit endorsement of Roy Moore, who has been accused by at least eight women of sexually inappropriate conduct. In response to questions about his position on the embattled candidate, Trump replied, “He says it didn’t happen… You have to listen to him, also.” Trump implied Moore is innocent simply because he said he is. And now, by challenging the validity of the tape that exposed his sexual improprieties, Trump is essentially saying that the evidence of his self-described “locker room talk” should be discounted and that we also should take him at his word.
So which of the President’s statements are true? His apology, which authenticated the tape, or his current claim, which casts doubt on its validity?
Trump’s new notion about the tape would collapse if challenged under the rules of evidence in a court of law. The President has made two crucial mistakes that undermine his credibility.
1.) Trump made inconsistent and contradictory statements, and it’s easy to analyze which one is false.
In court, a statement made closest to the time an event occurred is given the most weight. A statement made later on, after a person has had time to reflect and tailor his words, is considered less reliable.
When the Access Hollywood tape first surfaced, Trump was contrite. Referring to his vulgarities caught on tape, he took to Facebook to issue an apology via video. He said, “I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretend to be someone that I’m not. I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.”
During the presidential debates, he downplayed his words by calling them “locker room talk.” Melania Trump told Anderson Cooper that Billy Bush “egged on” her husband to utter the vulgar statements. At no time did either Trump argue that the tape was manipulated.
Now, more than a year later, Trump is refuting the evidence of his misconduct. But since he already admitted to saying the words, his current challenge to the tape’s authenticity lacks credibility.
2.) Digital forensic experts could easily disprove Trump’s claim that the tape was tampered with.
Software can be employed to evaluate whether the tape has been “spliced.” Differences in sound quality, sound input/output, and voice volume throughout the tape can be measured to see if sentences were cut and rearranged in the edit booth. Background noise can also be analyzed for consistency throughout the tape. Experts are trained to detect flaws.
If Trump believed the tape was doctored, he could have easily hired an expert in 2016 to challenge the credibility of the recording. His attorneys could have investigated the tape, filed a lawsuit against the television show, or subpoenaed the staff to find out who leaked the tape, and what, if anything had been done to it. However, Trump never challenged the integrity of the tape until Roy Moore. If there was a problem with the tape, Trump would have pounced on it when it was released.
tacy Schneider is a New York City-based trial attorney and author who has provided legal analysis for Fox News, Fox Business News, CNN and HLN for more than a decade. She is the recipient of the Thurgood Marshall Award for Exemplary Service to the Cause of Justice in the United States.