First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
S.O.S.: The Trump ship starts to sink
If the 2005 Access Hollywood audio was the iceberg for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, then Wednesday’s new accusations of groping and unwanted kissing are the incoming water that’s threatening to sink the ship. And fellow Republicans -- who’ve either embraced Trump, distanced themselves from him, or done both recently -- are the passengers who could go down with it. NBC News: “Four women accused Donald Trump in articles published Wednesday of having touched them in an inappropriate manner, adding to the growing list of women who say Trump has insensitively treated them as objects over several decades. The New York Times quoted two women as describing public encounters during which Trump grabbed or kissed them inappropriately. Separately, the Palm Beach Post quoted a Palm Springs, Florida, woman as saying Trump groped her 13 years ago at Mar-a-Lago, his estate in Palm Beach. And a People magazine staff writer reported Wednesday that at Mar-a-Lago in 2005, Trump pushed her against a wall and was soon ‘forcing his tongue down my throat.’”
Trump camp denies the new accusations
NBC News has confirmed none of the allegations, and the Trump campaign denies them. More: “It called The Times article ‘fiction’ Wednesday night and specifically accused the newspaper of ‘coordinated character assassination’ in an attempt to swing the race to his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. A letter sent to the newspaper by Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz called the story ‘reckless’ and ‘defamatory.’” The letter from Trump’s attorney also questions why these women waiting years before deciding to come forward with these accusations. (But doesn’t that same argument undercut the accusers who’ve come out against Bill Clinton?)
Trump tweeted denials this morning, too:
An additional accusation from 1997’s Miss Utah
“Temple Taggart McDowell, who represented Utah as a 21-year-old in the 1997 Miss USA pageant in Shreveport, La., said Wednesday night that she was introduced to Trump during a rehearsal by her father, who was a fan of Trump's,” per NBC’s Hallie Jackson and Alex Johnson. “‘It was at that time that he turned to me and embraced me and gave me a kiss on the lips,’ McDowell said. Later, McDowell said, Trump offered to help her get contracts with elite modeling agencies, and during a visit to Trump Tower in Manhattan at Trump's invitation, he again embraced and kissed her on the lips, this time in front of two pageant chaperones and a receptionist. The New York encounter made one of the chaperones so ‘uncomfortable’ that she advised McDowell not to go into any rooms with Trump alone, McDowell said. The other chaperone accompanied her into Trump's office, she said. Trump, who was married to Marla Maples at the time of the alleged encounters, strongly disputed McDowell's claim Wednesday night, telling NBC News that he couldn't remember her. ‘I don't even know who she is,; said Trump, who owned the pageant from 1996 to 2015. ‘She claims this took place in a public area. I never kissed her. I emphatically deny this ridiculous claim.’”
The question for Trump staffers and elected Republicans
Is Trump worth putting your own reputation on the line? Maybe today’s biggest story is the GOP fallout from these new accusations. And elected Republicans and Trump staffers will have to ask themselves this question: Is continuing to support Trump putting your career at risk? What will this support look like six months from now? Six years from now? What about 60 years from now?
A reminder that Trump denied at the last debate he kissed or groped women without their consent
Don’t forget this exchange from Sunday’s second presidential debate:
COOPER: Just for the record, though, are you saying that what you said on that bus 11 years ago that you did not actually kiss women without consent or grope women without consent?
TRUMP: I have great respect for women. Nobody has more respect for women than I do.
COOPER: So, for the record, you’re saying you never did that?
TRUMP: I’ve said things that, frankly, you hear these things I said. And I was embarrassed by it. But I have tremendous respect for women.
COOPER: Have you ever done those things?
TRUMP: And women have respect for me. And I will tell you: No, I have not. And I will tell you that I’m going to make our country safe. We’re going to have borders in our country, which we don’t have now. People are pouring into our country, and they’re coming in from the Middle East and other places.
Waiting for Trump’s counterpunch
As we’ve seen over the past year, when Trump is the recipient of tough stories, he punches back. And here’s Bloomberg’s Josh Green reporting that the Trump campaign plans more attacks against Bill Clinton. “A senior Trump adviser says the campaign will soon bring forward new accusers: ‘Women are coming to us who have been groped or sexually abused by Bill Clinton.’ Trump is considering featuring these women at campaign rallies to ‘give witness to what Hillary Clinton actually did.’ The Republican nominee’s decision to close out his campaign by attacking what he alleges to be Bill Clinton's history of sexual violence, and his wife's role after the fact, suggests the next few weeks could be among the ugliest in modern presidential history.” More from Green: “On Thursday night, the Trump campaign will begin a new media blitz, his advisers say, with Broaddrick, Willey, and Jones appearing together on a one-hour Fox News special hosted by Sean Hannity. Additional interviews will follow.”
Clinton camp battles WikiLeaks fallout
While Trump is battling new accusations from women, the Clinton campaign is battling the WikiLeaks release of hacked emails from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. Anyone who has worked in politics or covered political campaigns won’t be shocked by the revelations. But to outsiders, the emails confirm everything they might hate about politics. And so if the Russian government can’t actually make Trump president, one thing they can do is make life miserable for Clinton, her aides, the people named in some of the emails, and the public in general. By the way, the New York Times notes how Trump has explicitly embraced WikiLeaks -- when Republicans in the past had criticized the organization. “In the final weeks of a dizzying presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump is suddenly embracing an unlikely ally: The document-spilling group WikiLeaks, which Republicans denounced when it published classified State Department cables and Pentagon secrets about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
On the trail
Donald Trump campaigns in West Palm Beach, FL at noon ET and then Cincinnati, OH at 7:30 pm ET… Mike Pence is in Pennsylvania… President Obama holds a rally for Hillary Clinton in Columbus, OH at 6:30 pm ET… First Lady Michelle Obama stumps for Democrats in Manchester, NH at 12:15 pm ET… Vice President Joe Biden rallies in Las Vegas at 3:45 pm ET… And Bill Clinton remains in Iowa.
Countdown to third presidential debate: 6 days
Countdown to Election Day: 26 days