WASHINGTON — A fellow senator asked the next attorney general of the United States on Tuesday whether the actions described by President-elect Donald Trump ― grabbing a woman “by the p***y” ― would constitute sexual assault.
“Is grabbing a woman by her genitals, is that sexual assault?” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-V.T.) asked Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) during Sessions’ Senate confirmation hearing.
“Clearly it would be,” Sessions said.
In leaked audio from 2005, Trump boasted about his ability to grab women whenever he wanted because of his power and celebrity. Asked about Trump’s comments after a presidential debate in October in St. Louis, Sessions reportedly said that he wasn’t sure if the actions would constitute sexual assault.
Here’s the interaction, as described by the conservative Weekly Standard:
TWS: But beyond the language, would you characterize the behavior described in that [video] as sexual assault if that behavior actually took place?
SESSIONS: I don’t characterize that as sexual assault. I think that’s a stretch. I don’t know what he meant—
TWS: So if you grab a woman by the genitals, that’s not sexual assault?
SESSIONS: I don’t know. It’s not clear that he—how that would occur.
Sessions’ office said at the time that the Weekly Standard unfairly characterized his comments. Many rape and sexual assault survivors aren’t convinced, and protested outside Sessions’ office this week.