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Why Didn't Allegations Of Trump's Sexual Misconduct Come Up Sooner?


Catching up now with the latest in the presidential campaign, we've learned from Bloomberg News that Donald Trump refused to let his campaign do research into his past. That kind of vetting is common in political campaigns, and it helps explain why this week Trump's staff appeared to be caught off guard by the series of claims of sexual misconduct with women, allegations Trump vehemently denies.


DONALD TRUMP: The claims are preposterous, ludicrous and defy truth, common sense and logic. We already have substantial evidence to dispute these lies, and it will be made public in an appropriate way and at an appropriate time.

MONTAGNE: That got us wondering why revelations and accusations about Donald Trump's sexual conduct did not appear earlier. So we reached an expert. Tim Miller was the communications director of Jeb Bush's campaign and is a partner at Definers, a firm that specializes in opposition research. He's also an outspoken critic of Donald Trump.

Welcome to the program.

TIM MILLER: Hey, thanks. Good to be with you.

MONTAGNE: So I want to get something straight. For the many listeners who actually will not know what opposition research is, what are we talking about here - tracking down improprieties, illegal or immoral behavior; digging up dirt, if one wants to put it like that, on rival candidates?

MILLER: Sure. And part of opposition research is digging up dirt. At its most essential level, all opposition research is having complete information awareness about your own candidate and your opponents. And so that begins with a complete scrub of the public record. With somebody like Trump, it's quite a long public record.

MONTAGNE: The sorts of accusations that are coming out now about alleged sexual misbehavior - were these the sort of things that you would have thought you would have come across when you were working for the campaign of Jeb Bush?

MILLER: In some ways, yes and no. You know, look - a lot of this information about Donald Trump's treatment of women came out during the primary. If you go back to 2015, there was the story about the divorce filings where Ivana, Donald Trump's first wife, accused him of rape.

You fast forward a couple of months to August of 2015, and researchers had gone through all of the interviews that he did with Howard Stern and all of the gross comments he made about women. So the question is, you know, why didn't the actual sexual assaults come out at that time? And my guess is, you know, a lot of folks did not want to be political pinatas. And...

MONTAGNE: You mean the women didn't want...

MILLER: Yeah, the women. Yeah, the women did not want to be political pinatas. And, you know, we're one month from an election now where Donald Trump says, in front of 65 million people at the debate, that he never assaulted a woman. You know, that could have been enough to get these women to speak out.

Opposition research usually only works when it hits at something that voters already sensed about a candidate. And I think that's why, in this particular case, Donald Trump is extremely vulnerable to these sort of attacks about his treatment of women because it seems exactly like the type of guy Donald Trump is. It seems really believable.

MONTAGNE: Well, you know, is it a matter of timing? Because, of course, Hillary Clinton has a very prominent ad that's been running that shows young women hearing him, in his own words, make comments about women's looks and women's size. And it seems to be effective. Do you think it's about timing with just everything on this?

MILLER: I think that part of it was timing, and part of it was the fact that the Republican electorate was so attracted to Trump's outsider status and the fact that he was, you know, going to be a tough fighter that they overlooked a lot of the negative parts of his past that might have hurt other candidates. I think it's too bad that that's the case. But I certainly think that that electorate looked at the information differently than the broader, general electorate does.

MONTAGNE: Tim Miller is a partner at Definers Public Affairs, company that specializes in opposition research.

Thank you very much for joining us.

MILLER: Hey, happy to do it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.