An exchange Tuesday night between CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway highlighted an inherent tension in the Trump campaign’s recent push to put Bill Clinton’s sexual history at the forefront of the 2016 campaign: Does settling a lawsuit imply some guilt?
Cooper pressed Conway on that question when she brought up the story of Paula Jones, who eventually settled a sexual harassment lawsuit with then-President Bill Clinton in 1998 for $850,000. The President, as part of that settlement, offered no apology and admitted no guilt for what Jones said were unwanted sexual advancements.
“It’s part of the strategy to remind people of who Hillary Rodham Clinton actually is. If others aren’t going to hold her account for her full record, then, yes, we will,” Conway said of the Trump campaign’s new strategy to associate Hillary Clinton with her husband’s behavior as governor of Arkansas and as President.
“He settled a sexual harassment case for $850,000 with Paula Jones in 1998 dollars. The last time I didn’t sexually harass someone, I didn’t pay him $850,000,” she said.
“Your candidate has settled numerous lawsuits without admitting any guilt on a whole number of things,” Cooper responded. “Are you implying that settling a lawsuit is implying guilt? Because if so, it means your candidate is guilty of an awful of lot of things, no?”
“For that, really, as governor of Arkansas, using state troopers to procure a win for you?” Conway responded, referring to a ’90s mini-scandal in which state troopers claimed they arranged Bill Clinton’s extramarital encounters, including with Jones.
Anderson pressed again: “You’re saying settling a lawsuit is questionable and raising questions about guilt. Your client settles lawsuits all the time, even though he says he doesn’t, right?”
Conway dodged the question again, so Cooper repeated it one more time.
“I’m saying that I believe Paula Jones, is what I’m saying,” she concluded, before moving on.
Though he has bragged otherwise, Trump often settles lawsuits out of court, including a civil rights lawsuit from Richard Nixon’s Justice Department, which alleged Trump systematically discriminated against non-white apartment applicants.
ThinkProgress found that Trump settled 13 lawsuits between 1990 and 2014. And in June, USA Today found that Trump was or is currently involved in a startling 3,500 legal actions, “from skirmishes with casino patrons to million-dollar real estate suits to personal defamation lawsuits.”
Still, Trump is publicly critical of the tactic that he often uses. After the so-called Central Park Five, who were wrongly convicted of raping and beating a jogger in Central Park, settled a lawsuit with the city of New York in 2014, Trump said in an editorial that “Settling doesn’t mean innocence, but it indicates incompetence on several levels.”
Watch the exchange below: