'What? He raped you?': Friends of Trump sexual assault accuser relive moment she told them of attack

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Friends of a journalist who alleges Donald Trump raped her in a New York department store two decades ago have come forward to corroborate portions of her account.

E Jean Carroll, an advice columnist for Elle magazine, claims the US president forced himself on her in a changing room at New York’s Bergdorf Goodman department store in 1995 or 1996.

Mr Trump has insisted the incident “never happened” and that Ms Carroll was “not my type”; a defence he has used against other women who accuse him of sexual assault.

In an upcoming book about “hideous men” in her life, Ms Carroll, 76, describes a “colossal struggle” in which Mr Trump entered her “halfway – or completely, I’m not certain”.

Ms Carroll said she never reported the alleged incident to police, though she did tell two friends, both of whom were initially reluctant to come forward publicly.

But in an interview with the New York Times, the two friends, Lisa Birnbach and Carol Martin, decided to speak out by discussing their recollections of the event in a conversation with Ms Carroll and Times journalist Megan Twohey.

In excerpts of the discussion, featured in The Daily podcast, Ms Birnbach recalls being at home in New York with her two children when she receives a call from Ms Carroll.

"She's breathless and laughing," Ms Birnbach says, noting that as the conversation goes further the laughing stops.

"I remember her saying repeatedly, 'He pulled down my tights', which got me to think that was as far as it went."

Addressing Ms Carroll, she says: "Honestly you did say, 'He put his penis in me', and I said, 'What? He raped you?'"

Ms Birnback, an author best known for co-writing The Official Preppy Handbook, says Ms Carroll just kept repeating Mr Trump had pulled down her tights.

Ms Twohey told the podcast Ms Birnbach recalled telling Ms Carroll she was describing rape and that she should go to the police.

“It was horrible, we fought and I said, ‘Let’s go to the police’,” Ms Birnbach says, to which Ms Carroll said she just wanted to go home.

Ms Carroll says in the discussion she felt at the time she had somehow encouraged it and had partial responsibility for the alleged incident.

Ms Martin, who Ms Carroll says she phoned between one and three days afterwards, says she got the sense her friend “was handling it” and that she was still in shock.

"I said, 'Don't tell anybody', I wouldn't tell anybody this," says former TV news anchor Ms Martin, reasoning – according to Ms Twohey – the risks in tackling Mr Trump’s financial might were too high.

It was advice Ms Carroll says she ultimately followed.

Ms Carroll is not the first woman to accuse the president of sexual assault or misconduct. During the 2016 presidential campaign, at least 16 woman levelled allegations at him. These included groping, touching and other inappropriate actions.

Mr Trump and his spokespeople have denied all the allegations.

In her memoir, Ms Carroll concludes her account by asking herself why she had not come forward with the claim until now.

“Receiving death threats, being driven from my home, being dismissed, being dragged through the mud, and joining the 15 women who’ve come forward with credible stories about how the man grabbed, badgered, belittled, mauled, molested, and assaulted them, only to see the man turn it around, deny, threaten, and attack them, never sounded like much fun,” she writes. “Also, I am a coward.”

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