Finding Biden in Familiar Fix, President Trump Adds a Jab


WASHINGTON — President Trump, ignoring his own troubled history with women and bragging about sexual misconduct, went after Joseph R. Biden Jr. via Twitter on Thursday, posting a video that mocked the former vice president for his handsy approach to politicking.

The 15-second clip tweeted Thursday by Mr. Trump — accompanied by the text, “WELCOME BACK JOE!” — doctored a homemade video that Mr. Biden had released the day before, in which the former vice president addressed his history of physical contact with women, some of whom have come forward in recent weeks to say his intimate behavior made them uncomfortable.

As Mr. Biden speaks to the camera, a pair of hands appears on his shoulders, and then a cartoonish image of Mr. Biden’s head pops up from behind a couch and intimately nuzzles the back of the former vice president’s head.

For a week, Mr. Trump’s advisers have been watching the spectacle surrounding the accusations that Mr. Biden has touched women inappropriately with something like glee.

Privately, they have admitted that the entire conversation surrounding the former vice president’s approach to politicking seems like a controversy conjured up by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party to tar a potential centrist front-runner. But they were happy to enjoy it from the sidelines.

Mr. Trump himself made a few passing, sarcastic remarks about Mr. Biden’s predicament. But by Thursday, he apparently could not resist going after the former vice president more directly. And he did it in his own unusual way.

The tweet and video seemed like a typical partisan jab, except for the fact that it was issued by a president who has been accused by more than a dozen women of sexual misconduct and assault.

But in mocking Mr. Biden, the president seemed to be walking a perilous line, opening himself up to charges of hypocrisy, and practically inviting a re-examination of his own behavior toward women — behavior he has either denied or refused to discuss.

Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign was almost derailed by the release of old video footage, in which he bragged about using his fame to grope women without their consent. “When you’re a star, they let you do it,” Mr. Trump said on the now infamous “Access Hollywood” tape.

When he was around attractive women, Mr. Trump said, “I just start kissing them,” adding, “I don’t even wait.” When you are famous, he said, you could do anything, including, “Grab ’em by the pussy.”

Stormy Daniels, a pornographic film actress, has also accused the president of trying to buy her silence a month before the election about an extramarital affair, describing in graphic detail the sexual relationship he had with her shortly after he married his third wife, Melania. Mr. Trump has denied there was any affair.

Democrats immediately accused Mr. Trump of having no moral standing to criticize Mr. Biden’s behavior.

“He refers to women as pigs. He rates women on their looks on a scale from 1 to 10. He comments about how his own daughter is hot, and that if she wasn’t his daughter, he would date her,” said Patti Solis Doyle, who served as Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign manager. “Hypocrisy doesn’t even begin to explain this tweet. He’s going to lose on women voters. Doing this is only making it worse.”

Mr. Trump’s video popped online after two days during which he seemed to sidestep any direct attacks on Mr. Biden’s behavior.

“I do wish him luck,” he told reporters on Wednesday before a briefing with senior military leaders, when asked if he had any advice for Mr. Biden, who is still expected to announce his entry into the 2020 presidential field in the coming weeks.

Speaking Tuesday in front of a fund-raising dinner for the National Republican Congressional Committee, Mr. Trump noted that the former vice president was “being taken care of pretty well by the socialists.”

“They got to him, our former vice president,” he added.

The president’s comment notably did not pass any judgment on Mr. Biden’s behavior, but rather the predicament he now finds himself in.

Over the past two years, Mr. Trump has often steered clear of weighing in on harassment and misconduct accusations. In a cultural moment where most politicians are quick to state that they “believe the women,” Mr. Trump over and over again has made it clear that he believes the man.

Mr. Trump stuck with Roy S. Moore, the failed Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama, even after he was accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with underage girls.

He has talked about the “the terrible pain and suffering” that Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and his family were subject to during his Supreme Court confirmation process, which was almost derailed by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Justice Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both teenagers.

Privately, Mr. Trump told aides he was frustrated by the way Rob Porter — who resigned as the White House staff secretary in February 2018 amid domestic abuse accusations from both of his former wives — was forced to exit, never having a chance to tell his side of the story.

Mr. Trump also mocked former Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, for capitulating so quickly and resigning after multiple women accused him of groping or kissing them against their will.

“Boy, did he fold up like a wet rag,” Mr. Trump said at a rally in October. “It was like, ‘Oh, he did something,’ ‘Oh I resign. I quit.’”

In the past, Mr. Trump has encouraged friends who found themselves on the receiving end of assault accusations: “‘You’ve got to deny, deny, deny and push back on these women,’” according to Bob Woodward’s book “Fear: Trump in the White House.”

Mr. Trump has generally followed that playbook himself. He has dismissed the “Access Hollywood” video as nothing more than “locker room talk.” And he has said that the accusations against him, which he denies, have shaped his view of other men in the cross hairs of public scandal.

“Well, it does impact my opinion, you know why? I had a lot of false charges made against me,” Mr. Trump said during a news conference at the United Nations last September. “I know friends that have had false charges. People want fame, they want money, they want whatever. So when I see it, I view it differently than somebody sitting home watching television.”

But when the person in question poses a direct threat to him, his own behavior and accusers have not stopped him from attacking their conduct toward women.

Before a debate with Mrs. Clinton in October 2016, for instance, Mr. Trump appeared at a remarkable news conference, engineered by his former campaign adviser Stephen K. Bannon, with women who have accused President Bill Clinton of inappropriate sexual behavior and assault.

“There’s never been anyone in the history of politics, in this nation, that’s been so abusive to women,” he said from the debate stage. “Bill Clinton was abusive to women.”

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