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Washington: Even for a former president known to tell the occasional whopper or 30,000, it’s hard to top this one.

Donald Trump’s October 2022 deposition in the E. Jean Carroll case was already notable for something he said about his second wife, Marla Maples. Trump infamously mistook Carroll for Maples in a photo he was shown, despite having suggested that because Carroll was “not my type” he would have had no romantic interest in her. Carroll has accused him of a decades-old rape.

Donald Trump signs a copy of his book for Evander Holyfield in Atlantic City in 1989, as Marla Maples sits beside him.Credit: Getty

But Trump’s ostensible fuzziness about that Maples era of his life apparently extended to elsewhere in the deposition, a transcript and video of which was released on Saturday.

At one point, Carroll’s attorney asked Trump a basic factual question: “Isn’t it true that you were seeing Ms Maples before you were divorced from Ivana Trump?”

Trump responded, amazingly, “I don’t know,” in the sworn deposition. “It was towards the end of the marriage. So I don’t know, really. It could be a lapover, but I don’t really know.”

(It is not clear what a “lapover” means, but we’re guessing it refers to overlap.)

Donald Trump and then-wife, Ivana Trump after she was sworn in as a US citizen in New York in May 1988.Credit: AP

Trump was also asked more generally if he had been seeing women outside of his first marriage, and he responded, “I don’t know.”

So the man who engaged in one of the most famous and widely reported-upon affairs in American history apparently isn’t sure whether the timeline qualifies it as an extramarital affair.

That timeline is murky, in large part, because this was mostly tabloid fodder early on. And that provided Trump the plausible deniability he often exploits, while burnishing his playboy credentials. Trump seemed to have fun playing coy, often referring to Maples as just a friend without truly doing the work of denying the story.

Trump’s divorce from Ivana was finalised in December 1990. And both before and in the years after, it became clear his relationship with Marla Maples had been more than a rumour.

Donald Trump and Marla Maples pose for photographers following their wedding ceremony in New York, in December 1993.Credit: AP

In April 1990, amid the rampant rumours, Trump decided to present Maples to the world at the opening of his Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City.

That same month, Maples conducted an interview in which she said she couldn’t comment on the affair rumours because of “pending litigation.” But when asked whether she loved Trump, she responded, “I can’t lie about it. Oh, I do.” Asked about a romantic relationship, she said, “I do love him.”

In November that year, Vanity Fair published a broad-ranging feature on Maples. She wore a gold Cartier ring given to her by Trump and said, “I believe I have a purpose and that there is a reason we’re together.” At the time, the question wasn’t whether they had had an affair, but whether it began early enough to complicate a revised prenuptial agreement with Ivana Trump from three years prior.

Perhaps the most significant evidence of the timeline came in 1994, when Trump confirmed a long-rumoured Christmas 1989 standoff between the women in Aspen, Colorado. Ivana Trump had dished about it to ABC News in 1991, and Trump decided to do the same:

(The video of that interview, as it happens, re-emerged on the 2016 campaign trail the same day that The Washington Post broke the news about the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump bragged about groping women.)

Trump suggested that the confrontation on the slopes forced the issue, whereas “it’s possible that, you know, maybe it would still be going on”.

He summarised: “My life was so great in so many ways. The business was so great. . . . I mean, a beautiful girlfriend, beautiful wife, beautiful everything. I mean, life was just a bowl of cherries.”

Apparently that bowl of cherries just isn’t that memorable a quarter-century later. What other explanation could there be?

The Washington Post

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