People magazine sent correspondent Natasha Stoynoff to Mar-a-Lago in late 2005 to write a wedding anniversary story about Donald Trump, who had then recently married Melania Knauss.
Almost two decades later, her experience of the future president allegedly “forcing his tongue” down her throat could prove essential testimony in the E Jean Carroll civil rape trial that began on 25 April in a federal court in New York City.
Before joining the magazine, Ms Stoynoff was a reporter and photographer at The Toronto Star, a columnist at The Toronto Sun, and a freelancer for Time Magazine. She then worked for People magazine for almost 20 years. She now lives in New York, where she writes books and screenplays, according to her bio on Goodreads.
The Trump legal team failed to stop the inclusion of Ms Stoynoff’s testimony in the trial.
Ms Carroll claims that Mr Trump raped her in a Manhattan department store dressing room in 1995 or 1996 and that he later defamed her in 2019 as president when he rejected her allegation.
About a decade after the alleged rape of Ms Carroll, the People magazine journalist was at Mar-a-Lago to interview Mr Trump and his new wife.
“Now, I’m a tall, strapping girl who grew up wrestling two giant brothers. I even once sparred with Mike Tyson. It takes a lot to push me,” Ms Stoynoff wrote in 2016. “But Trump is much bigger – a looming figure – and he was fast, taking me by surprise and throwing me off balance. I was stunned. And I was grateful when Trump’s longtime butler burst into the room a minute later, as I tried to unpin myself.”
“The butler informed us that Melania would be down momentarily, and it was time to resume the interview,” she added.
Mr Trump then asked, “You know we’re going to have an affair, don’t you?” according to the reporter, adding that the following morning, she went to the spa at the private club, where the receptionist told her Mr Trump had been waiting for her, but that he had left to attend a meeting.
Ms Stoynoff later told her editors to not have her cover Mr Trump again.
Ms Carroll wrote for The Atlantic in 2020 that “each new boxing trainer tells Natasha that she should turn professional. Her punch is between hospitalization and murder”.
About the 2005 incident with Mr Trump, Ms Carroll wrote that Ms Stoynoff “wishes” that she had punched the former president.
Alyssa Shelasky wrote for The Cut that “Stoynoff was my mentor when I worked at People magazine, about ten years ago. She was the brilliant, hilarious, confident, and warm writer who got all the good assignments because Larry Hackett, the editor-in-chief at the time, knew she was the best. Naturally, I worshipped her”.
“Trump is frustrating to interview,” Ms Stoynoff told Ms Carroll in The Atlantic. “If all you need are sound bites, he’s easy. He’s got his one sentence ready for you. If you want something deeper, that’s a challenge. Because he doesn’t do deep.”
Ms Stoynoff noted that Melania Trump was “upstairs changing. Nothing led me to think he would do such a thing,” she said of Mr Trump’s alleged actions.
“I remember it being a dark room,” she said of where the incident took place. “But there are windows, so not too dark. We go in. I’m looking around, wondering what he wants to show me. I hear the door close.”
“I turn around. And he’s right at me, pushing me against the wall,” she added.
In an op-ed for The Washington Post in October 2019, Ms Stoynoff wrote, “After the election, I told myself his supporters hadn’t believed” the women who had stepped into the public arena and accused Mr Trump of misconduct.
“How else could they have voted for such a man? It took months before the cruel truth dawned on me — Trump supporters knew we were telling the truth. They just didn’t care,” she added.
“Within a year of my story being published, the #MeToo movement exploded … but still, the reckoning skipped Trump,” she wrote at the time.
But Ms Stoynoff and her testimony of what happened in Florida in late 2005 may now be a part of what law professor Harry Litman called “Trump’s biggest date yet with accountability”.
On 25 April, he tweeted: “Trump’s biggest date yet with accountability is the E Jean Carroll [civil rape] trial that begins in NY federal court today. The pieces are arranged for him to be absolutely shellacked. And to come off as a liar, bully, and sexual predator.”