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Biden to discuss sexual assault claim Friday morning

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is expected on Friday to publicly discuss for the first time a claim that he sexually assaulted a former Senate aide, amid rising calls in his party that he address the allegation.

Biden will appear on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" for an interview on Friday morning. The network promoted the interview as the venue in which the former vice president would "respond for the first time to the recent allegation of sexual assault."

Biden's campaign, which has denied the allegation, had no immediate comment. But Biden's expected November opponent, President Donald Trump, said during a White House coronavirus event on Thursday that Biden "should respond."

Trump said he "didn't know anything about" the allegation by former Senate aide Tara Reade, and suggested that her account could be a "false accusation."

"I know all about false accusations. I've been falsely charged numerous times," Trump said. More than 20 women have accused the president of sexual misconduct, ranging from the late 1970s through 2016, when he was a presidential candidate.

Trump has denied the allegations. In a 2005 tape obtained by The Washington Post less than a month before his election, Trump bragged in vulgar terms about assaulting women by grabbing them between the legs.

"And when you're a star, they let you do it," Trump said on the "Access Hollywood" tape. "You can do anything."

Trump said Thursday that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was "falsely charged" during his nomination hearings of sexually assaulting a woman when they were both teenagers in high school.

"What happened with him was an absolutely disgrace to the country," Trump said.

Over the past week, Democrats have increasingly indicated they want to hear Biden address the allegations after weeks of silence on the matter. His refusal to discuss it has put other Democrats in the position of defending him while also advocating that women alleging sexual harassment or assault should be supported.

Biden has taken part in several interviews as the allegations gained attention, but was not asked about them. The subject also did not come up in several recent events he has held, including a "Virtual Women's Town Hall" with Hillary Clinton on Tuesday and a 40-minute conversation Thursday on Instagram Live with the soccer star Megan Rapinoe.

Biden has declined a request for an interview with The Washington Post, as his campaign defended the former vice president.

"He firmly believes that women have a right to be heard — and heard respectfully," deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said. "Such claims should also be diligently reviewed by an independent press. What is clear about this claim: It is untrue. This absolutely did not happen."

Several of the women who are believed to be on Biden's vice presidential list have declared that they believe his campaign's denial. Other Democrats have refused to comment, with many neither defending him nor calling on him to explain further.

Last year, several women said Biden had been overly affectionate in a way that made them uncomfortable. Reade's accusation that Biden in 1993 had reached under her skirt and penetrated her was the first allegation of sexual assault made against him.

Reade, who worked for Biden for nine months ending in 1993, said last year in interviews with The Post and with other outlets that Biden had put his hands on her shoulders and neck when she was working in his Senate office. She said that she had complained about it to more senior aides in the office, but those aides told The Post they had no recollection of Reade's claim.

Last month, in a podcast interview, she alleged that the then-senator had assaulted her after pushing her against a wall somewhere on Capitol Hill.

The Post published an in-depth examination of her account two weeks ago in which one of her friends confirmed that Reade had told her of an incident shortly after she said it had occurred. Reade's brother, Collin Moulton, also told The Post that she had told him in 1993 that Biden had touched her neck and shoulders. Several days after the interview, he said in a text message that he recalled her telling him that Biden had put his hand "under her clothes."

In an interview published by Business Insider on Monday, Lynda LaCasse, a former acquaintance of Reade, said Reade had told her of an alleged assault in the mid-1990s, when they lived in the same California housing complex. LaCasse on Wednesday confirmed those details to The Post.

"She told me that Joe Biden sexually assaulted her," she wrote in a text message. "She said that he had put her up against a wall, put his hand up her skirt and his fingers inside her."

She added that she is "a very strong Democrat" and was supporting Biden for president.

"I believed Tara at the time she told me that Mr. Biden assaulted her, and I continue to support her now," she wrote. "I feel that the truth needs to be told."

Lorraine Sanchez, who worked with Reade in California after her tenure in Washington, told Business Insider that Reade had told her she "had been sexually harassed by her former boss while she was in DC and as a result of her voicing her concerns to her supervisors, she was let go, fired." But Reade herself has given various reasons for her departure.

The corroboration from the women came several days after a 1993 call to Larry King's CNN talk show surfaced.

In the clip, a woman whom Reade identified as her now-deceased mother called to report unspecified "problems" her daughter was having with her employer, whom she called "a prominent senator." The caller said her daughter did not want to go public with her account "out of respect for" the unnamed senator.

The Washington Post's Colby Itkowitz contributed to this report.

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