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Women accusing Trump of sexual misconduct seek congressional probe

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Three women who have accused U.S. President Donald Trump of sexual misconduct called on Monday for a congressional investigation into his behavior amid a wave of similar accusations against prominent men in Hollywood, the media and politics.

Over the past two years, more than a dozen women have accused Trump of making unwanted sexual advances against them years before he entered politics.

Three of his accusers, Jessica Leeds, Rachel Crooks, and Samantha Holvey said at a news conference on Monday that the accusations warranted new consideration given the broader discussion of sexual harassment in U.S. society.

Brave New Films, a nonprofit filmmaker, produced a video featuring 16 of Trump’s accusers and organized the news conference in New York on Monday. In the film, women accused Trump of kissing them without permission, grabbing their private parts, putting his hand up their skirts, or making other unwanted advances.

Congress should “put aside their party affiliations and investigate Mr. Trump’s history of sexual misconduct,” said Crooks, a former receptionist for a real estate firm, who was flanked by Leeds and Holvey.

The women said they do not think Trump will resign over the allegations but that he should be held accountable.

Trump and White House officials have denied the allegations, some of which date back to the 1980s.

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“These false claims, totally disputed in most cases by eyewitness accounts, were addressed at length during last year’s campaign, and the American people voiced their judgment by delivering a decisive victory,” a White House spokesperson said in a statement on Monday, questioning the women’s timing and political motives.

Trump, a Republican, faces legal action in one related case.

Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand told CNN that Trump should resign over the accusations.

“These allegations are credible,” Gillibrand said in an interview on Monday with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “They are numerous. I’ve heard these women’s testimony, and many of them are heartbreaking.”

Gillibrand recently said former President Bill Clinton, a fellow Democrat, should have stepped down during the 1990s scandal that led the House of Representatives to vote to impeach him. On Monday, she said that if Trump does not immediately resign, Congress “should have appropriate investigations of his behavior and hold him accountable.”

A number of powerful and high-profile men have been accused in recent months of sexual misconduct, including three members of Congress, Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein and former NBC news anchor Matt Lauer.

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Reuters has not independently verified the accusations against Trump, Weinstein, Lauer or the three congressmen.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and one of the most high-profile women in Trump’s administration, said on Sunday that any woman who has felt mistreated by a man has the right to speak up, even if she is accusing the president.

Democrat Chris Coons, a member of the Senate Judiciary panel, said it was unlikely that the Republican-controlled Congress would act on the accusations, which were known before the November 2016 presidential election.

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“My hunch is it gets reviewed at the next election,” Coons told CNN.

Sexual harassment accusations have also been made against Republican candidate Roy Moore who is running in a U.S. Senate race this week in Alabama. Trump has backed Moore, a former judge, even as congressional Republicans denounced the candidate and called on him to pull out of the race.

The accusations against Trump emerged during the 2016 presidential campaign when a videotape surfaced of a 2005 conversation caught on an open microphone in which Trump spoke in vulgar terms about trying to have sex with women.

Trump apologized for the remarks, but called them private “locker-room talk” and said he had not done the things he talked about.

Additional reporting by Katanga Johnson, Makini Brice, Steve Holland and Susan Cornwell in Washington; Writing by Susan Heavey and Lisa Lambert; Editing by Kieran Murray