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Story highlights

Reince Priebus says Donald Trump will have to answer for his conduct toward women

But he downplayed the importance of his past actions

Washington CNN —  

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Sunday Donald Trump “is going to have to answer for” his behavior around women – but said Trump’s presidential campaign isn’t being judged based on his personal life.

The GOP leader was asked on ABC’s “This Week” about a New York Times report that Trump’s private conduct with women has involved unwelcome romantic advances and commentary on women’s figures.

“Look, I mean, these are things that he is going to have to answer for,” Priebus said. “But I also think there are things from many years ago and I think that, you know, as Christians, judging each other I think is – is problematic. I think it’s when people live in glass houses and throw stones is when people get in trouble.”

READ: Trump’s woman problem

The report about Trump’s treatment of women was the latest reminder of the landmines from his personal life that the presumptive Republican nominee carries into the general election – the downside of the unconventional style and resume that vaulted him to the front of the GOP pack.

Priebus argued that Trump’s character won’t be evaluated based on his previous personal behavior.

“It’s not necessarily that people make mistakes or have regrets or seek forgiveness; it’s whether or not the person launching the charge is authentic in their own life and can actually be pure enough to make such a charge. That’s what I think most people can look at when they evaluate people’s character.

Priebus said he doesn’t believe voters are judging the thrice-married Trump on his personal life.

“I think people are judging Donald Trump as to whether or not he’s someone that’s going to go to Washington and shake things up. And that’s why he’s doing so well,” Priebus said.

Another Trump ally, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, similarly downplayed the importance of Trump’s previous interactions with women on ABC’s “This Week.”

“Well, of course, he has to answer and people will ask those questions,” Sessions said.

But he added that “they’ve got 20 or – they’ve got hundreds, I suppose – people digging in to everything he’s done for all these years.”

Sessions echoed Priebus, saying that voters don’t expect Trump to be pure and also aren’t judging him on his private life.

“People have not expected purity on his part. What they’re concerned about, they’re deeply concerned about is this: somebody strong enough to take on Washington,” he said. “Will he challenge the establishment? Will he end the illegality in immigration? Will he insist on trade agreements that lift our economy, increase manufacturing? And will he stand up to the elites? And he’s doing so and the people are responding.”

Trump’s allies’ comments come as he’s deflecting other personal inquiries, too, over whether he previously posed as his own publicist, under the alias “John Miller,” and why he won’t release his tax returns.

Trump convention manager Paul Manafort defended the GOP’s presumptive nominee on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday.

“I couldn’t tell who it is. If Donald Trump says it’s not him, I believe it’s not him,” Manafort told CNN’s Jake Tapper of recordings from a People magazine interview with “John Miller.”

Pressed on Trump’s admissions in the past that he has used the names John Miller and John Barron, and that recordings of “John Miller” from an interview with People magazine sound like Trump, Manafort dismissed the question, noting that he’s worked for Trump for six weeks and already uses language similar to Trump’s.

“I just know that he said it’s not him,” Manafort said. “I believe him. I don’t even know the relevance of this, frankly.”

Manafort also stuck by Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, citing Trump’s explanation that his returns since 2009 are still the subject of Internal Revenue Service audits.

“This is an issue the media is interested in. It’s not an issue the rest of America is interested in, frankly,” Manafort said.

Asked whether there’s something those returns would reveal that Trump doesn’t want America to see, Manafort said: “He said there’s nothing in there. I have no basis to believe otherwise.”

Louise Sunshine, a former Trump Organization executive vice president and one of the women included in The New York Times’ article on Trump’s treatment of women, defended her former boss in an interview with CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield.

She said Trump “doesn’t distinguish between men and women.”

“He looks for talent. He looks for trustworthy talent … T means trustworthy talent, just think about it that way,” she said.

She pointed out that he’s insulted men in the course of his presidential campaign as proof that he doesn’t just target women.

“He also called Marco Rubio short, he called Ted Cruz something else,” she said.

Sunshine said Trump hasn’t changed in the decades she’s known him.

“I see the same Donald Trump,” she said. “But I’m not sure that the way he has led his business, which has been entirely successful, works in politics because I think sometimes he forgets what the ‘politics’ thing is to say. And of course, that’s what politics is all about. And I think he just marches – he continues to march to the tune of his own drummer.”