Trump Defends Himself in Sexual Assault Defamation Case   

Trump Defends Himself in Sexual Assault Defamation Case   

Former U.S. President Donald Trump, the leading 2024 Republican presidential contender, briefly took the witness stand Thursday at a New York trial to defend himself against allegations that he defamed writer E. Jean Carroll by disparaging her claim that he sexually assaulted her in a department store dressing room in the 1990s.

Trump testified that he stood by his 2019 comments that he considered her accusations to be false.

“Yes, I did,” Trump said. “She said something that I considered a false accusation — totally false.”

But Judge Lewis Kaplan, who had ruled that an earlier court decision had already found Trump liable in the assault in the posh Bergdorf Goodman store, stopped Trump from rehashing the incident, saying: “Everything after ‘yes I did’ is stricken.”

When Trump lawyer Alina Habba asked him whether he meant to hurt Carroll by belittling her claims — which Carroll wrote in a book published in 2019 — Trump replied, “No, I just wanted to defend myself, my family, and frankly, the presidency.”

With Habba declaring the former U.S. leader’s defense at an end, Kaplan sent the nine-member jury home for the day. He told the jurors they would hear closing arguments Friday morning before deciding whether Carroll, now 80, is entitled to any damages. She is seeking $10 million or more.

E. Jean Carroll arrives at Manhattan federal court in New York, Jan. 25, 2024.

E. Jean Carroll arrives at Manhattan federal court in New York, Jan. 25, 2024.

Before the jury entered the courtroom to hear Trump’s abbreviated testimony, Habba sparred with Kaplan over the extent of the questions she could ask Trump.

Kaplan had ruled that Trump would not be allowed to testify that he didn’t assault Carroll, a one-time advice columnist for Elle magazine, or that she lied about the rape allegation — because those questions were not before the jury.

Before the civil trial started, Kaplan ruled that a jury in a related case last year had already determined that Trump sexually abused Carroll and that its decision on her abuse allegation carried over to the current case.

That jury ordered Trump to pay Carroll $5 million for comments he made in 2022, with the current case centered on 2019 comments he made while he was president.

Habba told Kaplan she wanted to ask Trump several questions, including having him confirm that he stood by all the testimony he gave in a deposition in the case.

Trump interrupted Habba, declaring, “I never met the woman. I don’t know who the woman is. I never met this woman.”

Kaplan admonished Trump. “I’m sorry Mr. Trump, you’re interrupting these proceedings by talking loudly while your attorney is talking, and that is not permitted.”

Kaplan and Habba continued to debate the questions she would be allowed to ask.

“Ms. Habba, I’ll decide what he has a right to do. That’s my job, not yours,” the judge said.

Trump, the likely 2024 Republican nominee to run against Democratic President Joe Biden in the November presidential election, has repeatedly denied even knowing Carroll and has said she was not “my type.”

Carroll testified last week, “It means I’m too ugly to assault.”

As they concluded their case against Trump, Carroll’s lawyers showed jurors a clip of his October 2022 deposition in which he mistook Carroll for his second wife, Marla Maples, when he was shown a photograph of Carroll from the 1990s.

Carroll’s lawyers intended the picture and Trump’s misidentification of her to undermine his repeated assertions that Carroll is not his “type.”

Trump, 77, has attended much of the trial, even though he was not required to be present in the courtroom. He has treated the case like a campaign stop, holding news conferences at the end of the day to attack Carroll’s claims and Kaplan as biased against him.

“They are weaponizing law enforcement at a level like never before,” Trump said Sunday night at a New Hampshire rally ahead of the Republican primary election he won in the northeastern state on Tuesday.

He said he was intent on being in the courtroom for the conclusion of the case.

“You know where I’m going to be,” he told supporters at the rally. “I don’t have to be there, but I want to be there because otherwise, I can’t get a fair shake. I’m going to be in court.”

The Carroll defamation claims are in a civil case, and Trump faces no threat of imprisonment. But he does face an unprecedented 91 criminal charges across four indictments in cases that could go to trial this year.

As Carroll testified last week, her attorneys complained to Kaplan that Trump was making disparaging side comments about her to his lawyers that the jury, seated fewer than four meters away, could possibly hear.

The complaints by Carroll’s lawyers led to a contentious exchange between Trump and the judge.

Kaplan told Trump that his right to be at the trial would be revoked if he continued to ignore warnings to keep his comments to his lawyers quieter and out of earshot of the jury.

But after an initial warning, Carroll’s lawyer said Trump could still be heard making remarks to his lawyers, including, “It is a witch hunt” and, “It really is a con job.”

After excusing the jury for lunch, Kaplan told Trump, “I hope I don’t have to consider excluding you from the trial. I understand you’re probably eager for me to do that.”

“I would love it,” Trump shot back, shrugging as he sat at the defense table between his lawyers Michael Madaio and Habba.

“I know you would like it. You just can’t control yourself in this circumstance, apparently,” Kaplan responded.

“You can’t either,” Trump muttered.

As Trump watched, Carroll told the jurors, “I’m here because Donald Trump assaulted me, and when I wrote about it, he said it never happened. He lied and shattered my reputation.”

Once, Carroll testified, she was a respected advice columnist. “Now, I’m known as the liar, the fraud and the whack job.”

Trump made repeated disparaging comments about Carroll on his Truth Social platform in the days leading up to the trial.

Carroll testified last week, “He has continued to lie. He lied last month. He lied on Sunday. He lied yesterday.”

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Author: Shirley