Trump looks on as E Jean Carroll testifies he shattered her reputation

January 18, 2024 1:00 pm

[Source: BBC]

E Jean Carroll has testified that Donald Trump “shattered” her reputation after she accused him of sexually assaulting her in the 1990s.

The judge threatened to kick the former president out of the federal court in Manhattan after he was overheard criticising the plaintiff’s testimony.

This is Ms Carroll’s second civil defamation case against Mr Trump. The writer is seeking $10m (£8m).

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Mr Trump, 77, has denied her accusation and continues to do so.

Last May, a jury found him liable for sexual abuse and defamation, though not for rape, and awarded Ms Carroll $5m. That trial was based on his 2022 remarks that her story was a “con job” and “hoax”.

The current case focuses on different remarks – which the judge has already ruled was defamatory – that Mr Trump made while he was president in 2019, when he called her allegation “totally false”.

In 2019, Ms Carroll alleged Mr Trump forced himself on her after a chance encounter decades earlier inside the luxury Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan.

On Wednesday, he looked on in court as the columnist behind Elle magazine’s now-defunct Ask E Jean advice column took the stand as the trial’s first witness.

“I am here because Donald Trump assaulted me, and when I wrote about it, he said it never happened,” Ms Carroll, 80, said. “He lied, and it shattered my reputation.”

After building a 50-year career as a journalist, she told the court, “Now I’m known as a liar, a fraud and a whack job”.

“I am here to get my reputation back and to stop him from telling lies about me.”

Lawyers for Ms Carroll displayed a series of death threats, rape threats and insults she says she has received since coming forward.

One message told her to “stick a gun in your mouth and pull the trigger”, while another called her a “Satan worshipping Nazi” – abuse, she said, that left her fearful.

In light of these safety concerns, Ms Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, asked her client about a photo showing her smiling next to a man in a rubber Trump mask as she walked past Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Ms Carroll said she felt safe there because of the large police presence.

Sitting two rows back with his legal team, Mr Trump listened intently, staring at Ms Carroll and shaking his head at one point.

When jurors were released for a morning break, the plaintiff’s attorney said Mr Trump could be overheard “loudly saying things”, including “it’s a witch hunt” and “she’s gotten her memory back”.

Judge Lewis Kaplan (no relation to Ms Carroll’s attorney) warned that Mr Trump “take special care to keep his voice down when he’s conferring with counsel so that the jury does not overhear”.

“Mr Trump,” said the judge, “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,” the former president replied with a shrug, according to reporters in court.

In a series of posts on his Truth Social platform, Mr Trump later assailed the “abusive, rude, and obviously not impartial” judge, saying he “suffers from a major case of Trump Derangement Syndrome”.

As the court returned for its afternoon session, the Trump team asked Judge Kaplan, a Clinton appointee, to recuse himself for “general hostility toward the defence”. The motion was denied.

Mr Trump’s counsel, Alina Habba, repeatedly clashed with the judge on Wednesday.

She asked for the trial to be delayed so Mr Trump could attend his mother-in-law’s funeral on Thursday, saying it would be “insanely prejudicial” to have him sit in court.

“The application is denied. I will hear no further argument on it,” Judge Kaplan said. “None. Do you understand that word? None.”

Though Mr Trump was deposed in the earlier trial, he did not attend in person or testify, both of which he is doing voluntarily in these proceedings. He is expected to take the stand on Monday.

Mr Trump, who also faces 91 felony charges across four criminal cases this year and is awaiting judgment in a New York civil fraud trial, is currently the Republican frontrunner for president.

On Monday, he scored a landslide victory in the Iowa caucuses, the first of the state-by-state votes in the race to become the Republican party’s White House candidate.