E Jean Carroll faces off with Trump as $10m defamation trial begins
Donald Trump and E Jean Carroll, a writer accusing him of rape, are both currently in court as her $10 million (£7.9 million) defamation trial commences.
A New York jury will determine the damages the former president must pay Ms. Carroll regarding comments he made about her and her allegations.
Last year, a New York jury found Mr. Trump guilty of sexually assaulting and defaming Ms. Carroll, awarding her $5 million.
The ongoing trial pertains to Mr. Trump’s denials in 2019 when he was president. In a New York magazine piece during that time, Ms. Carroll alleged that the former real estate mogul had forced himself on her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s.
Mr. Trump dismissed her story as “totally false.” The 77-year-old has consistently asserted that he never met Ms. Carroll and that she fabricated the story to sell her memoir.
The morning after securing a significant victory in the Iowa caucus, the initial Republican contest for the presidential nomination, Mr. Trump attended jury selection in the civil trial at a Manhattan federal court.
Seated between his lawyers, the Republican frontrunner closely observed Ms. Carroll, who sat three rows ahead with her back turned. Although Ms. Carroll briefly turned in her seat during discussions between Mr. Trump’s lawyers and the judge, she did not make eye contact with him.
In his position at the defense table, Mr. Trump turned to observe jurors as they answered questions from the judge. His presence led to unique queries about impartiality, such as whether potential jurors had voted in the 2016 and 2020 elections, believed in the QAnon conspiracy theory, or supported the MeToo movement.
Upon his arrival, Mr. Trump’s Truth Social platform issued more than two dozen posts, branding the case as “PURE FICTION.” He also cast doubt on Ms. Carroll’s credibility and highlighted that her legal expenses were partially covered by a major Democratic donor through a non-profit group.
An advisor for the donor has said they had no prior knowledge the funding would go to that specific case, and a lawyer for Ms Carroll has said the funding was “irrelevant” to her claims.
This case is separate from their first civil trial in May, where a different New York jury found Mr Trump liable for sexually abusing and defaming Ms. Carroll, but not for raping her.
That trial, which Mr. Trump did not attend at all, revolved around his 2022 claim that her case was “a hoax and a lie”.
Mr Trump is appealing the verdict.
In September, Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled that this second trial would be limited to determining damages.
Ms Carroll is seeking at least $10m – twice what she was awarded in the first trial – because she argues the comments by then-President Trump did harm to her reputation.
Mr Trump has said he wants to testify this time.
Amid a dispute between both legal teams over what the former president can say on the stand, Judge Kaplan last week issued a stern warning.
“Mr. Trump is precluded from offering any testimony, evidence or argument suggesting or implying that he did not sexually assault Ms. Carroll, that she fabricated her account of the assault or that she had any motive to do so,” he wrote in a court opinion.
Ms Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan (who is not related to Judge Kaplan), has said that Mr Trump will attempt to “sow chaos” with his testimony.
“There are any number of reasons why Mr Trump might perceive a personal or political benefit from intentionally turning this trial into a circus,” she wrote in a memo to Judge Kaplan.
Citing Mr Trump’s outburst at his separate New York civil fraud trial last week, the attorney asked that he state under oath that he understands the limits of what he can say.
In response, Mr. Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba said the former president is “well aware” of the court’s ruling and “the strict confines placed on his testimony”.
Earlier, Judge Kaplan rejected Mr Trump’s request to postpone the trial by a week so he could attend the funeral of his mother-in-law, Amalija Knavs, on Thursday.
But the judge ruled that the ex-president could be allowed to testify next Monday.
As Mr Trump turns his attention to New Hampshire and the rest of the Republican primary, he is also facing 91 criminal felony charges across four state and federal cases.