Trump attorneys query E. Jean Carroll on LinkedIn founder

A federal judge said Thursday he will allow Donald Trump’s attorneys to question his rape accuser, writer E. Jean Carroll, under oath about funding for her lawsuit, which was provided by LinkedIn co-founder and key Democratic donor Reid Hoffman.

However, Judge Lewis Kaplan denied a related request by Trump’s legal team to delay the start of his April 25 civil trial in Manhattan’s U.S. District Court by a month.

Carroll’s lawsuit alleges that Trump raped her in the mid-1990s after a chance encounter in the dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman department store and defamed her when he denied her allegations when she went public with them when he was president.

Kaplan’s rulings came hours after Trump’s attorneys published a court filing alleging that Carroll’s attorneys had deliberately failed to disclose for months that Hoffman funded her case against the former president. Carroll said in an October filing that no one else was paying her legal fees and that she wasn’t sure who would pay for the case.

“The question of whether and when plaintiffs [Carroll] or her attorney received financial assistance in this lawsuit has nothing directly to do with the ultimate merits of the case,” Kaplan wrote in his order.

But, he added, “Although I am not deciding the question now, given the testimony it may prove relevant to the question of plaintiff’s credibility.”

The judge said he would allow “a brief and carefully circumscribed examination of this narrow question” from Carroll’s knowledge of Hoffman’s support. Kaplan said he would later determine if the issue could be raised in the upcoming trial.

Kaplan said Trump’s attorneys could not oust Carroll for more than 60 minutes until next Wednesday unless the judge approves an extension.

Trump’s attorneys, Joseph Tacopina and Alina Habba, said in their letter to Kaplan Thursday that they received a letter Monday from Carroll’s team that said her client “now recalls that her attorney eventually requested additional funds from a non-profit organization to offset certain expenses and legal fees.”

Trump’s attorneys said Carroll’s attorneys revealed on Wednesday that Hoffman is the “key supporter” of this nonprofit group, American Future Republic.

Billionaire Hoffman has spent millions of dollars supporting Democrats in congressional elections and reportedly funding efforts to oppose Trump in elections — including the 2024 presidential campaign, in which he currently leads the GOP primary field.

Dmitri Mehlhorn, one of Hoffman’s philanthropic advisors, told CNBC that since 2017 they have provided third-party funding for legal efforts aimed at “protecting our citizens from violent threats.”

In those cases, “we haven’t met the plaintiffs, we don’t decide who the organization supports, and customers generally don’t know our identities,” Mehlhorn said in an emailed statement.

In Carroll’s case, “our special grant was made before Ms. Carroll filed suit and we had no prior knowledge that our funding would be used specifically for her,” he said.

It was unclear how much money was set aside for Carroll’s lawsuit.

In her testimony, Carroll noted that her lawsuit was an emergency case, meaning her attorneys will only be paid if she wins the case.

But Tacopina and Habba wrote that the disclosure raises “significant concerns about plaintiff’s bias and motive” in filing the lawsuit.

In her letter, Kaplan was asked to partially resume the evidence-sharing phase of the case, known as the discovery phase.

In addition to asking for a one-month delay in the start of the trial, they also asked Kaplan to instruct the jury to take note of Carroll’s “willful disregard for her investigative duties.” Kaplan said in his ruling later Thursday that he would rule on that direction request during the trial.

“The allegation that plaintiff suddenly ‘remembered’ the source of her funding for this high-profile litigation — which spanned four years, spawned two separate lawsuits, and was tried in numerous state, federal, and appellate courts — is not merely preposterous , it is demonstrably false,” Trump’s attorneys wrote.

In a separate letter to the judge Thursday, Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, criticized efforts to disrupt the trial as “unfounded.”

Carroll “recalled” “additional information” related to the exchange from her testimony last week as she prepared for the trial, her attorney wrote.

Kaplan said she “promptly informed Trump’s attorney that while Carroll stands by her statement that this is a contingency fee case, she now recalls that her attorney at one point received additional funding from a nonprofit organization to resolve the issue.” to cover certain expenses and fees.”

That funding came in September 2020, almost a year after Carroll filed a complaint against Trump in state court, her attorney noted.

The plaintiff’s attorneys told Trump’s team this week that Carroll “never met with or engaged in any communication (oral or written) with anyone associated with the nonprofit.” They also proposed a compromise so that Carroll could be questioned about the funding.

“But apparently that wasn’t enough,” Carroll’s attorney said.

Carroll’s team also questioned Trump’s attorneys’ requests for last-minute changes to the negotiation schedule.

“It is, of course, downright absurd for Trump to insist that Reid Hoffman, who has never met or communicated with Carroll, possesses evidence relating to the truth or falsity of Carroll’s battery and libel allegations,” they wrote.

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