Trump briefly testifies at E. Jean Carroll intercourse defamation trial, protection rests

Former U.S. President Donald Trump greets to his supporters, as he arrives from his second civil trial after E. Jean Carroll accused Trump of raping her decades ago, outside a Trump Tower in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., January 25, 2024. 

Eduardo Munoz | Reuters

Update: Jury rules Trump must pay E. Jean Carroll $83.3 million in damages for defamation

Former President Donald Trump on Thursday testified for just three minutes in the civil sex defamation case against him by E. Jean Carroll in New York federal court.

Judge Lewis Kaplan, who had limited Trump to answering a handful of pre-approved questions, struck much of the former president’s answers from the record.

Before Trump was called up, Kaplan warned him and his lawyers that Trump cannot dispute the verdict in another trial that found him liable for sexually abusing Carroll in the mid-1990s and then defaming the writer in 2019, when he was in the White House.

When defense lawyer Alina Habba asked if Trump had denied Carroll’s allegations in order to defend himself, Trump said, “I consider it a false accusation.”

Kaplan struck that response.

Asked if he ever instructed anyone to hurt Carroll, Trump replied, “No, I just wanted to defend myself, my family and frankly the presidency.”

Kaplan struck all of that response except the word “no.”

Trump also testified that he stood by the answers he gave in an October 2022 deposition, in which he called the case “rigged” and “a made-up story.”

Former U.S. President Donald Trump testifies as he takes the stand watched by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan during the second civil trial where E. Jean Carroll accused Trump of raping her decades ago, at Manhattan Federal Court in New York City, U.S., January 25, 2024 in this courtroom sketch. 

Jane Rosenberg | Reuters

Before Trump took the stand, Kaplan ejected his campaign spokesman, Steven Cheung, from court because his phone rang during another witness’s testimony.

“Whose telephone is that?” Kaplan snapped before promptly removing Cheung from the courtroom.

The defense rested their case shortly after Trump’s testimony ended. Closing arguments in the trial are set to begin Friday.

Earlier, Trump had watched as clips from his deposition were shown in open court.

The deposition features Trump confusing a photo of Carroll with his ex-wife Marla Maples, despite having claimed elsewhere that Carroll was “not my type” and that he had never met her.

From L-R: former President Donald Trump, E. Jean Carroll, John Johnson and Ivana Trump at an NBC party, late 1980s.

Source: U.S. District Court in Manhattan

The photo shows Carroll and her then-husband, former broadcast journalist John Johnson, talking to Trump and his first wife, Ivana Trump.

“I have had a lot of hoaxes played on me. This is one of them,” Trump said in the deposition, which Carroll’s attorney took three years after the writer alleged that the former president had raped her in a New York department store in the mid-1990s.

It is “a fake story, a false story, a made-up story,” Trump said. “The Russia Russia Russia hoax. It’s been proven to be a hoax. Ukraine Ukraine Ukraine hoax. The Mueller situation for two-and-a-half years hoax ended in no collusion. It was a whole big hoax. The lying to the FISA court hoax, the lying to Congress many times hoax by all these people, the scum that we have in our country, lying to Congress hoax, the spying on my campaign hoax.”

“That was another hoax, and I could get a whole list of them. And this is a hoax too … this ridiculous situation that we’re doing right now. It’s a big, fat hoax.”

“She is a liar and a sick person in my opinion. Really sick. Something wrong with her,” Trump said of Carroll.

The videos were shown after Carroll’s lawyers questioned their last witness, former Elle magazine Editor-in-Chief Roberta Myers. Carroll previously wrote an advice column for Elle.

The videos marked the end of Carroll’s case in chief.

Before calling their first defense witness, Trump’s lawyers argued with Kaplan about introducing evidence allegedly linking George Soros, a billionaire philanthropist and frequent target of conspiracy theories, with Carroll’s legal bills.

“The door is closed” to that evidence, Kaplan replied.

Carol Martin, a former New York news anchor and a friend of Carroll’s, then took the stand.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump looks on as his lawyer Alina Habba questions former New York TV news anchor Carol Martin, during the second civil trial where E. Jean Carroll accused former U.S. President Donald Trump of raping her decades ago, at Manhattan Federal Court in New York City, U.S., January 25, 2024 in this courtroom sketch. 

Jane Rosenberg | Reuters

Martin has previously testified that Carroll confided in her about Trump’s alleged sexual assault. Trump’s attorney Alina Habba on Thursday approached Martin as a hostile witness, grilling her about Carroll’s social life and alleged publicity-seeking behavior.

At one point, Martin told Habba that she had attended about a half-dozen parties, hosted by Carroll and including journalists, related to Carroll’s two civil lawsuits against Trump.

Trump was initially set to take the witness stand Monday but the trial was postponed after a juror called in sick.

Kaplan gave Habba the chance to continue the case that day with eight jurors instead of nine, but Habba declined, telling Kaplan that she was also feeling ill.

Habba attended Trump’s victory party in New Hampshire on Tuesday night after he defeated Nikki Haley in that state’s primary.

Jurors on Thursday were kept socially distanced as a health precaution. Five of the nine jurors were wearing masks.

Trump has tied his ongoing presidential campaign to his legal battles against Carroll, the New York attorney general, and three different prosecutors.

E. Jean Carroll walks outside Manhattan Federal Court, for the second civil trial after she accused former U.S. President Donald Trump of raping her decades ago, in New York City, U.S., January 25, 2024. 

Brendan Mcdermid | Reuters

The former president in recent weeks has attended trials in New York, despite not being required to do so, drawing heavy media attention and new fundraising opportunities for his campaign.

Trump claims all his legal battles are witch hunts being orchestrated by President Joe Biden and other Democrats to harm his presidential bid.

A jury in a related civil case filed by Carroll found Trump liable last year for sexually abusing the writer in a New York department store in the 1990s and then defaming her in statements he made while denying her allegation in late 2022.

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That jury ordered Trump to pay $5 million to Carroll. Trump is appealing the verdict.

The ongoing trial is being held solely to determine how much Trump must pay Carroll in damages for defaming her in statements he made in 2019, while serving as president, denying her account.

Kaplan earlier ruled that Trump was liable for defaming her because of the jury verdict in the prior trial, which related to similar statements.

Carroll’s lawyers are seeking at least $10 million in damages from Trump in this case.

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