Closing arguments are set to begin Friday morning in E. Jean Carroll’s damages trial against Donald Trump, in which the writer is expected to seek well over $10 million for the former president’s repeatedly defaming her by calling her sexual abuse allegations against him a “con job.”
Trump, who took the stand Thursday for the second time since his presidential re-election campaign began, plans to attend the proceedings, his campaign spokesman, Steven Cheung, told NBC News.
Trump delivered dramatic but brief testimony, saying he lashed out at Carroll after she went public with her allegations in 2019 because he wanted “to defend myself, my family and frankly the presidency.” U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan ordered the comment stricken from the record because it wasn’t responsive to the question to which he was responding.
Kaplan had placed strict limits on what Trump could say on the stand because he has already been found liable for defaming Carroll and couldn’t say otherwise. Nevertheless, asked by his attorney Alina Habba whether he’d made the comments to defend himself, Trump said: “Yes. I consider it a false accusation.”
The judge had indicated before Trump’s testimony that he would tell the jury to ignore such declarations before it begins deliberating. “The jury will be instructed to say regardless of what he says today, it did occur, and that is the law,” Kaplan said.
A different jury found Trump liable last year for sexually abusing Carroll in a New York department store in the 1990s and for defaming her by calling her a “wack job” and her claims a hoax. Kaplan used that verdict to find Trump liable in the current case, which centers on similar remarks he made about her while he was president in 2019. The jury is tasked only with determining how much or little the writer should be paid.
Carroll is requesting an unspecified amount in punitive damages to “punish Trump for acting maliciously and to deter Trump and others” from continuing to defame her, in addition to at least $10 million in compensatory damages for “injury to her reputation, humiliation and mental anguish in her public and private life.” The jury was shown multiple instances of Trump’s ongoing attacks on Carroll to media outlets and on social media since the other case’s $5 million verdict was rendered last year on Thursday.
An expert who testified on Carroll’s behalf put the cost of repairing her reputation alone at $7 million to $12 million, and Carroll’s team will seek additional damages for the emotional harm she has suffered. They’re also likely to seek a very large amount in punitive damages, arguing a hefty judgment is needed to persuade Trump to stop trashing her, as he has frequently done since the trial began on Jan 16. On Monday, when the case was delayed for Covid-related reasons, Trump posted about Carroll around three dozen times on his Truth Social website.
Trump’s team has argued that Carroll should get nothing or at most a “nominal” amount in damages because Trump isn’t to blame for the online vitriol and death threats that followed his posts and mockery of Carroll.
Carroll’s attorney Roberta Kaplan, who isn’t related to the judge, has noted that many of the threats have echoed Trump’s language about Carroll and said he’s responsible.
Trump didn’t attend last year’s trial and backed out of testifying, but he has been in court almost every day of the current trial. The trial was postponed for three days at the beginning of the week after a juror fell ill and Habba told the judge she’d been exposed to the coronavirus and was feeling sick. She tested negative for the virus.