Trump denies sexual assault claims in defamation case

Jonathan Stempel and Luc Cohen |

Donald Trump has spent about four minutes on the witness stand in a defamation trial.
Donald Trump has spent about four minutes on the witness stand in a defamation trial.

Donald Trump’s testimony in the writer E Jean Carroll’s defamation case ended almost immediately after it began as the former US president stood by his earlier testimony that Carroll’s claim that he raped her was a hoax.

“100 per cent yes,” Trump told his lawyer Alina Habba in federal court in Manhattan, when asked if his comments in an October 2022 deposition in Carroll’s case were accurate.

Earlier on Thursday, Carroll’s lawyers played videotaped excerpts from the deposition, in which Trump called the former Elle magazine advice columnist “mentally sick” and a “whack job”, and threatened to sue her.

“It’s a false accusation, never happened, never would happen,” Trump said in the deposition.

Carroll, 80, is seeking at least $US10 million ($A15 million) over Trump’s June 2019 denials that he had raped her in the mid-1990s in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in Manhattan.

E Jean Carroll arrives at Manhattan federal court
E Jean Carroll is seeking at least $US10 million over Donald Trump’s denials that he had raped her. (AP PHOTO)

Last May, another jury ordered Trump to pay Carroll $US5 million after he denied her rape claim in October 2022.

Trump, 77, spent only four minutes on the witness stand after US District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who has overseen both trials, said he would not allow “do-overs by disappointed litigants”.

That jury ruled that Trump defamed Carroll and sexually abused her by inserting his fingers in her vagina, and the judge said those findings were binding in the second trial.

Kaplan struck much of what Trump said on the witness stand from the record, meaning that the seven-man, two-woman jury cannot consider it during deliberations.

Trump testified “yes I did” when his lawyer Habba asked if he had publicly denied Carroll’s rape claim to defend himself, and “no” when Habba asked if he had intended to harm Carroll.

He then said he had “wanted to defend myself, my family, and frankly the presidency,” but Kaplan told jurors to disregard this comment.

The judge, who is known for maintaining tight control in his courtroom, limited Trump’s testimony after overhearing Trump discuss Carroll, outside the jury’s presence.

“I wasn’t at the trial,” Trump said. “I don’t know who this woman is. I never met this woman.”

Kaplan cut him off. “I’m sorry, Mr Trump, you are interrupting these proceedings by talking loudly,” the judge said.

Donald Trump
The judge struck much of what Donald Trump said on the witness stand from the record. (AP PHOTO)

The trial has lasted four days and closing arguments are expected on Friday.

Jurors will consider only how much money Trump should pay Carroll, if any, for damaging her reputation, and whether he owes additional sums as punishment and to keep him from defaming her again.

A damages expert testified on Carroll’s behalf last week that the reputational damage from Trump’s 2019 comments could be as high as $US12.1 million.

Trump’s legal team has said damages should be nominal or zero.

Carroll’s case and the trial have become part of Trump’s campaign to retake the White House in the November election.

The Republican frontrunner has been shuttling between the courtroom and campaign stops while criticising Carroll, the judge and the judicial process online and at media conferences.

Trump has accused Carroll of making up the rape to boost sales of her memoir.

His lawyers, meanwhile, have tried to show jurors that Carroll sought out and has enjoyed the fame and adulation from coming forward.

They have also said it was book excerpts published in New York magazine, not Trump’s subsequent comments, that caused people to brand Carroll a liar.

Earlier on Thursday, Carroll’s lawyers wrapped up their case, with former Elle editor-in-chief Robbie Myers testifying that she had viewed Carroll as a “truth teller” whose empathy and sense of humour made her “so important” to the Elle brand.