Trump looks on as E Jean Carroll testifies he shattered her reputation

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E Jean Carroll told the court Trump “lied, and it shattered my reputation”
By Sam Cabral, and Kayla Epstein in the courtroom
BBC News

E Jean Carroll has testified that Donald Trump “shattered” her reputation after she accused him of sexually assaulting her in the 1990s.

Seated inside the federal courtroom in Manhattan, the ex-president was heard loudly criticising her testimony. The judge warned he could be kicked out.

This is the former Elle columnist’s second civil defamation case against Mr Trump. She is seeking $10m (£8m).

Mr Trump, 77, has denied her accusation and continues to do so.

Last May, a jury found him liable for sexual abuse and defamation, though not for rape, and awarded Ms Carroll $5m. That trial was based on his 2022 remarks that her story was a “con job” and “hoax”.

The current case focuses on different remarks – which the judge has already ruled were defamatory – that Mr Trump made while he was president in 2019, when he called her allegation “totally false”.

This second trial will determine additional damages.

In 2019, Ms Carroll alleged Mr Trump had forced himself on her inside the luxury Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan in the 1990s after she had a chance encounter with the property tycoon.

On Wednesday, he looked on in court as the agony aunt behind the long-running Ask E Jean advice column took the stand as the trial’s first witness.

“I am here because Donald Trump assaulted me, and when I wrote about it, he said it never happened,” Ms Carroll, 80, said. “He lied, and it shattered my reputation.”

From building a 50-year career as journalist who wrote about life, love, sex and relationships, she told the court, “now I’m known as a liar, a fraud and a whack job”.

“I am here to get my reputation back and to stop him from telling lies about me.”

She mentioned that the nature of Mr Trump’s denial had surprised her because she expected him to say their encounter was consensual rather than that he did not know her.

Ms Carroll added that the then-president had said “people like me should pay dearly”, one of several comments that led to a deluge of insults, death threats and online vitriol.

“I’ve paid just about as dearly as possible to pay,” she said. “It ended the world I had been living in, and I lived in a new world.”

Sitting two rows back with his legal team, Mr Trump listened intently to the testimony, staring at Ms Carroll and shaking his head at one point.

Accuser and accused are in the same room together this week for what appears to be the first time in more than two decades

As jurors were released for a morning break, her attorney said Mr Trump could be overheard “loudly saying things”, including “it’s a witch hunt” and “she’s gotten her memory back”.

As the recess ended, Judge Lewis Kaplan issued a warning that Mr Trump “take special care to keep his voice down when he’s conferring with counsel so that the jury does not overhear”.

“Mr Trump has the right to be present here. That right can be forfeited if [he is] disruptive and if he disregards court orders,” he added. “You just can’t control yourself in this circumstance apparently.”

The former president has slammed Judge Kaplan as “a Trump Hating, Radical Left Judge” and a “BULLY”.

His counsel, Ms Habba, has repeatedly clashed with the judge, including at the outset of Wednesday’s proceedings.

The lawyer reiterated a request for the trial to be delayed so that Mr Trump can attend his mother-in-law’s funeral on Thursday, saying it would be “insanely prejudicial” to have him sit in court.

“The application is denied. I will hear no further argument on it,” Judge Kaplan said. “None. Do you understand that word? None.”

Ms Habba replied that she didn’t “like to be spoken to that way”, repeating her request for adjournment as the judge demanded she sit down.

The attorney was also admonished for making multiple objections during Ms Carroll’s testimony and for remaining seated when addressing the court.

Trump attorney Alina Habba clashed repeatedly with the judge on Wednesday

Accuser and accused are in the same room together this week for what appears to be the first time in more than two decades.

Though Mr Trump was deposed in the earlier trial, he did not attend in person or testify, both of which he is doing voluntarily in these proceedings.

In opening statements, Ms Carroll’s attorney called for a “very significant” sum of damages, alleging the then-president had “unleashed his [social media] followers” on her.

But Ms Habba argued the plaintiff did not deserve damages because her accusation of sexual assault had made her famous and “she likes her new brand”.

Mr Trump, who also faces 91 felony charges across four criminal cases this year and is awaiting judgement in a New York civil fraud trial, is currently the Republican frontrunner for president.

On Monday, he scored a landslide victory in the Iowa caucuses, the first of the state-by-state votes in the race to become the Republican party’s White House candidate.

Mr Trump is ramping up campaign appearances in New Hampshire, where the second contest takes place next Tuesday.

He has repeatedly said he “knows absolutely nothing about” Ms Carroll, including in more than a dozen posts on his Truth Social platform as he attended Tuesday’s hearing.

Mr Trump is expected to testify in the trial on Monday. Jurors are also expected to hear portions of his 2022 deposition and the infamous Access Hollywood tape in which he jokes about groping women.

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