Trump briefly takes stand in E. Jean Carroll trial, but doesn’t say much

Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, first asked him whether he stood by the testimony he gave in a videotaped deposition that had been shown to the jury.

“100 percent, yes,” he said.

When Habba asked whether he had denied Carroll’s allegation in order to defend himself, Trump replied: “Yes, I did. That’s exactly right. She said something I considered a false accusation … .”

His answer was cut off by an objection from one of Carroll’s attorneys, and U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan instructed the jury to disregard everything he said after, “Yes, I did.”

And after Habba asked Trump whether he had instructed anyone to hurt Carroll, Trump answered: “No, I just wanted to defend myself, my family and frankly, the presidency … .” His answer, again, was interrupted by an objection from Carroll’s lawyer, and the judge then instructed the jury to disregard everything in Trump’s response aside from “no.”

Carroll is suing Trump for claiming in 2019, after she publicly accused Trump of having raped her in a department store dressing room in the 1990s, that he had never met her and suggesting she was motivated by money. The trial is the second one between Carroll and Trump. Last year, a jury
ordered Trump to pay Carroll $5 million
in damages after finding he sexually abused her and defamed her with separate comments he made in 2022.

Kaplan ruled before the current trial that Trump’s 2019 remarks about Carroll were defamatory, so the only question for the jury to decide is how much money in damages Trump will have to pay.

Trump was the final witness called in the trial, which began last week and was postponed for three days this week after a juror reported feeling ill. Lawyers for both sides are expected to deliver closing arguments on Friday, and then the nine-person jury will begin to deliberate.

Trump’s testimony Thursday marked the first he has given in front of a jury since leaving the White House.

In November, Trump testified in a civil fraud trial against him, his adult sons and their business associates, during which he excoriated the judge and offered performative bits lifted from his campaign rallies. But that trial wasn’t in front of a jury, and as a result the judge gave the former president considerable latitude during his testimony.

Before the current Carroll trial began, Kaplan limited Trump’s possible testimony, writing that, “Mr. Trump is precluded from offering any testimony, evidence or argument suggesting or implying that he did not sexually assault Ms. Carroll, that she fabricated her account of the assault, or that she had any motive to do so.” Kaplan reasoned that last year’s jury found that Trump did, in fact, assault Carroll, and therefore the issue is no longer in dispute as a legal matter.

On Thursday, before Trump took the witness stand and outside the presence of the jury, Kaplan spent about 20 minutes questioning Habba about what she planned to ask her client and what he planned to say.

“It is a very well-established legal principle in this country that prevents do-overs by disappointed litigants,” Kaplan told Habba.

During Kaplan’s exchange with Habba, Trump became audible on the microphone at the defense table, repeating some of the claims he has previously made about Carroll.

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

“Mr. Trump, please keep your voice down,” the judge instructed him.

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