Trump testifies in New York defamation trial

Former President Donald Trump testified in court in the defamation trial – but barely got a word in edgewise. Judge Lews Kaplan only allowed three questions from his lawyers on Thursday, to which Trump could only answer yes or no, in order to prevent the ex-president from digressing. In the civil lawsuit, columnist and author E. Jean Carroll is demanding more than ten million dollars (9.1 million euros) in damages from Trump for defamatory statements.

The court hearing took place two days after Trump’s victory in the Republican presidential primary in the US state of New Hampshire. This brings Trump closer to a presidential candidacy. The ex-president is making his problems with the judiciary a campaign issue with four indictments and portrays himself as the victim of a “witch hunt” by the Democrats, who, in his view, want to prevent his return to the White House.

Trump, 77, denied Thursday allegations that he directed anyone to harm Carroll with his comments. “She said something that I considered to be false,” Trump said, according to an AFP correspondent’s report, before Judge Kaplan cut him off. As he left the courtroom, Trump said, visibly upset: “This is not America.”

On the eve of the hearing, Trump released a volley of 37 verbal attacks against E. Jean Carroll on his online platform Truth Social, smearing her and questioning the credibility of her evidence.

Carroll accuses Trump of raping her in a dressing room at the New York luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman in 1996. The long-time columnist for “Elle” magazine first made her accusation public in 2019, when Trump was president. The Republican then accused Carroll of lying and said she wasn’t his “type.”

Trump himself thwarted this defense strategy with an embarrassing mistake: On Thursday morning, the jury was again shown videos of Trump being questioned in October 2022. At that time he confirmed that he didn’t know Carroll and that she was “not his type”. However, in a photo from the 1990s showing him and the plaintiff, he confused Carroll with his then-wife Marla Maples.

In a first trial last year, Trump was sentenced to five million dollars in damages and compensation for sexual abuse and defamation of the journalist. Two weeks after the verdict, Carroll called for even harsher punishment for Trump in an updated lawsuit after he again denied Carroll’s rape allegations and insulted her as a “crazy” during a live CNN town hall discussion in front of an audience of millions.

At the start of the second trial last week, both 77-year-old Trump and 80-year-old Carroll appeared in court in person. During Carroll’s testimony, Trump sat just a few rows away.

Trump sexually abused her, lied “and he destroyed my reputation,” said the columnist and author. Asked how Trump had damaged her reputation, Carroll said: “I used to be known simply as a journalist, and now I’m known as a liar, a cheater and a lunatic.” She was citing insults that Trump made towards her.

Carroll’s lawyers complained about Trump’s loud comments during Carroll’s testimony and feared they could influence the jury, CNN reported. The judge asked Trump to confer more quietly with his lawyers and also threatened him with expulsion from the courtroom.

The hearing was postponed several times on Tuesday because of a juror’s corona illness and the primary election in New Hampshire.