Donald Trump muttered and snarled his way through a second day in a federal courtroom in New York, where he was to observe the proceedings of the $10 million defamation lawsuit filed against him by writer E. Jean Carroll. As Carroll took the stand and testified how Trump had destroyed her reputation by repeatedly lying about sexually assaulting her, Trump noisily complained to his lawyers and—apparently in a voice loud enough to be heard by the jury—repeatedly called the whole trial a “witch hunt” and a “con job.”
District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is overseeing the trial, warned Trump he needs to keep his mouth shut.
“Mr. Trump has the right to be present here. That right can be forfeited, and it can be forfeited if he is disruptive, which is what has been reported to me,” Kaplan told Trump’s attorneys. Kaplan then turned to Trump, telling him he didn’t want to have to kick him out of the coutroom.
“I would love it, I would love it,” Trump responded.
“I know you would,” Kaplan told him. “You just can’t control yourself in this circumstance, apparently.”
“You can’t either,” Trump snapped back.
Despite Trump’s last retort, Kaplan can toss him—it’s a civil trial and Trump doesn’t have to be there. It is, in fact, Trump’s second trial before Kaplan concerning E. Jean Carroll. Last spring, Carroll sued Trump, accusing him of sexual assault and defamation and testifying that Trump had raped her in a dressing room at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in the mid-1990s. After Carroll went public in 2019 with her account of the incident, Trump responded by publicly denying that it ever occurred, and repeatedly said that she was “not my type.” Carroll won the lawsuit last year, with a jury finding Trump liable for sexual assault and defamation and awarding her $5 million. The defamation aspect of last year’s case actually centered on comments Trump made in 2022, repeating his 2019 denials and mockery. This current case actually addresses the original comments Trump made—proceedings were delayed by Trump’s attempt to claim immunity because he’d made the comments while acting as president. Prior to the start of the trial, Kaplan told jurors that it wasn’t a question of whether Trump had raped Carroll—that was already established, he said. Nor was it a question of whether he defamed her with his denials—that, he said, was also settled. All that remains in this case is the question of how much Trump owes Carroll for his repeated defamation.
But Trump has continued his attacks on Carroll, and on Monday, the first day of the trial, her attorneys told jurors that they needed to send Trump a message.
“Twenty-five years after sexually assaulting Ms. Carroll, Donald Trump defamed her for speaking up and then he did it again and again,” one of Carroll’s attorneys said in her opening statement. “He keeps doing it, even now. It’s time to make him stop.”
During the first trial, Trump was represented by Joseph Tacopina, a prominent attorney known for his brash demeanor and aggressive courtroom tactics, but Tacopina seemed cowed by Carroll during his attempts to cross-examine her. This week, before the second trial began, Tacopina said he was leaving the case. Trump’s defense is now being led by Alina Habba, an attorney who often appears on cable news on her client’s behalf. Habba clashed with Kaplan several times on Tuesday, and received her own warnings to start abiding by the rules of federal court—she had not been standing when she spoke, and repeatedly referenced documents that weren’t listed as evidence.
Carroll also took to the stand on Tuesday and testified that she is still being terrorized by people whom Trump incited when he called her a liar. She said she keeps a loaded gun by her bed, and still feels hurt by his denial and mockery.
Politico reporter Erica Orden tweeted part of Carroll’s testimony:
Asked how derogatory comments about her appearance make her feel, Carroll says: “It makes it hard for a girl to get up in the morning.”
She adds: “I know I’m old, I know I’m 80, I know I’m not a pretty young woman, but it makes it tough to go on with the day.”
— erica orden (@eorden) January 17, 2024