MANHATTAN (CN) — Donald Trump’s repeated denial that he sexually abused writer E. Jean Carroll could cost him millions more than he’s already been ordered to pay. Carroll on Monday put the figure at no less than $10 million for her remaining defamation claims against the former president.
Carroll says Trump raped her in early 1996 in a fitting room at New York City’s famed Bergdorf Goodman department store, after the two recognized each other and Trump asked her to help him pick out a gift for a woman.
Trump’s denial of the story, first made public in an excerpt of Carroll’s 2019 book “What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal,” published in The Cut, prompted the defamation lawsuit by Carroll filed the same year.
The day after jurors ordered Trump to pay Carroll $5 million for sexually abusing and then defaming her, the former president told a national audience during a “town hall” event on CNN that Carroll was a “whack job” who made up the story.
“What kind of a woman meets somebody and brings them up and within minutes, you’re playing hanky-panky in a dressing room, okay?” Trump said during the event.
The comments in the wake of the verdict give Carroll grounds to ask for “a very substantial punitive damages award,” in order to punish Trump and deter him and others from further defamation, Carroll says.
“He doubled down on his prior defamatory statements, asserting to an audience all too ready to cheer him on,” Carroll wrote in the 42-page amended complaint. “Trump’s defamatory statements post-verdict show the depth of his malice toward Carroll since it is hard to imagine defamatory conduct that could possibly be more motivated by hatred, ill will, or spite.”
The trial involved a battery claim Carroll filed under a law New York enacted last year to help survivors get justice by offering them a one-year window to file time-barred claims. It also included a defamation count based on Trump’s denial of the account.
It’s a bit more complicated, however, for Carroll’s now-amended complaint, which charges defamation based on Trump’s initial denial — while he was still president. Trump has sought to have the U.S. Department of Justice stand in for him as a proxy defendant, a move from which the Biden administration has not backed off.
Trump may be able to invoke that privilege under the Westfall Act, which is used more typically in cases like a U.S. Postal Service worker facing a lawsuit for an on-the-job car collision. After an appellate court determined that it can also apply to a sitting president, overturning a district court ruling, the question remains as to whether or not Trump was actually acting as president when he told reporters that Carroll was “not my type” and accused her of lying to sell books.
If U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan decides that Trump was indeed a man at work, Carroll’s claims automatically fail since the federal government has sovereign immunity against defamation claims.
Trump’s attorney did not immediately return a request for comment on the amended complaint.
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