MANHATTAN (CN) — The seven-day civil rape trial against Donald Trump began winding down on Thursday, with the plaintiff calling her final witnesses to the stand, but a special allowance from the judge left the door open for Trump to testify at the eleventh hour.
E. Jean Carroll, a writer, has claimed for years that Trump raped her in a dressing room at the department store Bergdorf Goodman in 1996. In addition to Carroll's testimony, the jury heard as well from two other women who accused Trump of sexually assaulting them in the decades before and after — outlining a pattern of Trump suddenly kissing women without their consent.
Trump’s attorney Joseph Tacopina rested his case Thursday just after Carroll’s rested hers. He confirmed that Trump waived his motion to testify in his defense, and that the two spoke Thursday morning.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan nevertheless gave Trump until 5 p.m. on Sunday to file a motion to reopen his case if he changes his mind about testifying.
“If he has second thoughts I’ll at least consider it and maybe we’ll see what happens,” said Kaplan, who made the allowance in light of news reports that Trump said he may cut short a trip to Ireland to “confront” Carroll in New York.
After that, the judge said, “that ship has irrevocably sailed.”
A change of heart is unlikely, according to Tacopina. “I’m good with 5:09 on Thursday” for a deadline to request to reopen his case, the lawyer joked at 5:08 p.m.
The lawsuit, filed under a New York law that opened a one-year window for survivors to file time-barred claims, includes one count of battery and a defamation count based on Trump’s denial of the account while he was in office and via social media after he left.
Carroll, now 79, argues that Trump dashed her professional reputation. Elle magazine, where she had penned an advice column for more than a quarter century, ended her contract. Readers who subscribe to the Substack that Carroll runs now rely on her to be trustworthy, so the president repeatedly calling her a liar was a blow to her livelihood.
While Carroll has not specified a dollar amount for reputational damage, an expert witness Thursday gave her analysis. She focused on the impact after Trump’s October 2022 posts on his platform Truth Social called Carroll’s case “a complete con job” and reiterated his previous comment, “This woman is not my type.”
Northwestern University professor Ashley Humphreys testified that the cost to repair damage to Carroll’s name following the posts would run between $368,183.78 and $2,763,107.82.
Before Humphreys’ testimony, Carroll's team played for the court an excerpt from an October 2022 deposition of Trump that undercuts his assertion that Carroll was not attractive enough for him to have raped: He mistook a contemporary photo of Carroll for one of his own ex-wives, Marla Maples.
The video shows Trump looking over a photo from the late 1980s where he and Carroll are pictured alongside Trump’s first wife, Ivana, and John Johnson, a Black former anchorman to whom Carroll was married at the time. Trump begins to remark about having known Johnson, then trails off, as if beginning to identify the figures in the photo, and says, “It’s Marla.”
“You’re saying Marla is in this photo?” Carroll's attorney Roberta Kaplan asks.
“That’s Marla, yeah. That’s my wife,” Trump replies. Kaplan asks which woman he’s pointing to and Trump’s attorney Alina Habba interjects: “No, that’s Carroll.”
“Oh, I see,” Trump says. He appears to be confused, and says the photo looks blurry.
A few minutes later Kaplan connected the dots, asking: “I take it the three women you’ve married are all your type?” Trump agreed.
On Thursday jurors also saw, for the second time, the infamous “Access Hollywood” video in which Trump describes using his celebrity status to aggressively pursue women.
“I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you're a star they let you do it,” Trump can be heard saying in the hot-mic recording that circulated widely in the weeks before the 2016 presidential election.
“You can do anything,” he continues. “Grab them by the pussy.”
Trump doubled down on those comments, which he called “locker room top,” during his deposition, where he showed little reaction while watching the video.
“Well historically that's true with stars,” Trump says in the deposition recording. “If you look over the last million years, I guess that’s been largely true. Not always but largely true. Unfortunately or fortunately.”
Trump then confirmed that he considered himself a star.
At several points in his testimony Trump also knocked the attorney questioning him.
“You’re a political operative also,” he says to Kaplan, Carroll’s lead attorney. “You’re a disgrace.”
When asked about taking a jab at the physical appearance of Jessica Leeds, one of the three women to testify at trial that Trump sexually assaulted her, Trump supplemented his answer by commenting on Kaplan’s looks.
“You wouldn't be a choice of mine either, to be honest with you. I hope you're not insulted,” he says in the deposition video. “I wouldn't in any circumstances have any interest in you.”
The deposition videos were followed by testimony from, Carol Martin, Carroll’s close friend a a retired journalist, who supported the account that she was one of two friends whom Carroll told Trump raped her at the time of the alleged attack.
Martin and Carroll were broadcast TV colleagues in the mid-90s while Carroll hosted a daytime talk show based on her advice column. Both women testified that a day or two after the alleged rape, Carroll went to Martin’s home and told her what happened.
“She didn’t use the word rape,” Martin said, “but she said it was a frenzy. She said, ‘I was fighting, I was fighting,’ she kept saying that.”
Martin also recalled telling Carroll not to go to the police.
“She wasn’t asking me what I would do, so at some point I just volunteered that I didn’t think she should do anything, because he was Donald Trump,” Martin testified. “He had a lot of attorneys and I just thought that he would bury her, is what I told her.”
From Carroll’s perspective, taking legal action was out of the question anyway.
“Women like me were taught and trained to keep our chins up and to not complain,” Carroll said during her own testimony. “The fact that I never went to the police is not surprising for someone my age.”Follow @NinaPullano
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