MANHATTAN (CN) — Author and columnist E. Jean Carroll appeared in court Wednesday as lawyers for President Donald Trump tried to delay her suit that casts Trump’s rape denials as defamatory.
Carroll, 75, sued Trump four months ago after he responded, “fake news,” to her account of being raped by the real estate mogul about some 25 years earlier inside a dressing room at the department store Bergdorf Goodman.
Elle magazine, for whom Carroll penned the long-running column “Ask E. Jean,” has in turn opted not to renew her contract, a consequence Carroll says is related to Trump’s defamation of her.
Trump meanwhile says the case can wait — an argument his attorney Christine Montenegro related this afternoon in Manhattan Supreme Court.
“Courts are required to give the president deference,” Montenegro told Judge Verna Saunders. “If the court does not stay this action, the president will suffer irreparable harm.”
She said the Constitution mandates a stay, and touted Trump’s successful delay of the Summer Zervos case, which also entails sexual assault claims.
“What the court has to look to is the burden on the president in carrying out the duties of his office,” said Montenegro.
Roberta Kaplan, an attorney for Carroll, scoffed at the assertion.
“Here we have a president who is not only defending cases … he’s actually brought cases as a plaintiff,” Kaplan said.
Kaplan, who is with the firm Kaplan Hecker & Fink, said the president’s “recent history of personal conduct litigation … confirms that [this case] poses no burden whatsoever.”
As for the Zervos case, Kaplan noted that the delay is anything but certain as New York’s highest court is slated to hold arguments this fall.
“The only possible explanation … is that Donald Trump doesn’t want this case to go forward,” she said.
Montenegro, on the other hand, denied that Carroll can make a claim for irreparable harm. Quoting reports that the ex-Elle columnist has received four other job offers, Montenegro also emphasized the issue of money damages.
Carroll says her encounter with Trump at Bergdorf Goodman went from playful to sinister when he ripped down her tights in the dressing room, pinned her arms, unzipped his pants and forced his penis inside her.
The columnist allegedly reached out to her support network immediately following the attack, first calling her journalist friend Lisa Birnbach on her cellphone and then confiding in a second journalist friend, Carol Martin, who advised her not to tell anyone.
Birnbach was also in court Wednesday, Kaplan said.
“I just wanted to say I’m filing this lawsuit not just for myself, but for every woman in America who’s been grabbed, groped, harassed, sexually assaulted, and has spoken up — and still has been disgraced, shamed, or fired, which happened in my case,” Carroll told reporters outside the courthouse after Wednesday’s hearing.
Trump’s team moved to stay the case five days after Kaplan asked that he provide a DNA sample to see if it matches stains left on the dress Carroll was wearing.
Carroll appeared thrilled by Kaplan’s performance in court Wednesday, making silent, enthusiastic clapping motions after the lawyer argued and again when the parties were dismissed. The two women praised each other outside, with Carroll calling Kaplan a “beast” with chutzpah and courage, and Kaplan saying Carroll was the one with true courage.
Zervos, a former “Apprentice” contestant, also sued the president over his response to her sexual assault allegations. That case is on hold as he appeals to New York’s highest court.
Saunders told the parties to expect a written decision in the Carroll case.
“I feel very, very good about our chance of prevailing,” Kaplan told reporters afterward. “You have a very credible person here. It’s just preposterous to think someone would make something like that up.”