By Michael R. Sisak, Larry Neumeister And Jake Offenhartz, The Associated Press on January 17, 2024.
NEW YORK (AP) – Donald Trump was threatened with expulsion from his Manhattan civil trial Wednesday after he repeatedly ignored a warning to keep quiet while writer E. Jean Carroll testified that he shattered her reputation after she accused him of sexual abuse.
Judge Lewis A. Kaplan told the former president that his right to be present at the trial will be revoked if he remains disruptive. After an initial warning, Carroll’s lawyer said Trump could still be heard making remarks to his lawyers, including “it is a witch hunt” and “it really is a con job.”
“Mr. Trump, I hope I don’t have to consider excluding you from the trial,” Kaplan said in an exchange after the jury was excused for lunch, adding: “I understand you’re probably eager for me to do that.”
“I would love it,” Trump shot back, shrugging as he sat between lawyers Alina Habba and Michael Madaio at the defense table.
“I know you would like it. You just can’t control yourself in this circumstance, apparently,” Kaplan responded.
“You can’t either,” Trump muttered.
Kaplan cracked down after Carroll lawyer Shawn Crowley complained for a second time that Trump could be heard “loudly saying things that are false” as he sat at the defense table, frequently tilting back in his chair and leaning over to speak with his lawyer.
Among his comments, Crowley said, were that the longtime Elle magazine advice columnist was lying about the assault and that she seemed to have “gotten her memory back.” Crowley suggested that if Carroll’s lawyers could hear Trump from where they were sitting, about 12 feet (3.7 meters) from him, jurors might’ve been able to hear him too.
“I’m just going to ask that Mr. Trump take special care to keep his voice down when conferring with counsel to make sure the jury does not hear it,” Kaplan said before jurors returned to the courtroom after a morning break.
Earlier, without the jury in the courtroom, Trump could be seen slamming his hand on the defense table and uttering the word, “man,” when the judge again refused his lawyer’s request that the trial be suspended on Thursday so he could attend his mother-in-law’s funeral in Florida.
Carroll, 80, was the first witness in a Manhattan federal court trial to determine damages, if any, that Trump owes her for remarks he made while he was president in June 2019 as he vehemently denied ever attacking her or knowing her. A jury last year already found that Trump sexually abused her in 1996 and defamed her when he made a round of denials in October 2022.
Carroll’s appearance, which continues Wednesday afternoon, was somewhat of a tight rope walk because of limitations the judge has posed on the trial in light of the previous verdict and prior rulings he’s made restricting the infusion of political talk into the proceedings. Habba lobbed multiple objections seeking to prevent the jury from hearing details of Carroll’s sexual assault allegations.
“I’ve paid just about as dearly as it’s possible to pay,” Carroll said, referencing the damage she said Trump had caused to her reputation.
She said that Trump’s vitriol toward her has not ceased, pointing to multiple social media posts he made about her in recent days, and that his rhetoric continues to inspire venom against her from strangers because she claimed he sexually abused her decades ago.
“He lied last month. He lied on Sunday. He lied yesterday. And I am here to get my reputation back,” Carroll said.
She said she opened a social media website on Tuesday and saw a post that said: “Hey lady, you’re a fraud.”
Carroll said her worries about her personal safety after a stream of death threats led her to buy bullets for a gun she inherited from her father, install an electronic fence, warn her neighbors of threats and unleash her pit bull to roam freely on the property of the small cabin in the mountains of upstate New York where she lives alone.
She also brought security along for the trial this week and last May and said she’d thought often about hiring security more often to accompany her.
“Why don’t you?” her attorney, Roberta Kaplan – no relation to the judge – asked.
“Can’t afford it,” Carroll answered.
She took the stand after a hostile encounter between Habba and Kaplan – culminating in Trump’s desk slam – – over the judge’s refusal to adjourn the trial on Thursday so Trump could attend the funeral for former first lady Melania Trump’s mother, Amalija Knavs, who died last week.
Habba called the judge’s ruling “insanely prejudicial” and the judge soon afterward cut her off, saying he would “hear no further argument on it.”
Habba told the judge: “I will not be spoken to that way, your honor.” When she mentioned the funeral again, the judge responded: “It’s denied. Sit down. Bring in the jury.”
Carroll’s testimony came nine months after she was in the same chair convincing a jury in the hopes that Trump could be held accountable in a way that would stop him from frequent verbal attacks against her as he campaigns for the presidency. He is the front-runner on the Republican ticket and won the Iowa caucuses on Monday.
“I’m here because Donald Trump assaulted me and when I wrote about it, he said it never happened. He lied and shattered my reputation,” she said.
Once, Carroll testified, she was a respected advice columnist. “Now, I’m known as the liar, the fraud and the whack job.”
Because the first jury found that Trump sexually abused Carroll in the 1990s and then defamed her in 2022, the new trial concerns only how much more – if anything – he’ll be ordered to pay her for other remarks he made in 2019 while he was president.
Trump, who is juggling court appearances with campaign stops, sat in on jury selection Tuesday. Before opening statements began, he left for a New Hampshire rally.
He declared on social media Tuesday that the case was nothing but “fabricated lies and political shenanigans” that had garnered his accuser money and fame.
“I am the only one injured by this attempted EXTORTION,” read a post on his Truth Social platform.
Carroll, an advice columnist and magazine writer, has said that Trump harmed her deeply. First, she claims, he forced himself on her in a dressing room after a chance meeting at a luxury department store in 1996. Then he publicly impugned her honesty, her motives and even her sanity after she told the story publicly in a 2019 memoir.
Carroll has maintained she lost millions of readers and her longtime post at Elle magazine, where her “Ask E. Jean” advice column ran for over a quarter-century, because of her allegations and Trump’s reaction to them. Elle has said her contract wasn’t renewed for unrelated reasons.
Trump asserts that nothing ever happened between him and Carroll and that he never met her. He says a 1987 party photo of them and their then-spouses “doesn’t count” because it was a momentary greeting.
Trump did not attend the previous trial in the case last May, when a jury found he had sexually abused and defamed Carroll and awarded her $5 million in damages. The jury said, however, that Carroll hadn’t proven her claim that Trump raped her.
Carroll is now seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and millions more in punitive damages.
The Associated Press typically does not name people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Carroll has done.
Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.