Donald Trump

Trump takes stand and gives brief testimony in E Jean Carroll trial

user avatar Author: Editors Desk Source: The Guardian
January 25, 2024 at 16:13
Donald Trump testifies in federal court in New York on 25 January. Photograph: Elizabeth Williams via AP
Donald Trump testifies in federal court in New York on 25 January. Photograph: Elizabeth Williams via AP

Former president says he never instructed anyone to hurt magazine columnist after judge warns him to keep his voice down

Donald Trump took the witness stand in E Jean Carroll’s second defamation trial against him, marking the first time he has provided court testimony relating to her sexual assault claim against him.

Trump’s testimony lasted less than five minutes as the judge in this case, Lewis Kaplan, significantly limited what the ex-president could say in court. In May last year, a jury awarded Carroll $5m after finding that Trump sexually abused and defamed her; Kaplan said jurors’ factual determination in the first proceeding would be accepted at this trial, meaning they are only weighing damages.

“Ms Habba, you may call your next witness,” Judge Kaplan said at about 2.15pm local time.“Thank you, your honor,” Habba said. “The defense calls President Donald Trump.”

“Thank you, your honor,” Habba said. “The defense calls President Donald Trump.”

Trump walked to the witness stand and sat after being sworn in.

“Do you stand by your testimony in the deposition?”

“One hundred percent, yes,” Trump replied.

Habba then started to ask whether Trump denied the allegation.

“That’s exactly right. She said something. I considered it a false accusation.”

Trump was cut off by Kaplan, who did not allow him to testify about denying the claim.

“Mr President, did you ever instruct anyone to hurt Ms Carroll in your statements?”

“No, I just wanted to defend myself, my family and, frankly, the presidency.”

“I have no more questions. Thank you,” Habba said.

On cross-examination, Roberta Kaplan asked: “Sitting here today, Mr Tump, are you aware there was another trial between you and Ms Carroll?”

Trump replied: “Yes.”

His team objected to the question.

“Mr Trump, is this the first trial between you and Ms Carroll that you attended?”

He said yes.

Habba had an opportunity to question Trump once more. She asked whether he had an attorney at his last trial.

He answered in the affirmative. When Habba started to ask whether he listened to his lawyers’ advice, there was another objection. Habba said the defense rests.

Before Trump took the stand, as both sides were discussing the potential scope of his testimony prior to jurors entering, Trump grumbled: “I never met this woman.”

Judge Kaplan shot back: “Keep your voice down”

There was another outburst.

“I’m sorry, Mr Trump. You’re interrupting these proceedings by talking loudly while you’re counsel is talking,” and that is not permitted, Judge Kaplan warned again.

Carroll’s team called her former Elle editor, Roberta Myers, as their final witness. Her testimony lasted about 20 minutes.

Myers was questioned about her work history and she described a 30-year magazine career which, in addition to helming Elle, included stints at Rolling Stone and Interview.

She also said in court that she had previously met Donald Trump. It was “when I was on an episode of Celebrity Apprentice. I was there as an editor of Elle to present what was known as a challenge to apprentices.”

Myers described Carroll as a talented “truth-teller” and so popular that Elle considered her a destination for readers – who liked her so much they would pick up the magazine and immediately flip to her column. Myers said Carroll’s performance was so good she decided to give her a raise.

“I think her column was sort of the leader of the pack,” Myers said of Carroll’s writing and described how her column inspired others to launch similar concepts. Carroll’s team also tried to establish that Myers did not have a deep personal relationship with Carroll, to undermine suggestion of bias.

“Did she ever tell you about her personal life?”

Myers said: “No.”

When asked: “Did she ever tell you she was sexually assaulted by Donald Trump,” Myers also responded: “No.”

Trump’s lead attorney, Alina Habba, began her cross-examination of Myers by suggesting that she was biased. “You didn’t vote for Donald Trump in 2016, right?” Habba asked. “Or in 2020?” She further pressed: “You don’t plan on voting for him in 2024, do you?”

Before a morning break, Carroll’s team presented a handful of exhibits to jurors, including a television appearance in which Trump repeated a denial and an excerpt of an April 2023 video deposition in which he described his wealth.

Carroll’s camp played one of the most shocking deposition excerpts of Trump, in which he mistook a photo of Carroll for his ex-wife, Marla Maples. This snippet, from an October 2022 deposition, was also played in Carroll’s first trial against the ex-president.

This questioning starts with Carroll’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan showing Trump a photo in which he, Carroll, and their then respective spouses appear. “You have in front of you a black-and-white photograph that we’ve marked as DJT 23. And I’m going to ask you: Is this the photo that you were just referring to?”

“I think so, yes,” Trump responds in the deposition.

“And do you recall when you first saw this photo?” Kaplan asks.

“At some point during the process, I saw it. I guess that’s her husband, John Johnson, who was an anchor for NBC. Nice guy, I thought. I mean, I don’t know him, but I thought he was pretty good at what he did. I don’t even know the woman. I don’t know who – it’s Marla.”

Kaplan continues: “You’re saying Marla is in this photo?”

Trump replies: “That’s Marla, yeah. That’s my wife.”

Habba then steps in and tries to correct Trump, but he still struggles to identify the woman in the photo.

“Which woman are you pointing to?” Trump is asked.

“No, that’s Carroll,” Habba says.

Trump says: “Oh, I see.”

“The person you just pointed to was E Jean Carroll,” Kaplan notes.

“That’s your wife,” Habba corrects.

“And the person – the woman on your right was –” Kaplan presses.

Trump says: “I don’t know. This was the picture. I assume that’s John Johnson.”

“That’s Carroll,” Habba notes.

“That’s Carroll?” Trump asks.

Carroll’s team rested after presenting these exhibits.

Habba started the defense case by calling Carol Martin, a retired news anchor whom Carroll told about the alleged rape. Martin testified for Carroll in the first defamation trial.

Carroll and Martin both worked at America’s Talking, a now-shuttered television network started by Roger Ailes. After they both finished work one day, Carroll had asked if they could hang out, Martin testified in Carroll’s first trial.

In the first trial, Martin told jurors they were in her kitchen when Carroll “started telling me what had just happened”. Martin recounted how Carroll told her about the alleged incident.

“What, if anything, did you say to Ms Carroll about what she should do in the future?” Martin was asked.

Martin said: “She explained that she thought she was doing the right thing by not doing anything.

“But she wasn’t asking me what I would do, and so at some point, I just volunteered that I didn’t think she should do anything because he was Donald Trump, and he had a lot of attorneys, and I thought he would bury her, is what I told her.”

“I have questioned myself more times than not over the years as to why I told her that,” Martin said in the first trial. “I am not proud that that’s what I had told her.”

As one might expect, Habba was trying to use Martin to undermine Carroll’s credibility in this trial. She asked about their time at America’s Talking.

“Do you know whether Ms Carroll was reprimanded at work for inappropriate work directed at Mr Ailes?” Carroll’s team objected and the judge, Lewis Kaplan sustained their objection.

“You’ve also previously described Ms Carroll as a drug addict and a druggist herself?” Habba later asked, prompting an objection.

“And that the drug is herself, didn’t you?” Habba pressed.

“The question is: Did you say it?”

“It is written there, yes,” Martin said, referring to a written message.

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