E. Jean Carroll May Sue Trump a Third Time After ‘Vile’ Comments on CNN

E. Jean Carroll in New York, May 11, 2023. (Sarah Blesener/The New York Times)

E. Jean Carroll in New York, May 11, 2023. (Sarah Blesener/The New York Times)

When former President Donald Trump was inveighing against E. Jean Carroll on CNN Wednesday night, at least one person was not watching: Carroll.

She was asleep and did not learn of his comments calling her claim of a decades-old sexual assault “fake” and a “made-up story” until Thursday morning, when her lawyer sent her a transcript, she said.

“It’s just stupid. It’s just disgusting, vile, foul. It wounds people,” Carroll said in an interview with The New York Times on Thursday, adding that she had been “insulted by better people.”

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Trump’s comments came just one day after a Manhattan jury awarded Carroll $5 million in damages and found him liable for sexually abusing her in the mid-1990s in a department store dressing room and also for defaming her on his Truth Social platform.

Trump, in response to questions from the CNN moderator about the Manhattan jury’s verdict Tuesday, called Carroll a “wack job” and said her civil trial was “a rigged deal.” The audience had been drawn primarily from Republican groups, and his comments drew applause and laughter.

Carroll said she was infuriated when her longtime stylist told her Thursday morning that the stylist’s 15-year-old son was talking about what Trump had said on television Wednesday.

“I am upset on the behalf of young men in America,” Carroll said. “They cannot listen to this balderdash and this old-timey view of women, which is a cave man view.”

Carroll, 79, is now weighing whether to file a new defamation lawsuit against Trump, said her lawyer, Roberta A. Kaplan. In addition to the case that ended Tuesday, Carroll has an earlier defamation suit against Trump, 76, that is still pending. Trump has argued in that case that he cannot be sued because he made those comments in his official capacity as president.

Carroll made it clear in the interview that despite Trump’s mockery, she saw the jury’s verdict this week as validating her account that he sexually assaulted her in the mid-1990s, something he has denied repeatedly and loudly.

“I’m thrilled that we won,” she said. “That’s it. He did it. He knows he did it.”

Trump’s lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, filed a notice of appeal for Trump on Thursday.

In the wide-ranging interview, Carroll, accompanied by her lawyers, addressed why she believes the jury found Trump liable for sexually abusing her but not for raping her, as she had long claimed; how she felt being aggressively cross-examined by Tacopina; why she did not scream when Trump assaulted her; and the rituals she and her lawyers performed each day of the two-week trial.

She made it clear that she respected the jurors — six men and three women — who were kept anonymous by the judge and who, she said, remained an enigma to her.

“It was like ‘Saturday Night Mystery Theater’ every time they walked in,” Carroll said. “I studied their faces and they were absolutely deadpan — like nine statues.” She added: “Never cracked a smile, never lifted an eyebrow, never batted a left eyelash.”

It was those jurors who parsed the evidence and testimony by Carroll and 10 other witnesses called on her behalf before rendering a verdict in less than three hours.

Carroll, in the interview, blamed herself for their decision to find Trump liable for sexually abusing her but not for rape.

“I didn’t make myself clear when I was testifying,” Carroll said.

Under New York law, according to Carroll’s lawyer, Kaplan, penetration by the penis must occur for there to be a rape. Carroll had testified that after Trump led her into the Bergdorf’s lingerie department and into a dressing room, he shoved her against a wall and inserted his fingers and then his penis into her vagina.

“I couldn’t see anything that was happening,” Carroll had told the jury. “But I could certainly feel it. I could certainly feel that pain in the finger jamming up.”

In the interview Thursday, Carroll noted that she had twice been married, and she said, “I know what a penis feels like, and he did insert his penis.”

Trump has not only denied any assault, he has claimed he was never even at Bergdorf’s, did not know Carroll and has said he would not have raped her in any case, because she was not his “type.”

By its verdict, the jury indicated it believed Carroll. Michael Ferrara, another of Carroll’s lawyers, noted in the interview that the jurors’ handling of the case showed that the process was not rigged.

“If they were out to just get Donald Trump, why not check the rape box?” Ferrara said. “They didn’t do that because they actually considered the evidence.”

Carroll delivered visceral testimony, telling the jury of the attack in every grim particular — and that it had ended her romantic life.

Then, she was cross-examined by Tacopina for almost two days. She described in the interview how her lawyers prepared her to be questioned by Tacopina, who is known for his charm but also for his aggressiveness: “They told me he would pull out all stops.”

“By the time I was sitting down, I was braced up. If you notice, I always wore a tight-fitting jacket just to keep myself together, you know, as sort of a little bit of armor against Joe Tacopina.”

Tacopina pressed her repeatedly about why she had not screamed during the assault. She told him that she was in too much of a panic and had been fighting. After more back and forth, she declared, “I’m telling you, he raped me, whether I screamed or not.”

In the interview, Carroll recalled the exchange. “This is not the 16th century,” she said. “I was almost embarrassed for him. Just embarrassed. How dare he?”

“To malign a woman for not screaming is preposterous,” she added.

Tacopina did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

During the trial, Carroll said, she tried to stay off social media. At night, she said, she was in bed by 7, and each morning, her stylist visited and prayed with her, even though Carroll said she is not a religious person.

“That became the ritual,” Carroll said.

Carroll said that after the verdict, she returned to Kaplan’s office. Wine was flowing.

“There was such joy,” Carroll said. “We almost floated to the top of the ceiling.”

Kaplan, her lawyer, said Thursday that a decision would be made soon on whether Carroll will file another defamation suit in light of Trump’s comments on CNN.

“Everything’s on the table, obviously, and we have to give serious consideration to it,” Kaplan said.

As for Carroll, she said she feels ready to move forward in her personal life — perhaps even dating again.

“I wasn’t having romance, and I was aware something was desperately wrong,” Carroll said.

She had testified at the trial that she long had blamed herself for flirting with Trump after their chance encounter at Bergdorf’s and allowing him to lead her to the lingerie section and into the dressing room, where he attacked her.

With her lawsuit over and Trump held accountable, Carroll said she was open again to exploring that part of her life.

“Let’s see if I can do it,” she said.

She paused briefly.

“Yes, I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it, so watch out.”

c.2023 The New York Times Company

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