Trump expected to testify as E. Jean Carroll damages trial resumes after Covid delay

Donald Trump will be back Thursday in a federal courthouse in New York City, where he’s expected to testify in his own defense in E. Jean Carroll‘s defamation case against him.

Trump was initially expected to testify Monday, but the proceedings were postponed after a juror fell ill and Trump attorney Alina Habba told the judge she’d been exposed to the coronavirus and was feeling sick. Habba and her co-counsel Michael Madaio both tested negative for the virus Monday.

Trump, who defeated Nikki Haley in Tuesday’s GOP presidential primary in New Hampshire during the three-day postponement, is likely to take the stand in the early afternoon.

Carroll is seeking at least $10 million in compensatory damages for “injury to her reputation, humiliation and mental anguish in her public and private life,” in addition to an unspecified amount in punitive damages to “punish Trump for acting maliciously and to deter Trump and others” from continuing to defame her. An expert who testified on Carroll’s behalf put the cost of repairing her reputation alone at $7 million to $12 million.

Carroll is expected to wrap up her case early in the day, paving the way for Trump’s defense to begin. He’s listed as one of two possible defense witnesses in the case, in which jurors will be deciding how much he should pay Carroll in damages for defaming her while he was in the White House in 2019, when he accused her of making up a sexual abuse claim against him for financial and political reasons.

A different jury last year found Trump liable for the attack and defaming Carroll.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan used that jury’s verdict to find Trump liable for defaming her in the current case.

The finding restricts what Trump can say on the witness stand. Because it is established fact in the case that Trump sexually abused and defamed Carroll, he can’t testify otherwise — even though he has continued to bash Carroll publicly.

“Mr. Trump is precluded from offering any testimony, evidence or argument suggesting or implying that he did not sexually assault Ms. Carroll, that she fabricated her account of the assault, or that she had any motive to do so,” Kaplan wrote in a ruling Jan. 9.

Trump has given no indication he plans to stick to Kaplan’s guidelines. Asked about his testimony before the trial started, he told reporters, “I’m going to explain I don’t know who the hell she is.”

Carroll’s attorneys had asked Kaplan to rein in Trump’s testimony ahead of time in case he tries to “sow chaos.” The judge has said the court “will take such measures as it finds appropriate to avoid circumvention of its rulings and of the law.”

Trump, 77, has already clashed with Kaplan, 79, in the courtroom.

During Carroll’s testimony last week, her attorney complained that Trump was offering animated commentary to his lawyer that the jury could overhear. Kaplan asked Trump to take “special care to keep his voice down.” The directive apparently didn’t take — Carroll’s lawyer Shawn Crowley told the judge that she could hear Trump calling Carroll’s claims a “con job” and that the jury could, too.

Kaplan then told Trump that he has the right to be present in court but that that right could be forfeited if he’s disruptive or ignores court order.

“Mr. Trump, I hope I don’t have to consider excluding you from the trial. I understand you are very eager for me to do that,” Kaplan said.

“I would love it,” Trump responded.

“I know you would, because you just can’t control yourself in this circumstance, apparently. You just can’t,” Kaplan shot back. “Neither can you,” Trump said.

Trump had said he was going to testify in the earlier Carroll case, but he ultimately decided not to.

The jury will hear some sworn testimony from Trump even if he decides not to take the witness stand.

Carroll’s attorneys have said they plan to play excerpts from his hourslong videotaped deposition in October 2022 for the jury. In the deposition, parts of which were played at the last trial, Trump called Carroll’s claims a “big fat hoax” and insisted that “physically, she’s not my type.”

He was also shown an old picture of him and Carroll standing together at an event and mistook her for his ex-wife Marla Maples.

In addition to the deposition, Carroll’s lawyers are expected to call former Elle magazine editor-in-chief Roberta Myers to testify about Carroll’s reputation when she worked as an advice columnist at the magazine.

The other witness Trump’s team might call is Carol Martin, a former anchor at WCBS-TV in New York.

If Trump does take the stand, it would be the second time he has done so in two months — he testified in November in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ $250 million fraud suit against him and his company.

During his one day on the stand, Trump called the case a “scam” and labeled James a “political hack” while calling the judge presiding over the nonjury trial “very hostile.”

That judge, Arthur Engoron, is expected to issue a decision with his findings in the coming weeks.

The last time Trump testified in front of a jury was in 2013.

In that instance, he was being sued over allegations he duped an 87-year-old woman in a condominium bait-and-switch at a Trump building in Chicago. The Associated Press described his testimony at the time as “sometimes prickly, sometimes boastful.” The jury found in his favor.

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