Joe Biden’s predecessor and 2024 rival Donald Trump was confronted yesterday with a big bill for being a bully — $83.3 million.
A nine-member Manhattan jury deliberated just three hours before attaching a price tag to defamatory remarks Trump made about a woman who accused him of sexual assault in the dressing room of a pricey New York department store.
Trump took to social media, labeling his accuser a “whack job” and denied ever meeting E. Jean Carroll, although the two were once photographed together. He even compared Carroll’s appearance to that of Marla Maples, his second wife.
Carroll was an advice columnist with Elle magazine before she came under attack from Trump. The attacks continued on Trump’s social networking platform„ even as Carroll’s lawyers were delivering summation remarks in court.
Carroll had testified to the attacks against her, telling the jury: “Well, to have the President of the United States, one of the most powerful persons on earth, calling me a liar for three days — and saying I’m a liar twenty-six times, I counted them, it ended the world I’d been living in.”
She now lives in Vermont. The award dwarfs a $5 million judgment delivered by a jury last year when it determined that Trump had assaulted Carroll.
The latest trial concerned exclusively Carroll’s claim she was defamed. U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan vigorously limited testimony and limited Trump’s histrionics.
At one point, the judge threatened to exclude Trump from his courtroom.
“You just can’t control yourself in these circumstances, apparently,” he told the former occupant of the Oval Office. “You can’t either,” Trump shot back.
Trump sat muttering at the defense table during summations, but walked out during a summation by Carroll lawyer Roberta Kaplan (no relation to the judge). “The record will reflect that Mr. Trump walked out of the courtroom,” said Judge Kaplan. Trump reappeared, but left before the jury returned its verdict.
He would call the award “absolutely ridiculous” and vowed to appeal.
He will have to put up money, which will be held by the court during appeal.
He is one celebrity defendant who can afford to pay, although New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking a civil penalty of $320 million in a suit against the Trump Organization.
The vast majority of the judgment — $56 million — consists of punitive damages, designed to get Trump to shut up and stop defaming Carroll.
Carroll’s attorney Kaplan brought up Trump’s claims of billion-dollar wealth in her summation. “Donald Trump is worth billions of dollars,” she argued. “The law says you can consider Donald Trump’s wealth as well as his malicious and continuing conduct in making that assessment. Now is the time to make him pay for it , and now is the time to make him pay dearly.”
Trump has used civil entanglements, and the ninety-one criminal charges he faces, to mobilize supporters in his bid to reclaim the presidency. They are footing his legal bills. If Trump is forced to draw on his own wealth, that could be a problem, and could necessitate the divestment of assets from his real estate portfolio. He recently sold his Washington, D.C. hotel — a major hangout for lobbyists and foreign interests during the Trump regime — for $375 million.
Critics of Trump have found themselves showered with threats and abuse on social media. The former president is himself a master user of threats. Witness his promises this week to blackball contributors to Nikki Haley’s campaign.
Trump attorney Alina Hanna tried to gloss over the pressure on Carroll, saying: “President Trump has no more control over the rights and feelings of social media than he does the weather.”
Judge Kaplan has taken a different view. He has refused to disclose names of the nine jurors. After the verdict was delivered, he told them: “My advice to you is that you never disclose that you were on this jury.”