Elections

Writer E. Jean Carroll wins a huge judgment against Donald Trump for defamation

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.”

Joel Connelly

Joel Connelly is a Northwest Progressive Institute contributor who has reported on multiple presidential campaigns and from many national political conventions. During his career at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he interviewed Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush. He has covered Canada from Trudeau to Trudeau, written about the fiscal meltdown of the nuclear energy obsessed WPPSS consortium (pronounced "Whoops") and public lands battles dating back to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

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