At the start of Monday’s session in Donald Trump’s trial for defaming writer E. Jean Carroll, one of the jurors reported they were sick. However, a civil trial can proceed without the full complement if both sides agree, and Carroll’s lawyers told Judge Lewis Kaplan they were ready to carry on.
At that point, Donald Trump’s attorney Alina Habba stood up to tell Kaplan that she wasn’t feeling well herself—possibly because her latest motion for a mistrial was immediately smacked down—and that she wanted a delay. Habba also stated that her client wanted to testify, but didn’t want to do so before Tuesday’s New Hampshire primaries.
After further discussion, Kaplan agreed, and the day’s events were gaveled to a close. Then, within seconds of being dismissed from the courtroom, Trump got down to the serious work of the day: sending out at least 44 social media attacks on the woman he is liable for sexually assaulting.
Most of Trump’s attacks on Monday consisted of posting Carrol’s old social media posts, portions of old articles, and interviews with Carroll. Few of the items posted have any relevance to the case, and none of them contain exculpatory evidence for Trump.
The purpose of these posts seems to be to imply that Carroll was someone who often talked about sex. But after boiling down over a decade of posts, Trump managed to come up largely with material that would barely raise an eyebrow in an office conversation.
Of course, the posts weren’t intended to impact the trial, and they will never be seen by the general public. They’re there just to keep Trump’s base rabid and to help them see the 80-year-old Carroll as some sort of deviant for talking about men, sex, and people she found attractive. Or even more bluntly, they’re designed to make her seem like someone who got what she deserved.
This sort of attack is exactly why Trump is in court in the first place. After Trump was found liable in May of last year, Judge Kaplan clarified that the only reason Trump wasn’t found to have raped Carroll was because of the technical definition of the act under New York law.
“The finding that Ms. Carroll failed to prove that she was ‘raped’ within the meaning of the New York Penal Law does not mean that she failed to prove that Mr. Trump ‘raped’ her as many people commonly understand the word ‘rape,’” wrote Kaplan.
In September, Kaplan ruled that Carroll’s claim of rape was “substantially true under common modern parlance.”
The whole reason Trump is back in court on this case is that after Carroll publicly described her rape in a 2019 book, Trump issued a statement—from the White House—in which he not only denied her claim but also said he had never met Carroll, accused her of just “trying to sell a new book,” and suggested Carroll was working with the Democratic Party to attack him. He also accused Carroll of hurting actual rape victims with her “false accusations.”
The question this new jury has to answer is how much Trump owes Carroll for defaming her in his statements. Based on his actions during Monday’s delay, the best answer may be: Keep the meter running.
At the moment, Trump is still saying that he will testify in the case. That doesn’t mean it will happen. Trump was due to testify for the defense at his real estate fraud trial in New York, but he withdrew at the last minute. If he does testify, it will be very interesting to see if Trump can stay within the bounds the court has set for him.
In saying that she wasn’t feeling well at the beginning of the trial, Habba also revealed that at least one of her parents had COVID-19 and that she had been exposed, but she also claimed to have tested negative. Habba, of course, took absolutely no precautions and did not wear a mask in court. So the delay could potentially stretch out for some time.
Is there anything more iconic in American politics than the whistle-stop tour? Author Edward Segal joins us on this week’s episode of “The Downballot” to discuss his new book unearthing the storied history of campaigning by train. Segal takes us through nearly two centuries of rail campaigns, from early pioneers like Abraham Lincoln to the great popularizer of whistle-stop touring William Jennings Bryan all the way up to “Amtrak Joe” Biden. Along the way, learn how politicians’ trains were actually deployed, lessons for today’s campaigners, and the surprising era Segal identifies as the heyday for these tours.