Donald Trump back in court for second defamation trial after Iowa victory

Former President Donald Trump, pictured arriving at New York Supreme Court on January 11 (AP)
Former President Donald Trump, pictured arriving at New York Supreme Court on January 11 (AP)

Donald Trump was back in court on Tuesday for a second defamation trial - hours after his presidential campaign victory in Iowa.

Mr Trump sat in a New York courtroom on Tuesday to defend himself for a second time against charges that he defamed writer E. Jean Carroll after she accused him of raping her decades ago.

He watched from the defendant's table as his lawyers sparred with US District Judge Lewis Kaplan over the ground rules of a civil case that will put allegations of misconduct back in the headlines, while he pursues the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

His appearance came just hours after a major victory in his bid to be re-elected as President of the United States.

Mr Trump won the first state contest in Iowa on Monday by a wide margin, and opinion polls show him leading in the next contest in New Hampshire a week from today.

On Tuesday, Mr Trump sat two tables behind Ms Carroll, who is accusing Trump of defaming her in 2019 by denying he had attacked her in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in Manhattan.

E. Jean Carroll (C) leaves following her trial at Manhattan Federal Court on May 8, 2023 (Getty Images)
E. Jean Carroll (C) leaves following her trial at Manhattan Federal Court on May 8, 2023 (Getty Images)

Ms Carroll, 80, is seeking at least $10 million in damages.

The judge, Mr Kaplan, told prospective jurors they would only have to consider how much Trump should pay Carroll in damages, not whether the alleged assault took place or whether Trump lied about it afterward. He said the trial is expected to last three to five days.

Mr Trump, 77, has said he wants to testify at the civil trial.

He could spend much of this year shuttling between campaign rallies and courtrooms, as he seeks to win the Republican presidential nomination for 2024.

Mr Trump has pleaded not guilty in four criminal cases that could potentially land him in prison before the November presidential election, including two that accuse him of trying to overturn his 2020 loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

He also is a defendant in at least two other civil cases.

Mr Trump has cast himself as the victim of political persecution. On Tuesday, he said Mr Kaplan should dismiss the case.

"Judge Kaplan should put this whole corrupt, Crooked Joe Biden-directed Election Interference attack on me immediately to rest," he posted on social media. "He should do it for America."

Mr Kaplan questioned more than 80 prospective jurors, and at least 30 said they had heard about the case. Their identities are being kept confidential.

Mr Trump has already lost one defamation case against Ms Carroll.

A jury last May ordered him to pay the former Elle magazine columnist $5 million for having sexually abused her during the encounter, and defaming her in 2022 by denying that it happened. Mr Trump skipped that trial.

The jury in May did not find sufficient evidence to conclude Mr Trump raped Ms Carroll, who had testified that the pair had a chance encounter that was flirtatious and humorous until Mr Trump pushed her against a wall and sexually abused her in a Bergdorf Goodman store dressing room across from Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan.

Mr Trump adamantly disputed Carroll's claim that he raped her in the dressing room when she first revealed it publicly as she released a memoir in 2019, while Mr Trump was president.

Mr Kaplan, who has overseen both cases, has barred Mr Trump from arguing in the upcoming hearings that he did not defame or sexually assault Ms Carroll or that she made up her account.

In both cases, Mr Trump has said he did not know Ms Carroll and that she invented their encounter to sell her memoir.

Mr Trump is appealing the $5 million award, and could appeal any award at the second trial. Appeals could take years.

As at the first trial, jurors will be able to see the 2005 "Access Hollywood" video where Trump graphically described the ability of famous people like himself to have sexual relations with beautiful women.