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Judge puts tight leash on Trump on first day of E. Jean Carroll defamation trial

Donald Trump and E. Jean Carroll.
Former President Donald Trump and E. Jean Carroll.AP/AP
  • The judge in E. Jean Carroll's second trial against Trump is making sure it doesn't get out of hand.

  • He said Trump couldn't talk about the case "within earshot" of jurors.

  • The judge hasn't issued a gag order on Trump — yet.

Before jury selection even got underway Tuesday in E. Jean Carroll's second trial against Donald Trump, the judge put a tight muzzle on the former president.

With both Trump and Carroll present in the lower-Manhattan courtroom, US District Judge Lewis Kaplan issued orders forbidding either side from communicating with jurors "directly or indirectly."

He said neither Trump nor Carroll could say anything "within earshot" of any jurors during the case unless they were on the witness stand.

The judge also ensured that Trump couldn't create a dramatic scene by yelling "I object" in the middle of the trial.

"Neither party is entitled to make any objection in court except through their lawyers," Kaplan said.

The trial, which is expected to last less than a week, is over defamation damages for remarks in which Trump insulted Carroll and called her a liar while denying raping her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s.

Carroll took Trump to trial in the spring — though he didn't show up to court in that case — for similar claims. The jury found him liable for sexual abuse and defamation, deciding he owed Carroll $5 million in damages.

The second trial, now in the jury-selection phase, is over a set of defamatory comments Trump made about Carroll while he was president, as well as comments he made after losing the first trial.

Kaplan has sharply limited the scope of the second trial, ruling that many issues Trump wanted to relitigate were already resolved by the jury verdict in Carroll's favor in the first trial. He has already found Trump liable for defaming Carroll and said the jury must decide only damages.

After a resounding victory Monday night at the Iowa caucuses as he sought the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, Trump flew to New York early Tuesday morning, aviation records show. He entered the Manhattan courthouse about 9:30 a.m., wearing his standard navy suit and bright-red tie.

The trial has inherent restrictions that will make it harder for Trump to turn it into political theater, as he did with his civil fraud trial.

Held in New York state court, in a courthouse around the block from the Manhattan federal courthouse, the nonjury fraud trial formally ended last week as each side presented closing arguments before the judge. Attorney General Letitia James of New York alleged that Trump and his company fraudulently misrepresented their assets to obtain favorable loan and tax rates.

The fraud case had no jury, which allowed for a looser tenor. Trump frequently went on long-winded rants about its unfairness in front of the cameras in the hallway outside the courtroom. When Trump testified in the trial and hurled personal insults, the judge struck his comments.

In federal court, however, cameras — and all electronics — are forbidden. And Kaplan has asserted tight control over the proceedings, issuing rulings that demonstrate he'll have little tolerance if Trump's lawyers attempt to expand the scope of the trial beyond the defamation damages at the heart of the case.

'I don't know what you're talking about, counselor'

Before prospective jurors came into the courtroom, Trump's attorney Michael Madaio rattled off a few objections. He said the court didn't have jurisdiction over the case and that they shouldn't have a second trial anyway because the first one was under appeal. Madaio added it was unfair that Trump couldn't show Carroll's interview with Anderson Cooper, shown in the first trial, in which she talked about the idea of rape in popular culture.

Kaplan overruled all the objections.

Madaio also said Kaplan shouldn't have imposed a "gag order on the case," at which point the judge stopped him.

"I don't know what you're talking about, counselor," Kaplan said. "There is no gag order."

Kaplan said Trump and Carroll could talk about the case but "certainly not in this courtroom."

As Trump sat in court, where, again, electronics are forbidden, his Truth Social account blasted out a torrent of insults and personal attacks on Carroll.

"Can you believe I have to defend myself against this woman's fake story?!" one post said.

Trump was under a gag order for the civil fraud trial.

Trump repeatedly violated the order. It forbade him from attacking the judge's staff, which had been the subject of numerous death threats.

On Tuesday morning, New York state's highest court upheld the gag order, ruling there was nothing wrong with imposing it.

Read the original article on Business Insider